Written by Emma-Kate Wilson

Illuminating a fluidity of movement, Maria Jose Benvenuto’s latest collection of paintings expose the action of the process. This series focuses on the exploration of the brushstrokes as a singular entity, but also, the range of possibilities that comes from provocation – the brush becoming an extension of the body.

The artist’s approach reveals her changing perspective in Australia; here, the style is relaxed and calm, juxtaposing the busyness of her hometown in Chile. The works invite you to contemplate the details left in the in-between; considering life in the moment, constantly changing. Benvenuto listens to nature, finding harmony in the movement. Flowers that bloom, leaves in the wind, clouds moving across the sky, all serve as inspiration for the collection.

Benvenuto captures three-dimensional movement in two-dimensional works – revealing both the simplicity and complexity of the stroke. The technique relies n how much paint is on the long-arm paintbrush, which acts as an extension of the artist’s arm. The application is, at times, transparent on the canvas, exposing the pressure from the arm and brushwork, connection us to the holistically intuitive motions. Lines and texture sharing the density and direction of the brush, a complexity of details captured within the transparency and tension.

Using two mediums to apply her acrylic paints onto, Benvenuto employs the same process with each, yet with paper, she is able to create a more continuous line on the smooth surface. The linen canvas brushstrokes are controlled and specific, built through layers on the textural background.

The Stroke features large-scale paintings in a mostly monochromatic colour palette with only a couple of works using mixed colours — each features, soft, natural curves juxtaposing short sharp movements, or long continuous brushstrokes. In Magenta strokes, we see expressive mark-making that are highly considered, each smooth curve a quick action across the page in a bright magenta that lifts the brushwork off the canvas. In the same style, Overlapping spring strokes — one of the few multicoloured works — uses the same magenta, with a softer ballet pink shade, vivid orange, umber yellow, and rosa red, evoking the excitement of spring or emergence from covid-lockdowns into Australia’s warmer months.

For Overlapping white strokes, white paint bounces around the linen canvas left raw for juxtaposition. In Overlapping blue strokes, the lines move down and up the canvas, the point of meeting marked by thicker paint, before tipping over into transparency. In comparison, Midnight blue stroke features a long continuous brushstroke across the canvas. A process unfolds of understanding when to intuitively stop.

Even though the vivid colours call out the contemporary, they are all taken from nature. The flamingo or magenta pinks sourced from the flowers popping up through spring or the abundant blues from the ocean or the sky surrounding Benvenuto’s studio on Manly’s North Head. The colours reflect a continued narrative of opening our eyes to different environments to see the multi-dimensionality of life.

The Stroke exposes the process of movement in painting, paying attention to the brushwork and paint application; in turn, revealing a reconnection to the simple things. These works invite a contemplative state. They are calm and comforting, tapping into the human psyche — a solace, peace and retreat from the energy of last year.

Maria Jose Benvenuto | The Stroke

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