A painter for decades, over the past several years Bonaventura has developed a distinct and beautiful body of work in casein on paper.
Bonaventura’s new work depicts creatures and personages traveling through schematic hilly landscapes in saturated hues of blue, red and green. Partly dressed people and animals parade along the strong horizon stopping occasionally to talk, play or fight. Bonaventura’s people, tattooed, blue haired, oddly proportioned and costumed might have deserted a circus sideshow, while her monsters appear to have made their way from the outer edges of an early map of the world onto center stage. And what are they waving and talking about, the “scary man” or the “bird man”? Bonaventura’s titles provide only the most basic script leaving the scene open to interpretation. Lively gestures and expressions combine with the rich palette to create an atmosphere both enticing and baffling.
Of her own work Bonaventura has written: “My paintings often show figures in an environment of alienation. The space can be absurd and unsafe or hopeful. Figures are sometimes disassociated from each other and themselves. Other figures are searching, asking questions.”*
Although Bonaventura has worked in casein for a long time, until the last few years she favored larger format panels and a looser, more painterly style. Two works from the show, Two Facing Men and Small Naked Man and Giant Man feature the open negative space and more gestural approach from 2009 - 2013. More recent paintings place the figures against strongly colored reductive backgrounds and have harder edges with outlines. Bonaventura’s work has a range from brushy expressionism to a flatter, more graphic style as if the emotion conveyed by earlier brush strokes has more recently been channeled into actual facial features like grins and grimaces. These beings who can easily shape shift from human to creature and from smiling to crying have something in common with the existential elasticity of Maria Lassnig’s figures. But while Lassnig’s figures squirm and lurch and often look out of the canvas, Bonaventura’s are busy with each other “searching and asking questions”. The warm, appealing colors lend an unsettling homeyness to the confrontations or problems that arise between characters