Artist Q & A: Bratsa Bonifacho

In anticipation of Bratsa Bonifacho's upcoming show No Sugar Added, we talked with the artist about the evolution of his process, the significance of words, and his relationship with painting. No Sugar Added opens on June 17 and runs through June 29, 2023.

Bratsa Bonifacho, Zonab X. 48 x 48 inches, oil and acrylic on canvas.

1. Can you talk about how your interest in art began, and how your process has developed over the years?

As a kid, I was always drawing. I drew on everything! I would get punished for drawing on the walls. I became what you would call a commercially successful artist in my country of origin – I was on Yugoslavian and Italian TV, doing paintings on the roofs of buildings, and this time I wasn’t getting punished! I have to say, in those early years, I was rushing through things in comparison to later on in life – when you’re young, life is a bowl of cherries, and you don’t think as deeply about things. Since then, I evolved as an artist, and my process is what it is because of age and experience.


2. Can you describe what is behind the use of words, letters and shapes in your work?

I came to Canada almost fifty years ago, only knowing three English words. It was so hard to communicate and explain myself, and inevitably I had to slow down and really work on words. My paintings are visuals of what is happening in my life and all around me. Because they contain words and letters, one could think that they constitute a journal, but I think of each canvas as a whole - I step back and see them as symbols rather than reading or focusing on individual words. I largely moved away from words and letters in recent series and now utilize fragments or semblances of letters. The paintings are now full-fledged symbols, illustrating broken codes, interrupted thoughts, and questions with no defined answers. They reflect my time and our collective time.

 Bratsa Bonifacho, Fortuna Favet Fortibus. 60 x 60 inches, oil and acrylic on canvas.

3. You have said that you have a relationship with each painting – can you describe your artistic process and how this relationship develops?

My process is extremely intuitive, and it does make me feel like a relationship develops with each painting. Colours bloom or brood, depending on my mood of the day. I actually talk to my paintings as I work, expressing everything from praise to frustration – my wife sometimes asks me who I’m talking to when I’m conversing with my work! It’s a helpful and essential practice for me, it gets my thoughts out of my head and onto the canvas. It is also something that reflects how I live so much in the present – I don’t look back, even to the stories behind each painting.


4. How do you know a painting is finished?

I know a painting is finished when it has settled down – when anything else added would create an imbalance.

Bratsa Bonifacho, Tabula Librorum. 36 x 72 inches, oil and acrylic on canvas.

5. What has been your proudest moment as an artist?

My proudest moment is always when I get the art to how I want it to be. So often you can work and work and it isn’t to your satisfaction. It’s so annoying when something doesn’t work - sometimes you have to start all over again. I’m proudest when I satisfy myself. I make paintings like I’m building up something. Canvas is the final product of my story, no doubt about it.


6. What do you do when you are not painting?

Going berserk!

The artist outside his studio.

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