Paul Benjamins

This Time it’s for Real

18th March - 22nd April 2018

“When Paul was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer in July 2014, friends suggested he write a cancer diary.  Instead, Paul found an old sketchbook and started drawing. By the time he died, seventeen months later, he had made more than two hundred drawings. At first Paul drew every day, recording his emotions and feelings as well reacting to events. But as the chemo treatments, radiotherapy and more chemo took their toll and his energy diminished, he began to be more selective about what he wanted to put in the drawings. I started to jot down what we had done each day, as an aide memoire and then he would choose which of those experiences he wanted to record. In mid-October 2015, just before going to Paris for his retrospective exhibition at the Galerie Pascal Gabert, he stopped drawing in the sketchbooks. However I continued to document each day what Paul had done, and this can be found in the last three pages of the book. A creative urgency to complete last paintings and drawings took up all his time. 

In the finalmonth of his life Paul made three last paintings, two of which he sold and one I insisted on keeping. He also made two large drawings to hang in his son Daniel’s new restaurant, when it opened the following year and a large drawing for Rebecca, his daughter. Paul started work on his final painting that remained unfinished, for me to hang in my ‘new house’. He always said it needed a few more marks. Towards the end, Paul worked with a new energy and urgency despite the cancer making his life ever more difficult.

From July 2014 until he died in November 2015, Paul never complained about his situation. He was always positive, always excited about his work and forever creating a new language and techniques to express himself visually. The sketchbook drawings he made are occasionally dark, generally humorous and mainly optimistic and forward looking.  They remain a powerful visual statement of how he felt, day by day, living with terminal cancer.”

Jaqui Benjamins