Artist | BILLY BENN

Artist | BILLY BENN


Australian Indigenous (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) artwork by BILLY BENN of Mwerre Anthurre Artists (Bindi Inc). The title is Artetyerre. [BB080526] (Acrylic on Linen)

BILLY BENN

Artetyerre

Hunted as an outlaw over 40 years ago, once crowned the winner of the prestigious Alice Prize and named as one of Australia's 50 most collectable artists, Billy Benn has lived an extraordinary life.

Born in 1943 in Artetyerre (Harts Range), Billy Benn labored from childhood in mica mines and later became a drover.

In 1967, Benn Perrurle shot and killed a man, and for the next two weeks was on the run with his wife, shooting and wounding two officers, until a hired tracker discovered him and handed him over to police.

He was later acquitted of murder on the grounds of insanity.

Benn's art practice, it would seem, has been a saving light in a life path that could have diverted in a very different direction to where he finds himself heading today.

He ended up in Alice Springs, eventually working in the sheet metal shop of the Bindi Centre, a service provider for the developmentally disabled.

He began painting on discarded pieces of plastic and plywood in a corner of the shop around 1980, depicting his mother's and grandfather's country with delicate, intricate brushstroke, with his images emerging from a special meeting place found somewhere between memory, spirit and feeling.

These small landscapes, unschooled in technique and created out personal need rather than for financial gain, conform to the understood criteria of outsider art. Essentially an outsider artist, with little structured art training, Billy Benn's sensitive use of colour portrays the magical, daily evolving shades of Central Australia's hills: purple, indigo, brown, yellow, pink are swept upon the canvas using his signature rich brushstroke technique, a sharp departure from the traditional dot topographical approach that much of Aboriginal art is associated with, creating scenes that seem to move before our eyes with a floating, dream-like sensibility.

It has a sophistication of sense and an employment of both Aboriginal and white Australian landscape techniques that seem to verge as one.

Each of his pieces emerging as a complex representation of the undeniable movements of a sordid past, encapsulated within an embodiment of essence and light.

His use of thick, lusciously textured paint conjuring up ideas of how one might like to remember a place, perhaps a blissful transgression away from the tainted harshness of reality.

A reality and past that is, at times, dotted with intense shades of darkness brought about through unrelenting psychological and personal struggles. Perrurle's work changed a few years ago after he revisited the country of his birth, the site of the tumultuous events of his early life.

Brushstrokes gained gestural strength, his color palette brightened, mountain profiles took on a vivid, mannerist grandeur.

Perrurle's landscapes seem to have emerged from the haze of memory into an insistent, almost hallucinogenic presence.

His iconic fragments of country may be the products of an idiosyncratic ritual still in flux, the evocative by products of an outsider's personal dreaming. His tenacity became the catalyst to the establishment of Mwerre Anthurre - Bindi Centa Arts, a cooperative of artists working with a disability, and the fostering of the talents of his colleagues, including Aileen Oliver and Seth Namatjira. Discovered by the mainstream art market in 2000 Benn's work was first publicly exhibited in the Desert Mob exhibition, an exhibition for people with a disability, in which all his work sold and an undercurrent of buzz began about Billy Benn as an artist to watch.

Billy Benn's work has been described by former deputy director of the National Gallery of Victoria Frances Lindsay "as a trajectory of [the] Albert Namatjira [style]." Perrurle has since become a major figure with works acquired by the National Gallery of Australia, The Art Gallery of New South Wales and the National Gallery of Victoria.

As the 2006 winner of the coveted Alice Prize, where a plaque beside his permeated work announced "He wants to paint every hill from his country and then he will stop, then he will return home," Perrurle has well and truly arrived..



Hunted as an outlaw over 40 years ago, once crowned the winner of the prestigious Alice Prize and named as one of Australia's 50 most collectable artists, Billy Benn has lived an extraordinary life.

Born in 1943 in Artetyerre (Harts Range), Billy Benn labored from childhood in mica mines and later became a drover.

In 1967, Benn Perrurle shot and killed a man, and for the next two weeks was on the run with his wife, shooting and wounding two officers, until a hired tracker discovered him and handed him over to police.

He was later acquitted of murder on the grounds of insanity.

Benn's art practice, it would seem, has been a saving light in a life path that could have diverted in a very different direction to where he finds himself heading today.

He ended up in Alice Springs, eventually working in the sheet metal shop of the Bindi Centre, a service provider for the developmentally disabled.

He began painting on discarded pieces of plastic and plywood in a corner of the shop around 1980, depicting his mother's and grandfather's country with delicate, intricate brushstroke, with his images emerging from a special meeting place found somewhere between memory, spirit and feeling.

These small landscapes, unschooled in technique and created out personal need rather than for financial gain, conform to the understood criteria of outsider art. Essentially an outsider artist, with little structured art training, Billy Benn's sensitive use of colour portrays the magical, daily evolving shades of Central Australia's hills: purple, indigo, brown, yellow, pink are swept upon the canvas using his signature rich brushstroke technique, a sharp departure from the traditional dot topographical approach that much of Aboriginal art is associated with, creating scenes that seem to move before our eyes with a floating, dream-like sensibility.

It has a sophistication of sense and an employment of both Aboriginal and white Australian landscape techniques that seem to verge as one.

Each of his pieces emerging as a complex representation of the undeniable movements of a sordid past, encapsulated within an embodiment of essence and light.

His use of thick, lusciously textured paint conjuring up ideas of how one might like to remember a place, perhaps a blissful transgression away from the tainted harshness of reality.

A reality and past that is, at times, dotted with intense shades of darkness brought about through unrelenting psychological and personal struggles. Perrurle's work changed a few years ago after he revisited the country of his birth, the site of the tumultuous events of his early life.

Brushstrokes gained gestural strength, his color palette brightened, mountain profiles took on a vivid, mannerist grandeur.

Perrurle's landscapes seem to have emerged from the haze of memory into an insistent, almost hallucinogenic presence.

His iconic fragments of country may be the products of an idiosyncratic ritual still in flux, the evocative by products of an outsider's personal dreaming. His tenacity became the catalyst to the establishment of Mwerre Anthurre - Bindi Centa Arts, a cooperative of artists working with a disability, and the fostering of the talents of his colleagues, including Aileen Oliver and Seth Namatjira. Discovered by the mainstream art market in 2000 Benn's work was first publicly exhibited in the Desert Mob exhibition, an exhibition for people with a disability, in which all his work sold and an undercurrent of buzz began about Billy Benn as an artist to watch.

Billy Benn's work has been described by former deputy director of the National Gallery of Victoria Frances Lindsay "as a trajectory of [the] Albert Namatjira [style]." Perrurle has since become a major figure with works acquired by the National Gallery of Australia, The Art Gallery of New South Wales and the National Gallery of Victoria.

As the 2006 winner of the coveted Alice Prize, where a plaque beside his permeated work announced "He wants to paint every hill from his country and then he will stop, then he will return home," Perrurle has well and truly arrived..



Exhibitions that BILLY BENN has exhibited at

Stock Room Show

2009 Telstra Art Award Selected Artists