Born in New Ross, County Wexford in 1950, Carmel Benson is a graduate of University College Dublin and of Dun Laoghaire College of Art and Design, where she specialized in painting and printmaking. She joined the Graphic Studio Dublin where she taught lithography and was for several years a co-director with James O’Nolan.
She gave workshops at The Educate Together schools in Dalkey and Bray as well as Newpark Comprehensive School in Dublin whose theme was worldwide depictions of the sacred. She was a member of W.A.A.G. the feminist artists group formed to redress the gender imbalance in art at the time.
From 1987-1999 she was a lecturer at Dun Laoghaire Instituteof Art Design, until she resigned to practice art full-time.
The world of Childhood, in its many aspects, from the magical to damaging, has been her main theme. With a strong use of colour, the work combines figurative and abstract elements to explore the immersion of the individual, both human and animal, in space/time. Aspects of garden, field and hillside are simplified as spaces of enclosure or expansion, experienced with a sense of the sacred and of childhood wonder. Elements from the established domain of art are sometimes integrated with the personal, merging the collective with this individual vision. Of note is her Sheela-na- gig series, inspired by the controversial female grotesque figures whose interpretations range from Ancient Mother Goddess to dark signs of warning. Her travels to Greece, North Africa and India have also provided inspiration.
From her first show in The Grafton Gallery in Dublin in 1984, she continued to have regular successful exhibitions – of paintings at The Hallward Gallery, Dublin, and prints at The Graphic Studio Gallery Dublin. She has participated in numerous group exhibitions – at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, The National Gallery of Ireland, the RHA, Claremorris Open, The Chester Beatty Library, Eigse, Carlow, as a guest, EVA, Limerick, among many others, the most recent being ‘Double Estate’(2020/22) in Dublin, and Artnet Dunlaoghaire 2022, where she was an invited selector in 2023. Among exhibitions abroad are The New York and London Print Fairs, print biennales in Lubyana and Taipei, Galerie Michelle Broutta, Paris,The RA, London and Belfast, the Blackpool, Glasgow and Belfast Print Galleries as well as galleries in northern Europe.
She has received awards for printmaking as well as bursaries and residencies from the Arts Council of Ireland and the University of Oviedo, Spain.
Her work is included in many private and public collections including The Irish Contemporary Arts Society, the OPW, Dublin Castle, The AIB, The Bank of Ireland, The butler Gallery, Kilkenny, and the Arts Councils of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Her last solo exhibition ‘How To Be A Child’ which explored religious and patriarchal influences on the child, was at the Mermaid Arts Centre, Bray in 2014. In that year, an accident caused damage to her right arm and hand, hindering her ability to make visual art. She has been writing a childhood memoir ‘How To Be A Saint.’ Recently she has returned to painting, working on a sequence of small images: ‘The Twilight Series.’
Selected Solo Exhibitions
2013 Connect, Graphic Studio Gallery, Dublin
2008 Childscapes, Graphic Studio, Gallery
2003 New Paintings, Hallward Gallery, Dublin
1997 Watchhouse Gallery, Enniscorthy, Ireland
Selected Group Exhibitions
2010 Little Christmas, Graphic Studio, Dublin
2008 Revelation, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin
2005 Gardens of Earthly Delight, Chester Beatty Library, Dublin
2004 Invited Artist for Amnesty International, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin 2001 Estampe, Galerie Michele Broutta, Paris
2001 Blackpool, Glasgow Print Gallery, Scotland
2003, 1998 London Original Print Fair, The Royal Academy, London