29 October 2022

Bea Bonafini Interview | whitehot magazine

Poetry, Memory, & Mythology: An Interview with Bea Bonafini

Bea Bonafini has long pushed the boundaries of both medium and message to address multifaceted experiences in equally dynamic fashion. Painting melds seamlessly into sculpture, fibers are woven into larger textiles, and distant concepts and experiences are reconciled. No distance––be it material or conceptual––is too great to cover, challenging the relevance of divided disciplines and illuminating a kind of articulation.

In conjunction with the opening of the artist’s solo exhibition, The Animals of Your Lips at Bosse & Baum, I spoke with Bonafini about this new body of work, her expanding practice, entanglement theory, myths, and poetry.

MARIA OWEN: The Animals of Your Lips opened at Bosse & Baum last month. What does this exhibition mark for you? Where does it find its roots?

BEA BONAFINI: For this show, I wanted to step into new dimensions whilst opening up the material possibilities and dialogue between carpet, tapestry, ceramics, and drawing. Tapestries now float in space and visitors are confronted with three large bodies in mid-flight. Textile and ceramic collide here, as ceramic shards pierce their bodies. Free-standing ceramics counteract the tapestries’ downwards movement, rising from the floor as fragile-looking skeletons of organic matter. On the walls, intricate textile entanglements are formed by rotating assemblages of the repeated form of a sickle moon. 

The roots of the show stretch in one direction to the poetry of Ocean Vuong, Anne Sexton and the Arab-Sicilian poet Ibn Hamdis, who tackle personal trauma linked to loss and grief. In another direction, the works are rooted in environmental critical theory around non-human intelligence and entanglement theory, such as James Bridle’s Ways of Being, Donna Haraway’s “Tentacular Thinking,” or Karen Barad’s writing on quantum entanglement. The symbolic fulcrum of the show rests on the vengeful winged figures that appear in a myriad of European legends and myths––Harpies, Furies, Valkyries and Erinyes are some of their names. They are powerful and feared, and navigate through realms.

Timothy Morton’s Mesh Theory comes to mind…these understandings of interconnectivity are becoming more and more present in art environments and beyond. How do you reconcile this macro-level understanding of things with distinctly individual experiences of loss and grief? 

Perhaps the most revolutionising, spiritually awakening experiences are love and grief. Being deeply transformative, they have the power to shake our understanding of the world as we know it. The things that we love are, like everything else, in perpetual change. We’re emotional beings after all, and if anything can teach me about the macro-level of entanglement, it’s these very personal experiences of metamorphosis.

This show, The Animals of Your Lips, takes its title from the Anne Sexton poem, “Unknown Girl in a Maternity Ward.” What role does poetry play in your practice?

Many of my titles are informed by the poetry I read alongside the making of my work. I love how poetry manages to succinctly encapsulate the bittersweet juxtaposition of images and feelings. It’s the closest literary form to my work. It opens up many paths without necessarily reaching a singular or clear meaning. They don’t need to tie up all the loose ends, and in this space of ambiguity, magic proliferates.


Read the full interview on the magazine’s website here.