Born in Paeroa in the late 1950s, Maurice Bennett spent his youth moving around rural townships with his family, settling for a while in Whakatane where he attended the local high school. After college, Maurice completed a Certificate in Civil Engineering at Auckland Technical Institute (as it was then known) followed closely by two years’ study towards a Batchelor of Architecture at Auckland University.
As a young man, Maurice was absorbed in all forms of art. He travelled widely throughout the USA and Europe, visiting museums and art galleries where his appreciation in both traditional and more offbeat art styles grew.
However, the starving would-be artist arrived back in New Zealand broke and desperate for a job. Previous after-school work as a ‘spud-boy’, weighing potatoes, gave him what seemed like a great opportunity at the time, with a job at a local supermarket.
Surprisingly, the retail work appealed to him and in a very short time he become Grocery Manager for the Papakura New World. It wasn’t long before he and Carolyn his wife, a former checkout operator, decided to purchase their own traditional Kiwi icon – the Four Square Store. Working seven days a week and excessive hours they made the business a success, it was soon paid off, and Maurice and Carolyn were able to purchase the much larger Island Bay New World Supermarket.
Interested in art from an early age, it was not until the 1980s that Maurice put his passion to work. He had some minor success with a style best described as ‘sculptural canvas’, taking an exhibition of his work to Tokyo. Further success occurred with an exhibition entitled ‘Burning Desire’ in which he displayed works of art created from the charred remains of found objects.
Maurice has been constantly developing his own artistic style and has experimented with painting, sculpture, insulation work and now ‘toast’. Displays of toast portraits of the Mona Lisa, New Zealand’s Prime Minster, John Keys, and rugby great Jonah Lomu have created a stir in local and international arenas.
Maurice’s latest endeavours find him using this quirky and untraditional medium to develop pieces that better relate to New Zealand and the Pacific-rim artistic styles. His exhibitions of toast art works that have been inspired by Tapa Cloth, Maori Carvings, and Pacific patterns have received appreciative reviews from Art critics worldwide, with comparisons of the toast colours complimenting such traditional art forms.
Today Maurice continues to push the barriers in his use of toast as an artistic medium – adding collage to his work, cut shapes from the slices of toast, and creating of three-dimensional images.
In late 2009, Maurice sold the Island Bay New World and became a full-time artist. He can now concentrates on his Toast Art without the sometimes-restricting pressures of a nine-to-five job. He has two daughters and enjoys being involved in supporting local community initiatives. The future looks bright.
My toast work has been featured on numerous TV shows, notably “Ripley's Believe It or Not” in the USA and “Amazing Stories” in Japan, while in New Zealand there have been appearances on “The Holmes Show” and ”Campbell Live”.
CNN: Food Art Festival brings 'The Toastman' to Hong Kong. Visit the CNN Website
Maurice Bennett: The Toastman
As seen on TV - The Gravy, Episode 3, TVNZ 2008.
Interview with Maurice Bennett - The ToastMan
Mr Bennett toasts Mr Obama
A Youtube video about how I create my art.
K11 Mall Hong Kong