Benney rose to international prominence as a member of the Soho and East Village Neo-Expressionist group, whilst living and working in New York City in the 1980s where he worked and exhibited alongside peers Marylyn Minter, Jean-Michel Basquiat and David Wojnarovicz among the many other others who made up the exploding 80s NY art scene. Despite living and working in this extraordinary environment Benney’s painting maintained a uniquely English sensibility.
Paul Benney is a multi-disciplined artist whose oeuvre moves beyond clear and definitive categorization although his work could be seen to continue the strong tradition of ‘British Mysticism’ championed by the likes of Samuel Palmer and William Blake.
Clearly, the primary mode of expression is paint, which he handles with profound technical dexterity, but to add to this he is also a goldsmith (skills learned from his father, the celebrated goldsmith Gerald Benney), a sculptor, film maker, a musician and also a perfumer, all of which he is able to carry out with notable esoteric ability and accomplishment. He is a polymath. Marcus Aurelius once stated that: “Nothing has such power to broaden the mind as the ability to investigate systematically and truly all that comes under thy observation in life.” But the tangibility of technique is only one face; the artist must also have a passion to use the senses to delve into the unsolved.
For the past thirty years Paul Benney has worked both in the United States and United Kingdom. His paintings are notably represented in a plethora of public collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, The Brooklyn Museum, The National Gallery of Australia and The National Portrait Gallery in London, The Royal Collection and The Eli Broad Foundation. He has exhibited in eight BP Portrait Award Exhibitions and twice won the BP Visitors’ Choice Award. Benney's portrait subjects have included HM Queen Elizabeth II, Sir Mick Jagger, John Paul Getty III, 7th Marquess of Bath, The State Portrait for Israel, Lord Rothschild, as well as Ben Barnes for the portrait in the feature film ‘A Portrait of Dorian Grey’ in 2008. Benney was invited to be resident artist at Somerset House in 2010. During his five year residency he held the exhibition ‘Night Paintings’ in 2012 which explored themes that deal more with the subconscious and metaphysical world and drew over 15,000 visitors. In 2017 his epic painting and holosonic sound installation ‘Speaking in Tongues’ was a prominent feature of the Venice Biennale, located at Chiesa San Gallo, just off St Marks’s Square. The paintings from ‘Speaking In Tongues’ were subsequently purchased by a significant US art foundation based in California for permanent exhibition. Paintings are held in multiple collections worldwide. Paul Benney is represented by Anima-Mundi.