If painting is a language in and of itself, San Diego-based artist Gabrielle Benot is exceedingly fluent in her craft. Even the words she uses to talk about her passion seem to flow effortlessly, punctuated by a soft European accent and highlighted by the desire to create her own unique masterpieces while simultaneously coloring outside traditional lines of time and space. When she paints, Benot immerses herself into a meditative state, putting herself into a trance in which she seems to both simultaneously lose herself and find herself, and that is what she hopes viewers of her works will experience.
“I love working with color and being intoxicated in a soulful way when I paint,” she says. Born in Latvia and raised in Denmark, Gabrielle was introduced to the world of painting at a young age. “My grandpa taught me to paint. He specialized in painting landscapes and generally painted with oils.” After observing her grandfather, Benot, a graduate of the Royal Fashion Academy in Copenhagen, started sketching and painting at a very young age and as her love of the craft grew, so did her talent. She refers to her style as semi abstract tempered with an expressionistic style.
“I can get inspired by anything,” she explains. “I like to paint on the floor using a very large canvas and I put visuals all around me, such as books, magazines and personal photos, and I take a little bit of everything and incorporate all of that into my work.” Benot gradually developed her unique style over the past several years, drawing upon the influences of artists such as Jean Paul Riopelle, Gustav Klimt and Joan Mitchell, eventually assuming her own abstract signature style by simply allowing herself to let go.
“My greatest inspiration is Klimt, as so many of his paintings are not finished,” she comments. “But I can see the history behind each painting. When I am painting, I am not aware of the final result of what I am doing. It’s a free flow. I have an initial idea, but the result can be very unpredictable.”
Benot enjoys an analytical and imaginative mind. She thrives on the process of self-discovery and imagination while at the same time analyzing and experimenting. She favors bold, large and intense brush strokes, capturing the spirit of the painting in texture. Of course, it is imperative that music always accompanies her discipline. Her artistic prowess results in paintings that are powerful and speak to the viewer, incorporating energy and movement, almost as if her paintings are capturing the performance she exhibits while in the very process of creating each piece.
“I always paint to a musical background, as it allows me to escape into my creative zone,” she says. And that creative zone requires a seemingly simple set of tools that ultimately create a magnificent treasure. “I used mixed medium acrylic, oil and oil sticks as well as dry brushes and palette knives. I will also sometimes paint with my fingers using rubber gloves.” When she paints, she likes to cut way beneath the surface, taking a shape from a book or something from a magazine, and also draws upon her keen interest in science and technology, harmonizing analytical thought with idealistic daydreams. “I am a deep thinker and enjoy conversations that require me to dig deep,” she explains.
Although she has exhibited her work in Europe and the United States, she classifies her efforts as part-time. “This is more of a hobby for me now,” she says. “I work with a private equity firm during the day and do my painting on the side.” However, her paintings are drawing full-time attention. Even though she has only been in the U.S. for less than eight years, she is developing an impressive following. She has showcased her pieces at the Del Mar Art Center (DMAC) and is frequently commissioned by individuals the world over, including Russia, Denmark, Norway, Texas and California. In addition to her artwork, Benot continues to roll up her creative sleeves and is currently working on a clothing design project called Femage – a unisex line of clothing that is based on black and white photography.