Bea Bonafini: Functionality and The Aesthetic

I catch up with fab new artist Bea Bonafini who graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2016 to discuss her work, which operates on the boundary between functionality and the aesthetic, some of which is on show now at Lychee One, in London. 

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Can you give us a quick overview of the kind of themes that your work addresses?

There are several paths that I follow in different works, and often they converge. Themes surrounding autobiographical or cultural personal identity allow me to work with the stories and cultural histories belonging to my background and experiences.

For example, some works attempt to re-activate archaic myths by entering in dialogue with ancient Italian mythological frescoes and other artefacts. Others draw inspiration from the strong relationships I have formed in my life, or my perspective on illness and the fragile body. Perhaps the latter explains why I am drawn to delicacy and fragility in my work.

Another path tests the notions of comfort, domesticity and intimacy. I like merging associations between different domains, like treating a table like clothing, a carpet like a painting, or a painting like a mural. Often that frees me of expectations and I can let the work surprise me.

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You were invited to the Zabludowicz Collection earlier this year, tell us more about this!

My installation took over the Invites space, originally the side chapel of a Methodist church, whose intimacy and elongated proportions remain.

I was already interested in how sacred spaces, specifically ones in Italy where I come from, incorporated art in all-embracing installations to convey stories, beliefs and even act as propaganda. I constructed a quasi-secular chapel while keeping some of the mechanisms of religious spaces. They envelop the senses, magnetically drawing us through the space, and give us a sense of safety and space for reflection.

My work consisted of a wall-to-wall handmade inlay of domestic carpet, where a fragmented medieval battle scene played out. A delicate drawing of a cavernous space replaced the altar, drawing viewers through the space. A thin, oversized, carved wood throne stood on the carpet. I wanted the room to be double coded and to hold on to visitors, getting them to relax into the work. 

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How are you finding exhibiting in more established galleries and how is this helping to develop your work further?

I rarely decline the opportunity to show work, whether or not the space is established. I often get a lot out of making site-specific work, or shifting the way my pieces operate in non-neutral spaces that perhaps have a pre-existing function.

The great aspect of showing work in established galleries is the moral and technical support, as well as the help with promoting the exhibition. I’ve put up a lot of shows that didn’t rely on institutional support and it’s a lot of hard work!

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You have a show on the 19th of Jan at Lychee One, tell us more about what you’ll be showing and why we must visit.

For “Shed Shreds” I’ll be showing a new body of work, and some of the pieces get much closer to my love of painting, while continuing my use of domestic carpet as a sculptural material and symbolic object.

I’ve been testing the way certain fibres retain paint, and for this show I’ll be displaying two paintings on large-scale inlays of new and waste domestic carpets, alongside a series of drawings. These works play with visual complexities plucked from both historic and personal memory, incorporating ideas of loss, growth, excess, repetition, beauty and mythology.

The largest piece in the show is a commission for Rosenlunds Herrgard, a manor house in Jonkoping, Sweden. The domestic wall frescoes I saw this summer in Pompeii became a pool of new inspiration. Their fractured appearance carries the story of their tragedy, and their recomposition affects the way we read them.

When I’m painting deep into the pile of the carpet, even the direction of the fibres affects the final result. Each carpet piece absorbs and reflects the paint differently, and painting becomes more of a massaging or a staining rather than inscribing on a surface.

The images I have painted and drawn are autobiographical or culturally personal and are excavated from the past. I hope you enjoy the show!

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38-50 Pritchards Road
London E2 9BJ

Bea Bonafini: Shed Shreds
Lychee One Gallery
20th Jan - 4th March 2018

Follow Bea @beabonafini