Kajahl Benes: Recent Works, September 6 – October 5, 2012
UNCW Art Gallery at the Cultural Arts Building
Kajahl Benes’ work combines historical images with the modern day comic book. He focuses on recreating images of ancient ancestral peoples and integrating different aspects and attributes in one image. In one piece he combined the face of an ancient Portuguese person with the headdress of Africa and an Elizabethan collar. In another piece he uses ancient Egyptian mythology to create an almost luminescent figure that comes to life.
What truly struck me in all of his pieces was the skill in which he handles the oil medium and the brushwork. When I asked him how long he has been working with oil he stated, “about 8 years.” It shows that he has mastered the art of oil paint and taken it to new heights. He carefully choses to paint the faces incredibly realistic and to emphasize certain aspects of the image. He uses the oil to create the sheen of metal, the delicate lace that forms the collar and the feathery feel of the Native Indians head dress. He allows his brushwork to pull forward and highlight certain parts and to also create space by sending some parts into the background. His use of oil paint goes farther when he builds it up to create a three dimensional effect.
He then goes on to use modeling paste to create extremely life like embellishments on the clothing of his figures. On the Native Indian figure he created what looks like a copper piece of armor that has been aged with time. On another 1500’s pirate looking figure he builds up the eye patch and embosses it to make it appear to be steal or finely polished silver.
I was really drawn to the vibrant colors he used and the somewhat comical aspect he added. In another painting of his the figure appears to be dressed in Middle Eastern garb, but has a body that resembles a creepy half decaying mummy. The mummy sits on a golden throne and in front of it has a feast of different more modern foods. Amon the cheeseburgers, sandwiches, and lobster claw is an open cellphone. It seems so out of place but it gives this foreboding figure an endearing, comical feel.
His work was unlike anything I have ever seen before. It not only was aesthetically pleasing but it was also psychologically challenging. The mixing of different cultures showed us that even though we all come from different parts of the world and different ancestors, we are still part of the basic human race.