The pandemic has left many wishing for the solace of social gatherings – a family dinner, birthday parties, graduations or even just visiting your favourite nightclub.
In her latest exhibition, Maltese artist Debbie Bonello has captured these universal forms and settings of social gatherings in an introspective, imaginative and playful exhibition inviting viewers to revisit the idea of being alone.
‘Gatherings’ is a collection that highlights anonymous crowds and lonesome individuals sharing a common space, depicted throughout the pandemic while creating a sense of isolation even though these figures walking in groups.
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Speaking to Lovin Malta, Bonello highlighted the importance of symbolism to her work both in general and in this collection especially. She explained that this is “central” to most of her work where multiple layers are weaved into each other.
“I don’t consider myself a crowd person, however, social limitations during lockdown have had me miss interacting with people. Celebrating birthdays and family events online did not quite cut it”, she told Lovin Malta.
Following a particularly striking trip through a deserted Mdina, Bonello’s thoughts and feelings began to fully unfold on the canvas, finding herself painting “what I missed”.
This type of inspiration for her work is not uncommon for Bonello, who noted that she typically binges “on all kinds of visuals coming my way, be it online, books, magazines or simply watching people”.
“I love observing my surroundings which in turn fuels my aptitude. Being inspired by other artists is inevitable, however, the more I paint the more I consciously try to listen to myself and channel my brushwork accordingly”.
Though the idea behind ‘Gatherings’ originated in 2016, the onset of the pandemic has let it take on a whole new identity and context. The “imposed isolation” while working on the exhibition allowed Bonello “to thrive on my intuition and focus on what I really wanted to depict”.
Bonello’s semi-abstract style meanwhile, offers a perfect opportunity for viewers to have the scope for reinterpreting.
Bonello explained that the piece ‘To be continued…’, “is a reflection of how everything has a beginning and an end, reminding us that we do not entirely belong to this world”.
Yet, it simultaneously opens the door to interpretation with the way in which the figures in the painting are more distant and vaguer than in the other pieces.
Through her work, Bonello hopes that she is able to convey several messages to viewers.
“As I greet people and show them around my works, I do get their subjective interpretation. People voice how the paintings relate to them, give them their own meaning and transport them elsewhere.”
Bonello highlighted that this was “the culmination and scope of it all, the work going the full circle, with the view giving the painting a fresh dimension in its depth”.
‘Gatherings’ is open at il-Kamra ta’ Fuq in Mqabba until 15th June 2021. The success of this exhibition is already extremely clear with the fact that the paintings are already entirely sold out.
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