November 05, 2022
In her first solo exhibition, Arianna Bongato introduces a compelling reassessment of classical tradition in painting through her own reductionist and iconoclastic approach in art-making. Undermining the values of formal art education through the depiction of classical nudes, she turns the conventions associated with the naturalist school of representation–of proportion, beauty, and composition-into her own method of fleshing out new and possible portrayals where the materiality and validity of the art object in question becomes part of the narrative itself.
She does this with a keen eye to mimic the affectations of the classical tradition through her use of subjects and tropes. Taking her cue from neoclassicist painters such as William-Adolphe Bouguereau and Franz Xaver Winterhalter, these academic painters reflect Bongato’s re-evaluation of the artist in ‘study,’ of being tied to the thematic and to other conventions in motif, perspective, and iconography as practiced in formal schooling. She reconstructs this by drawing our attention to the negative space–carved out from the scenery like a stolen artifact, like erasures in documents of antiquityt hrough a stark effacement of portions of the picture, as these marks bleed out across the borders of the canvas’s frames.
These ‘excisions’ or covering up suggest notions of censorship, but more significantly these blocks of white paint and gold leaf employed to cancel some images imply an aesthetic more associated to oriental philosophies and traditions, particularly to Japanese values that adhere to emptiness and space. This is the kind of exploration and story-telling that Bongato infuses in her works, where the end-product either becomes a synthesis or a contradiction of each other: as seen in her subjects serving as representations of a dramatic yet conventional form, while her color blocking and framing act as poignant expressions subverting these conventions.
Her works situate Classical and Baroque references with De Stijl-influenced compositions, in an attempt to utilize formal techniques through abstraction and reduction in expressing a kind of visual economy. Her process challenges iconography and conformity by scaling down subjects into their prominent forms while incorporating negative spaces as placeholders. She believes that a new and multifaceted image is formed when certain features are veiled, erased, or hidden; conveying an idea beyond what viewers are accustomed to believe in the completeness and finality of representations.
Exhibition Notes by Cocoy Lumbao
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Arianna Bongato (b. 1998) is a contemporary artist based in Pateros, Metro Manila. She graduated Cum Laude at the University of the Philippines Diliman with a Bachelor’s Degree in Studio Arts, Major in Sculpture. Her works situate Classical and Baroque references with De Stijl-influenced compositions, in an attempt to exercise discipline through abstraction and reduction of visual economy. Her process challenges maximality and conformity by scaling down subjects into select impressions and suggesting negative spaces as placeholders. She believes that a new multifaceted image forms when certain features are veiled, conveying an idea beyond a conventionally “complete” representation.