Ben Woolfitt

Ben Woolfit “XX” 2004, acrylic on canvas, 20 x 16

Born in Saskatchewan, Ben Woolfitt has lived in Toronto since 1965 when he came to study at the Founders College at York University. In 1967 he made a trip to New York City and was there turned on by Color Field painting, especially the works of Rothko, Louis, Noland and Olitski. Already in 1969 he began painting some fine Color Field pictures of himself, culminating 6 years later in a beautiful series of large pictures based on a diamond form. They show a consummate technique and a love of mystery and the sublime, as the critic Ken Carpenter has already pointed out (Carpenter has been Woolfitt’s chief supporter).

After the mid 70’s Woolfitt turned to smaller, more intimate work often on paper. A series of personal tragedies beset him. Also he needed to be more active in dealing with his finances. He founded and taught at an art school and then, in 1978, established what became a very successful retail business, Woolfitt’s Art Supplies. Today it is an international company about to open a factory in China. Ben has become one of Toronto’s most successful businessmen.

This has permitted him to turn back to his first love, Modernist Painting. He loves the luscious sensuality of the new acrylic gel, which has been developed since the late 80’s. More explicitly he loved the gels potential for deep color glazes (deeper than is possible with oils) and ravishingly glossy surfaces. Undoubtedly Woolfitt has been inspired by the work of fellow, Torontonian, Joseph Drapell and the New New painters. His recent “Water Series” and “Ocean Series” show a brilliant technical mastery of the new medium and an ambition to make monumental lyrical statements with it. At their finest his pictures seem like amazingly gorgeous, natural events, which, at the same time, proclaim a human act and affirmation.

Ben Woolfit “XVII”, 2004, acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20