In conjunction with the opening of the December Mostra, we are taking a closer look at the individual practices of our resident artists. The seventh interview is of Bea Bonafini, our Abbey Scholar.
What is your relationship with materials like ceramic and fabric?
I approach both of them as materials to be stained and layered, and then reconfigured again and again. I use fabrics because of their versatility, my daily intimacy with them, because they keep us warm and embellish the body, they make objects comfortable, it’s what we sleep in. I like using an inlay technique to shape the material into a patchwork made up of separate entities. The cut-out form can be removed, repeated and replaced. Within the rules I set myself, the process of making can become very methodical, where the repetitive slicing and splicing eventually creates a complex composition of juxtaposed and superimposed forms.
My relationship to ceramics is closer to food. I knead clay and dough in the same way, and whereas one becomes edible the other becomes its container. I’ve made ceramics that have a functionality that is then stretched into something more abstract and surreal. My recent series looked at ceramics in a religious context – Acquasantiere were used a lot in southern Italy, at the entrance of homes or churches, depicting an iconic figure like the Virgin and Child. They contain holy liquids while also referencing very bodily things. I began staining porcelain with pigments in the same way I do with my fabrics by using chalk, pastels or oils. The pigments don’t just sit on the surface but stain the fibres and the clay, permeating the whole of the material.
My textile pieces can be really monumental, from 12 or 15 metres long, to much smaller and intimate hand sewn pieces. When I work with textiles, it’s often horizontally on the floor and it’s very sculptural. Whereas the ceramics give me that direct relationship with my body.
You always work with fragmentation and in Italy you have the chance to see fragments of Etruscan and Roman frescoes. In which way are you thinking of linking them with your work?
I’ve been thinking more and more about how through time things can be superimposed. How a layer of painting is painted over with different imagery at some point later in time, hiding the previous work but not entirely, and so they coexist. They are overlapping and speaking over each other. I’ve also been thinking about layers of soil that contain different objects within it. I’ve been doing tests with jesmonite poured in layers to trap fragments of beach glass or horse hair or tiny bits of ceramics within it. I’ve then been smashing them to turn them into rubble, and trapping them between sheets of plastics amongst a collaged composition of other fragments of drawings, prints and fabrics. I’m thinking more and more about how objects can contain many other objects within them, and our ideas of how to salvage material, like a healing process.
Bea’s work is exhibited alongside other resident artists in the December Mostra. Opening hours 16.30-19.00 until Saturday 14 December 2019.
Interview by Marta Pellerini (BSR Fine Arts Adviser).