CV Tanya Bonello

Tanya Bonello b.1972, South Africa   Ba (Fa)  Graduated 1994 Michaelis, University of Cape Town

Tanya Bonello is a contemporary abstract artist who lives and works in Cape Town, South Africa.

She is an artist who ‘thinks with her heart and feels with her head’, and has an insatiable curiosity –  reading extensively about physics, biology, history, astronomy and geology. She plays chess.

Her reason for being is to communicate, share and love – to seize the day – to seize this life,  and to spend her Time wisely in a fluid, open-hearted, expansively growing way.

“I continuously search for a greater understanding of who I am. My interest in Space and Time is an extension of this long and meandering journey, which begins with the self and extends outwards for as far as my imagination will allow. Astrophysicists speculate as to what lies beyond the edge of the observable Universe- the Great Unknown – the endless possibilities inspire and motivate me. Abstract art, for me, is a vessel towards this potential Infinity”. -Tanya Bonello

“The Philosophy (of Nature) is written in that great book whichever is before our eyes — I mean the universe — but we cannot understand it if we do not first learn the language and grasp the symbols in which it is written. The book is written in mathematical language, and the symbols are triangles, circles and other geometrical figures, without whose help it is impossible to comprehend a single word of it; without which one wanders in vain through a dark labyrinth.”  — Galileo Galilei

There are a number of recurrent threads interwoven into the body of Bonello’s paintings, spanning decades of her art-making process. Namely the use of the material substances of Gypsum, oil paint and synthetic gold and silver leaf, and the thematic use of geometry and writing. The Gypsum and synthetic gold and silver leaf by virtue of their nature will continue to transform or change – they are representative of the maxim ‘all is in a state of flux’.

The Geometry signifies that which we know- the fathomable, the writing appears to be unfathomable as a known language, and as such is representative of that which we do not know or that which we cannot describe in words. The literary term for this is Asemic writing.

Bonello always starts a work with the sage advice of Leonardo Da Vinci: begin on a white ground. She prepares a surface of gypsum, an evaporite mineral composed of calcium sulfate dihydrate (CaSO4·2H2O) and working with mathematical dividers, a set square and a ruler,  she incises geometry into the tabula rasa. The work is completed with mineral oil paint which she makes herself – she has had a long-standing fascination with colour yielding minerals and continues to harvest from nature raw pigments that she transforms into paint.

Bonello began casting her painting surfaces as a young art student in the early 1990’s.
She explains that she begins an artwork with the surface parallel to the horizon (which is necessary for casting) – this signifies for her the earthly realm, then she transfers it to the vertical to complete the work on her easel – a combination of the physical and the spiritual worlds or the union of heaven and earth.

Bonello’s art professor and mentor Kevin Atkinson, who taught her at Michaelis, the University of Cape Town’s art school. , encouraged her to dedicate her life to seeking and actioning Universal or Absolute Truth. He prompted her to deeply consider mathematics, specifically the numbers 1 through 9, the vibration of sound, the shapes of form and the power of colour. He explained to her that Energy which can be a  Chemical bond, Electricity, Light, Magnetism, Movement, Nuclear forces or Sound are All forms of energy that can be freely transformed into another form of energy.
He also familiarized her with the abstraction of the Singularity – all that which is manifestly derived from One – The circle is the universal archetype of unity, wholeness and completion. The number one and the circle are the foundation for every other number and shape. They are the bedrock upon which all else is built.

111,111 x 111,111 = 12345,654321

A woman who inspires Bonello endlessly to ‘Look up’ lived and philosophized in Ancient Greece, teaching amongst others Socrates who in turn taught Plato. Her name is Diotima of Mantinea. She wrote a philosophical text often referenced as her Ladder in which she describes an ascent from loving particular kinds of beauty to loving Beauty itself. In essence, on the bottom rung of the ladder is the love of yourself, next the love of another, and then the love of All beautiful bodies – people, animals and plants, and so on it goes until one loves Everything physical in its entirety.The higher the rung the more general and abstract are the ideas. For example, the Love of the Soul more than the beautiful bodies, up towards the love of knowledge, and then the love of Beauty as an entire concept rather than beauty in its particular manifestations. The word “Beauty” is capitalized in that in this broadest sense, it is one of what Plato calls the “Forms”; it’s the timeless, ideal essence of beauty, that which all particular things beautiful possess. Socrates claimed that Diotima had exposed him to the true meaning of love – a vehicle to contemplate the Divine. Bonello celebrates Diotima’s insight and wisdom into the nature and purpose of Love, Truth and Beauty.

She has exhibited her work in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Istanbul, and her paintings are held in private collections in Cape Town, Johannesburg, London, St. Laurent-Nouan, Warsaw, Milan, New York, San Francisco and Dubai.

Artworks not in the SAFFCA Collection