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Shot by Connor Sprague


Staircases, public parks, and open spaces; mundane landscapes to most people, but not for Sydney-based artist Charlie Bennell. To the UNSW and Parsons School of Design graduate, these environments evoke a wonder for the minutiae, where she (and the international audience her artwork has garnered) can escape the stresses of modern life and revel in a vibrant, playful world.


Bennell speaks candidly with Manan Luthra for PUSH about her inspirations, vision, and advice for local up-and-coming creatives.

Clockwise from top left: 'Desert Bedroom' (2020) by Charlie Bennell; Charlie shot by Connor Sprague; 'Desert Bedroom' (2020) by Charlie Bennell; Charlie shot by Magnolia Minton Sparke; Charlie's works by Charlie; 'Holman House' (2020) by Charlie Bennell

Interview with Manan Luthra

Charlie, tell me about your work and the vision behind it.

I usually produce oil paintings, but I also work in digital mediums as well. At the moment I’m quite interested in landscapes, and looking at how built environments cross with natural ones. Recently I’ve been intrigued by the impact of spending lots of time within the confines of the architectural spaces we live in, as compared to our experiences within nature. In my current body of work I’ve been experimenting with presenting these in unison – indoor living room scenes that are flowy and unconfined or even completely outdoor. In terms of vision, I want my work to invite a sense of reverie, allowing for a moment of introspection in the minimal, aesthetic, and naïve. My motivation comes from therapeutic escapism, exploring the possibilities of colours, spaces, light and shadow. It’s my way of making sense of the world, and trying to simplify and slow everything down.

How did you first become involved in the visual arts?

I’ve always been really interested in art. As a kid I spent hours in front of the TV trying to capture my favourite cartoon characters as they moved, but it was only during my final year of high school that I did a series of paintings for the first time. That inspired me to start working with visual art more, which scared me – so that’s how I knew I should keep doing it.


Moving to your career, what would you say your biggest achievements have been?

I think the scholarship I won to study at the Parsons School of Design in New York was definitely a turning point. It pushed me to experiment with my practice and really immerse myself in art. Other than that, I’ve collaborated with the City of Sydney and Converse. Recently I’ve been featured in Sight Unseen magazine, Away Travel magazine, and Label magazine, which have all been great.

What are you most proud of when it comes to your journey as an artist?

I’m really proud of myself for just showing up and navigating this journey - making decisions and trusting  myself can seem really daunting at times. It also took me a while to have the courage to share my work with the world and put myself out there, so I’m overwhelmingly grateful for the support and appreciation that everyone’s shown me. Art as a practice also really challenges me and I’m proud of the way I’ve grown because of it.

Alright, time for some rapid fire questions. What are you reading/ watching/listening to at the moment?

Reading ‘Pride and Prejudice’, watching ‘MasterClasses’, and listening to my friend’s band ‘Zazas Mama’ as well as the podcast ‘Great Women Artists.’

Which physical locations inspire/ feature in your work? Any within Sydney?

In terms of inspiration, my obsession with built environments and landscapes really started when I was exploring ruins in Turkey and caves in Cappadocia. I love Rudolf Steiner’s house in London, with its flowy quality and organic shape, as well as Luis Barragan’s and Richard England’s architecture. In Sydney I find a lot of inspiration in Centennial Park – I love the statues there – and one local spot that has featured in my work is Holman House, which is in Dover Heights. I like how it’s right on the ocean.

Who are your all-time favourite visual artists/creatives?


At the moment, Hilma af Klint – I was lucky enough to see her 2018-19 exhibition at the Guggenheim.


Finally, what is your best advice for up-and-coming Sydney-based visual artists and those wanting to get involved in Sydney’s arts scene?

Go easy on yourself. It can be tricky to navigate a career that bases success on the approval of others, so tread consciously and carefully around being your own biggest critic. It’s also really important to be your biggest champion as well.

Who do you think is the most exciting young and emerging creative in Sydney right now?

Alex Xerri



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