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Banner image: ‘The Dream’

“I’ve alway been an artist – one way or another. At school it was the one thing I was good at – better than just about anyone else! It was a bit of a security blanket and a way to overcome the school bullies. If they were impressed they’d leave me alone!”

Bob Bentley: From Bideford to World Stage

Bob Bentley‘s story is one of relentless pursuit of artistic expression, shaped by a rich tapestry of experiences that spans the from the quiet streets of Bideford, North Devon, England to bustling international film sets. Born into a family that valued community and creativity, Bentley’s early life in Bideford, under the nurturing eye of his parents and alongside his sister Cath, laid the foundation for a lifetime of artistic exploration. Despite facing challenges during his school days, Bentley found solace and identity in the arts, a passion that led him to the local art school where he first began to hone his craft among peers who shared his enthusiasm for creative expression.

Portrait of Bob Bentley in 2018 as a ‘Drowning Man’ in 1964

Bob Bentley: Fusion of Art and Media

The evolution of Bentley’s career from a promising artist to a renowned filmmaker and educator underscores the multifaceted nature of his creative identity. His transition into film and television, marked by a successful stint as both a technician and director, did not signal the end of his artistic endeavours but rather the beginning of a new chapter in which his visual and narrative talents flourished in tandem. Bentley’s work in film and TV media, documented through a collection of sample clips available on his website, showcases a deep engagement with the visual arts, music, dance, and drama, highlighting the interplay between his artistic skills and his cinematic achievements.

The most notable work is “Recluse,” a disturbing half-hour movie set on a farm near where Bentley grew up. Directed, produced, and co-written by him, it is based on a real-life tragedy and was filmed at the actual location. It won the BAFTA Best Short Film Award for 1981.

More recently, “The Pleasure of Rope,” is a 2015 feature-length documentary, stemming from Bentley’s fascination with Japanese art and culture. He produced, directed, and photographed the film, which explores the erotic art of Kinbaku (Shibari) and its growing popularity in the West.

Vlada & Falco filmed on the Thames footbridge, London, within sight of St Pauls Cathedral, in arts documentary ‘The Pleasure of Rope’ released 2015.

Bentley’s commitment to nurturing the next generation of artists and filmmakers through his teaching career further exemplifies his dedication to the arts. Over fifteen years at the University of Westminster and various other institutions, he imparted his knowledge and passion to aspirational young people from around the globe, blending his experiences and insights to inspire and guide them in their own creative journeys.

Despite the demands of his film career, Bentley never abandoned his roots in visual art. His works, often created in the interstices of his filmmaking projects, lay mostly unseen in his parents’ attic before being rediscovered and showcased in the 2022 exhibition and book, “BOB BENTLEY – IN PERSPECTIVE.” This comprehensive collection, spanning from 1962 to 2020, offers a window into Bentley’s artistic journey, revealing a body of work that is as varied as it is profound. The exhibition is available to see in a 25-minute video tour. It invites viewers to explore Bentley’s evolution as an artist, from his early days in Bideford, to Brighton and then London, and up to the present day.

Portrait of Jane Morris based on a photograph commissioned by Dante Gabrielle Rossetti – painted in 1967

Bentley’s artistic narrative is characterized by a constant interplay between the artificial and photographic realism, a duality that enriches both styles. As he prepares to publish a book on his photography, “TRAVELLING LIGHT,” Bentley continues to explore the boundaries of creative expression, drawing upon his extensive travels and experiences in the film and television industry to inform his ongoing work as a visual artist. Through his eclectic style and thematic explorations, Bentley remains a testament to the enduring power of creativity, demonstrating the links between imagination and the photographic image.

A cattle boat on the Nile with three generations of Egyptian men, taken in 1979

Bob Bentley: Embracing Eclecticism

Bob Bentley’s approach embodies an eclectic tapestry that reflects a lifetime of influences, experiences, and creative experimentation. From his early days, Bentley has always been drawn to the arts, finding in them a refuge and a means of expression that surpassed all others. This deep-seated passion for creation was not confined to a single medium or style; instead, he embraced a diverse range of techniques and materials, allowing his work to become a mirror reflecting a myriad of artistic imaginations. His reluctance to be pigeonholed into a specific style has resulted in a body of work that is as varied as it is rich, offering viewers glimpses into the depths of Bentley’s creative psyche.

Shiva and Parvati in front of the Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur, India – painted in 2015

Bentley’s thematic explorations are equally varied, delving into realms as diverse as erotic imagination and historical narratives, drawing inspiration from Greek mythology, Brothers Grimm fairy tales, and including the cultures of Bali, India, and Japan. This willingness to explore and incorporate a wide range of narratives into his work speaks to Bentley’s innate curiosity and his desire to transcend traditional artistic boundaries. Such thematic richness is further enhanced by Bentley’s use of different materials, from watercolors and inks to the digital realm of photography and scans, showcasing his versatility and openness to experimentation.

Greek mythology explored with ‘Leda and the Swan’ in 2020 and ‘Escape the Underworld’ in 1966

Bob Bentley: A Confluence of Influences

Throughout his journey, Bob Bentley has been influenced by a constellation of artists and cultural traditions, each leaving an indelible mark on his work. The likes of William Blake, Francis Bacon, the French Impressionists, Pre-Raphaelites, and the Surrealists, alongside the art of Eastern cultures, have all played roles in shaping Bentley’s artistic perspective. This eclectic array of influences underscores Bentley’s commitment to exploring the human condition and the natural world through various stylistic lenses, further enriching the depth and breadth of his creative output.

An enduring fascination with the Japanese woodblock print, particularly exemplified by his admiration for Katsushika Hokusai’s “The Great Wave,” reveals Bentley’s deep appreciation for the subtleties of form and expression inherent in traditional Eastern art. His collection of such prints and the incorporation of their elements into his own work illustrate a cross-cultural dialogue that Bentley skillfully navigates, blending Eastern aesthetics with Western artistic traditions. This synthesis not only highlights Bentley’s expansive artistic vocabulary but also his ability to create a unique visual language that bridges disparate worlds.

A confrontation between ‘Anis Garuda and a Naga’ in Bali, 2012

Bentley’s artwork and his journey as an artist serve as a testament to the power of exploration and the relentless pursuit of personal expression. His career, marked by significant shifts from painting to filmmaking and back to visual art, encapsulates a life dedicated to exploring the vast possibilities of creative expression. Bentley’s story is one of transformation and perseverance, a narrative that offers invaluable insights into the evolution of an artist committed to pushing the boundaries of his craft. With his work, Bentley invites us on a journey through the landscapes of his imagination, a journey marked by a profound engagement with the world and an unyielding passion for creation.

The dreams chased by Bob Bentley are unique to him and come from his innermost being. Laid out in front of us, they become images that are often unsettling, occasionally beautiful, and sometimes both.

‘The Dream’, located along Brighton seafront – painted in 1966

Much of Bob Bentley’s art can be acquired in the form of museum-quality Giclée prints, but only a few originals are available. Please inquire. Commissions are considered, particularly for mural design. Books, DVDs, and other merchandise are also for sale: www.bobbentley.co.uk

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