Benzaken is a French artist, based in Paris, whose big colorful canvases painted in series show not just a representation of reality but a distancing from it. Her paintings and prints are based on photographic images taken from advertising, newspapers, or television. Her paintings make a slight shift in perception which in time transforms figuration into a genre bordering on abstraction.
Benzaken studied at the Ecole National Superieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris from 1985-1990 and holds a Diplome Superieur d’Arts Plastiques. She taught there for one year as a Visiting Artist. In 1997, she went to Los Angeles and was a Visiting Artist for graduate students at the Pasadena Art Center. She stayed seven years in the United States.
She began her art career by painting large, representational, highly colored series of tulips, frontally aligned on diptychs. Her tulips were straightforward, more or less centered, alone or in groups. They were never made into bouquets. The pictorial space was divided into contiguous sections with the tulips arranged in planes. Her inspiration for these flowers came from posters and photography from gardening catalogues. In her series of tulips she moves from the photographic image to painting. The catalogue photograph is presented not as the representation of the flower but rather as a visual reality to which she adds gestural brush strokes, pigments, and glazes.
“Making cinema in painting” is what she does as she brings life into everyday snapshots, like a sports event or a news item as in her “Diana’s Funeral,” 1999. Benzaken also practices photo and video from her time spent in Los Angeles where she learned about jazz and the way in which musicians improvise on a standard. Cinema – as well as photography – has led to changes in scale, framing, and juxtaposition which is expressed in her work between the blurred and the well-defined and between the near and the far so that the banality of an everyday subject becomes almost an abstraction.
She was commissioned to make several public art work as well as the stained-glass windows for the Elise Saint-Sulpice in 1997-2001 and a monumental glass polyptych for the hall of 32, rue Blanche in Paris.
She has received many prizes and distinctions, including the Marcel Duchamp Prize in 2004 and the Officer des Arts et des Lettres in 2008 and Chevalier de Legion d’ Honneur in 2011.
Her work has appeared in numerous important exhibition held in France, Belgium, China and Centre Pompidou in Paris, Mint Museum of Art in North Carolina, and Museum of Modern Art in New York. Her work is held in public and private collections, include including the Royal Academy of Arts in London, New York’s Museum of Modern Art, Centre Pompidou, and regional museums throughout France.