Ben Fenske, “Summer Afternoon,” 2016, oil on linen, 39.3 x 47.2 in.
Ben Fenske, “Summer Afternoon,” 2016, oil on linen, 39.3 x 47.2 in.

Grenning Gallery (New York) has recently announced the annual solo show of oil paintings by Ben Fenske.

Bill Fenske, artist
Bill Fenske, artist

From the gallery:

Ben Fenske (b. 1978) continues to lead his generation of painters, meticulously advancing and adjusting his process to paint the beauty that he sees all around him, whether he is in the East End of Long Island, Chianti, Russia, or elsewhere in Europe. His solo show of recent works will be hung on August 19 and open with a reception on August 24, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. at the Grenning Gallery’s new location at 26 Main Street in Sag Harbor. The exhibition will hang through October 6.

In addition to painting for this show, Fenske is also going to be featured in the invitational group show “Corpo a Corpo” (translated, “Body to Body”) at the Annigoni Museum in Villa Bardini, in Florence, Italy, opening October 25, 2019. With help from the Director of the Intermediate Program at the Florence Academy of Art, Daniela Astone, this exhibition was curated by Carlo Sisi, a former director of the Gallery of Modern Art and the Costume Gallery of the Pitti Palace in Florence, and now a member of the Scientific Committee of the Centro Pecci per l’Arte Contemporanea in Prato, and the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rovereto, Trento. This show is the figurative show to mirror the now famous BP Portrait Award show that is held every two years and exhibited at the National Portrait Museum in London, and Fenske will be showing his delightful multi-figure composition “Summer Afternoon.” “Corpo a Corpo” is sponsored by Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze Bank, and will be on view at Villa Bardini from October 25, 2019, through January 12, 2020.

Ben Fenske, “Evening Cloud,” 2019, oil, 35.43 x 49.21 in.
Ben Fenske, “Evening Cloud,” 2019, oil, 35.43 x 49.21 in.

Fenske’s latest work bares the interiors, people, and lush landscape surrounding his home and life in Chianti, Italy. In “Evening Cloud” we see rolling hills illuminated and shadowed by the natural light of a clouded sky. The foreground depicts green plowed land encompassed in shadow from a large cloud directly above, unseen to the viewer. Beyond, the earth is enfolded in bright natural light. In “Bedroom,” a woman lies nude on the bed, sleeping. Two large windows are wide open, revealing the verdant landscape outdoors, and admitting layers of light. The elements of the room soak up the sunlight. A wardrobe door, swung open, is backlit and stands in shadow. The chair beneath the window is covered in sunlight and casts a shapely shadow to its left. Colors vibrate and bounce, from sunlit to shade, throughout Fenske’s work.

Fenske has had a solo show with the Grenning Gallery every summer, since 2007. Each summer before the show opens, the artist comes to the East End to paint locally, and each year, Fenske is attracted to something new. The many beaches, farms, fields, and villages can be found depicted in his oeuvre. Last summer (2018), Fenske was inspired to paint Cedar Point, in East Hampton. Big, bold clouds scattered above a bright, glistening shoreline. Short but thick, urgent brushstrokes connote the natural energy of the environment that day. Strong winds blow the water and the tall grasses in the lower right foreground. Fenske had to walk about a mile off the trail to get to this quiet destination, clearly compelled to capture the remote parts of bustling East Hampton.

Ben Fenske, “Moonlit Bonfire,” work in progress/sketch, 2019, oil on canvas
Ben Fenske, “Moonlit Bonfire,” work in progress/sketch, 2019, oil on canvas

This summer, Fenske has been drawn to happenings that integrate social scenarios. The Sag Harbor Carnival happens every year at Havens Beach, but 2019 is the first year Fenske has felt drawn to paint it. “Harbor Carnival” places the viewer at the entrance of the fair; the eye goes directly to the color-illumined Ferris wheel against the night sky. Ticket booths and novelty games fill up the outer edges, as crowds of people flock to and fro. Another new painting, “Moonlit Bonfire Sketch” was painted en plein air at Peter’s Pond in Sagaponack. A blossoming Sturgeon Moon illuminates the vast and immeasurable night sky. Fenske uses his bright blues, greens, highlights of yellow, and vigorous brushstrokes to sensibly capture his impression of this natural brilliance. Figures conjure around a bonfire on the black, backlit sand in the foreground.


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