Meet the artists…Bea Bonafini

An interview with Bea Bonafini, our 2019-20 Abbey Scholar in Painting, in which she speaks about the works she has produced during her residency at the BSR.

I conversed with you in dream, 2020, gouache on inlayed cork, 40x30cm.jpg

I conversed with you in dream, 2020, gouache on inlayed cork, 40 ×  30 cm. Image: courtesy of the artist

This is your second show at the BSR as an Abbey Scholar. What has changed in your practice since the show in December?

I’ve shifted my attention to looking more into the origins of the grotesque in painting. The Domus Aurea wall paintings for example, or the decorative painting framing frescoes in the Vatican or in the Orvieto cathedral, and so on. The term grotesque was applied to fresco painting in the ancient Roman ruins that were being discovered in the 15th and 16th centuries. They inspired artists at the time to consider surreal, bizarre or fantastical elements in painting as tools to move towards a freer, dream-like figurative depiction, that included the monstrous or the ugly. I’ve been thinking of the grotesque body as the site of fluid transitions: from human to animal, or from animate to ornamental. Nothing is what it seems. Anything is granted the ability to transform into something else, or to behave abnormally. I’ve been thinking about how we experience painting without borders, across space; how our way of consuming images is slowed down through the fragmentation of the picture plane. Different from my work in the previous Mostra, I’ve now used an inlay and engraving technique with cork, which is then painted with gouache to create quite condensed, intimate scenes.

Grotesque in Luca SIgnorelli's frescoe.jpg

Grotesque in Luca Signorelli’s frescoes. Photograph by the artist

Can you talk about your relationship with colours?

Colour and texture need to work together, I don’t consider them to be separate things. There is no colour without texture, and there is no texture without a surface. So working backwards, I give a lot of thought to the colour-texture of the materials I’m working with. Cork has a patterned and absorbent surface that I hide or expose. I prefer thinking of painting as a staining process. Right now I make puddles of diluted paint that get absorbed into the cork, which gradually becomes more and more saturated with pigment, so that the brush marks are never visible. In the same way that my figures transition, so do colours. I treat them like a body that is blushing, creating its own glowing puddles of colour, emerging softly from a material, from within.

Reliefs from the facade of Orvieto's Cathedral by Lorenzo Maitani.jpg

Reliefs from the facade of Orvieto’s Cathedral by Lorenzo Maitani. Photograph by the artist.


The artist in her studio at the BSR. Photo credt: Viviana Calvagno

Interview by Marta Pellerini (BSR Fine Arts Adviser)