In her essay “A Voyage of Discovery. The Sculpture of Graham Bennett” Dr Robin Woodward writes:
The sculpture of Graham Bennett is based firmly in the patterns and place of Aotearoa New Zealand − but it has a universality that resonates internationally and cross culturally. Such singularity builds on a life experience that is both extensive and inclusive. It derives from a knowledge of history and humankind, an emotive bond between identity and place and an enquiring mind that is alert to questions of connection. Painstaking examination of detail and an awareness of the broader framework, coupled with an eye that is tuned to pattern and shape, is the essence of Graham Bennett’s work.
On an intellectual level Bennett’s work investigates identity and locality, culturally and geographically. The essence of this lies in his homeland Aotearoa New Zealand as an isolated land mass, an island at ‘the end of the world’ peopled by immigrants. Thus in the crescent shaped form of the segment of the globe that Bennett identifies with New Zealand lies the shaped hull of the brigantine that brought his ancestors to New Zealand. But it is not just that vessel that he is referencing; it is the canoe, the waka, the navigational satellite dish, the eel trap, the food basket of the Maori and the lines of latitude and longitude that intersect at Aotearoa New Zealand.
Although grounded in a specific locality Graham Bennett’s work speaks to a global audience. Such universal engagement reflects the international progenitors of his work. Formally Bennett’s work combines the two predominant pathways in 20th century sculpture, the school of Brancusi and that of the Constructivists.
Out of the school of Brancusi came the work of Japanese American sculptor Isamu Noguchi. Of a similar ilk is the oeuvre of New Zealander Graham Bennett. There is a common concern with surface finish, meticulous attention to detail, the assimilation of the base into the creative work, issues of balance, repetition and delicacy through line and mass. Add the Constructivist principles of time, space and motion and an inventor’s curiosity about the materials and techniques of the modern industrial age. These are the creative tools through which Graham Bennett charts his intellectual exploration of identity and history, his personal journey. Through that, we chart our own.
Graham Bennett is constantly asking questions in his work. These can be posed through form or content or can be stated directly in the title; titles are always of significance. In his titles the artist employs a language people are familiar with to elaborate on a language they are less familiar with, sculptural form. Titles can give an entre´e to a work or they can initiate exploration of ideas beyond the viewer’s initial response.
On a more personal note Bennett’s work evolves from his earliest exploration of identity when, from the other side of the world, he first perceived his homeland as distinct but contiguous in a global network, and started making connections − culturally, intellectually and creatively - connections that have continued to inform his work over three decades. T. S. Eliot in The Four Quartets encapsulates the philosophy and form of Graham Bennett’s art practice; “in my end is my beginning … in my beginning is my end”.