Mike Bennett was born in Windermere, Cumbria in 1934. Studying at Lancaster and Leicester Colleges of Art from 1950-56, he was to meet June, a fellow student during this time, with them marrying in 1959 after Mike concluded a two year spell of National Service.
Already aware of, and influenced by a new wave of British artists, such as Vaughan, Hitchins and Sutherland, Mike spent much time during his college years painting at home for his own pleasure and development, and a number of paintings from this era are shown within the exhibition.
Starting off married life employed as art teachers in London, Mike and June would spend a huge part of their spare time in and around Bond Street and Cork Street, the Tate and Whitechapel Art Galleries. What was happening in the art world, and particularly within London, was having an impact on them, and it was this impact that Mike was to share with his students in his next teaching post from 1960 at the King Edward VI School in Nuneaton.
Mike loved his teaching role, and with it came the energy and physical studio space to allow him to let his artistic creativity explode. Recognition of Mike's work and talent grew, with successful exhibitions within many parts of the UK, including London, Nottingham and Leeds. In 1965, the newly-growing family moved to Yorkshire, where Mike had secured a teaching post as Lecturer of Painting at Bretton Hall (now better known as the Yorkshire Sculpture Park). He continued to exhibit his work, gaining further national recognition and critical acclaim, particularly once taken up by the Park Square Gallery, Leeds, one of the leading provincial lights for artistic talent. Mike's work was also exhibited at this time along side that of Sheila Fell and Sandra Blow at the influential Ashgate Gallery in Farnham, Surrey.
Further accolades followed Mike's acceptance into the Artists' International Association (AIA), a prestigious art group exhibiting work in it's Soho gallery. Mike was also accepted into the Midland Group of Artists. Despite its provincial underpinnings, it was regarded as one of the leading art groups during the 1950s and 60s, with Mike's work hung along side that of David Hockney.
The 1970s were to be a turning point for Mike and June. Moving to Seascale, the decision was made and both gave up formal educational employment to concentrate fully on their respective art careers. It was also at this time that Mike's work began to take on a more figurative bent. As Mike says "my work began to develop with much more realism, based on the landscape and the sea, sky and hills, but still retaining the ideas and shapes and movement of the earlier work".
Mike's work continued to be exhibited throughout the decade in both mixed and solo shows, including Abbot Hall, Kendal. As the decade progressed, Mike began to experiment with etching and was awarded a Northern Arts Printmaking Bursary in 1979 and 1980, working at Lowick House printmaking studios.
Moving from Seascale to Port Carlisle, Mike and June spent the next thirty years looking out over the estuary; both influenced by its light and movement. During this time, Mike's work developed, but themes remained, and lineage can be seen back to even many of the large abstract works of the 1960s. Mike exhibited at Castlegate for over two decades. He deservedly has a reputation as an accomplished and highly gifted artist.
Mike sadly passed away in October 2016.
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