Tanya Bonello Artist
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Tanya Bonello, Fine lines study (detail) 400x300mm, gypsum and oil on board, 2013
Prolegomenon (detail)
1000x1000mm, gypsum and oil on board, 2016

Tanya Bonello, Fine lines study (detail) 400x300mm, gypsum and oil on board, 2013

Tanya Bonello, Artist, Cape Town, South Africa. Email: info@tanyabonello.com
Tanya Bonello Facebook Page

Tanya Bonello- Thought process - TRANSCEND exhibition, January 2017

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

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 me and motivate my reason for Being. Abstract art, for me, is a vessel towards this potential Infinity".


To Transcend - to be or go beyond the range or limits of a field of activity or conceptual sphere. To rise above, to surpass, to eclipse, to overcome limitations that are physical, emotional, intellectual or spiritual.

"The Philosophy (of Nature) is written in that great book which ever 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 my Paintings, spanning decades of my 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 formation of Gypsum

About 7 million years ago, the Gibraltar isthmus formed when the African promontory of Morocco collided with the European promontory of Spain. The isthmus prevented water from flowing between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. With the closure of these two straits , the Mediterranean waters began evaporating under the strong Mediterranean sun. This evaporation process occurred over a few tens of thousands of years. The inland sea first transformed into an enormously large salty lake, similar to the Dead Sea in the Middle East today.

The briny waters became dense enough to precipitate gypsum, a very soft mineral composed of calcium sulfate dihydrate. Its chemical formula is CaSO4·2H2O. Geologists refer to Gypsum as an evaporite- a mineral that is formed when dissolved ions bond together and precipitate out of the solution. Gypsum and Halite (salt) are often found in close proximity.

Eventually, the landlocked inland sea converted to a gaping scorching 970,000 square mile desert basin with an average depth of 2000 metres below sea level. At its lowest point, this "death valley" was 3000 metres below sea level.

About 5 million years ago, the Gibraltar isthmus—the lone barrier between the desiccated Mediterranean and the invading waters of the Atlantic—collapsed catastrophically, causing a very unusual saltwater flood situation sometimes called the Messinian salinity crisis. The Atlantic inundated the Mediterranean desert as a "giant waterfall" that cascaded at the rate of about 40,000 cubic km/yr, more than a thousand times the rate of Niagara Falls.

In one century the empty Mediterranean basin filled with Atlantic waters.

Gypsum is one of the more common minerals in sedimentary environments. It is a natural insulator, feeling warm to the touch when compared to a more ordinary rock or quartz crystal and has a very low thermal conductivity. In it's powdered form, under the microscope, it has a crystalline structure therefore it refracts light beautifully.

Use of Synthetic Gold and Silver leaf

"All is flux, nothing stays still" — Plato

From the centre outwards. Our galaxy - the Milky Way - is a spiral galaxy with arms extending from the centre like a pinwheel. Our solar system is in the Orion arm of the Milky Way. Our Sun is one of about 100 billion stars in the Milky Way. And our galaxy is just one of roughly 100 billion in the visible universe. Our Solar System was born when a cloud of gas condensed enough to form solid objects, which slowly joined to make the Solar System as we understand it today. 99.86% of our solar system is occupied by our Sun.

Space, inseparable from Time, symbolises potentiality and actuality simultaneously. Every Point in Space at every moment in Time is called SpaceTime.

Composition Leaf-also known as synthetic leaf or Dutch gold- is made from brass and a combination of zinc and copper. In time it does tarnish, and as such is a symbol for perpetual transformation.

Everything in the world is energy in a continual state of change. The sum total of energy in the universe does not increase or diminish but is continually transformed from one state to another. There is no end, only change. The end of one cycle marks the beginning of another.

The synthetic gold- leaf I use in my work is also a symbolic gesture of the homage i give to our star, the Sun - our Reason for being.
Plato, The Republic, 508Bc... The sun is the image of the Good as expressed in visible things.
It is our source of Light, Warmth and Life.
It nourishes and destroys.
It is a symbol for the alternation of life, death and rebirth, of resurrection and immortality.

The silver- leaf i use in my work is a symbolic gesture of the homage I give to our Moon.
The Moon is a symbol of growth and change, of life's rhythms, of ever recurring cycles, of renewal.
Every month the moon disappears for 3 days and 3 nights, and is then reborn.
The Moon measures Time by means of its phases. The Moon guides through the dark.

The 2 great Lamps- The Sun is always Yang relative to the Moon's Yin.
The Sun shines directly while the Moon reflects the Sun's light.
The Sun represents immediate, intuitive knowledge, the Moon speculative knowledge acquired by reflection.

Use of Geometric symbols- Absolutes / Universals

"That which is Below corresponds to that which is Above, and that which is Above, corresponds to that which is Below, to accomplish the miracles of the One Thing" — Hermes Trismegistus

The entire Universe (including our solar system, as well as atoms, DNA and life-forms) reveals the secrets of balance, rhythm, proportion and unity in diversity,
the fractal  interconnection of parts with each other and the whole.

Everything that appears solid in the world is actually in a state of vibration. Nature pulsates and oscillates with wave motions, rhythms and cycles in a vast array of universal energies—all of which can be defined as vibration and frequency. Frequency can be expressed through number and number through shape and form—which is geometry. 

From the dance of atoms to spiraling galaxies, every type of growth and motion is governed by the same set of mathematical laws. These laws are contained in the primary shapes and patterns that develop from uniform divisions of the circle and sphere.
The principle of oneness underlying all geometry permeates the architecture of all form in its myriad diversity. This principle of interconnectedness, inseparability and union provides us with a continuous reminder of our relationship to the whole, a blueprint for the mind to the foundation of all things created.

I have been using Dividers in my work - a drawing instrument that has been used since antiquity to measure distances, in particular on maps, to transfer lengths from one drawing to another, and to draw circles. ... It has two legs, one for holding the instrument in place and the other for tracing out a circle.
The one point rests as the body is rotated and we see the dot within the circle. If we take this two dimensional image as symbolic of three dimensions, we can consider the generative force of this dot radiating to produce a sphere.
Like a seed taking root, this first motion is explosive. In order to generate a sphere, the three dimensions must first be established. The dot would project along the x, y, and z axes. Rotation on each axis simultaneously traces the form of a sphere.  The dot moves from the centre to the edge of the sphere; then, like the division of a cell, the initial movements are repeated. The circumference of each circle intersects the centre point of the other.

Starting with what may be the simplest and most perfect of forms, the Sphere is an ultimate expression of unity, completeness, and integrity. There is no point of view given greater or lesser importance, and all points on the surface are equally accessible and regarded by the centre from which all originate. Atoms, cells, seeds, planets, and globular star systems all echo the spherical paradigm of total inclusion, acceptance, simultaneous potential and fruition, the macrocosm and microcosm.
The circle is a two-dimensional shadow of the sphere which is regarded throughout cultural history as an icon of the ineffable oneness; the indivisible fulfillment of the Universe. All other symbols and geometries reflect various aspects of the profound and consummate perfection of the circle and sphere. At the centre of a circle or a sphere is always an infinitesimal point. The point needs no dimension, yet embraces all dimension.

The Triangle- Three is the the number of synthesis, of a third arising out of the conjunction of One and Two (Thesis and Antithesis) -Three is thus linked to birth and generation. In an equilateral triangle 3 forces are in equilibrium.
The Square- The 4 corners - representing space, the Universe
The Grid - The grid  possesses an inherent vertical and horizontal stability / harmony.
A grid of regular squares enable a place to be precisely located - latitude and longitude are two independent coordinates which together uniquely determine a location.
The horizontal line can denote the Physical, the vertical line the Spiritual, thus where the 2 lines intersect is a meeting point for the Physical and Spiritual worlds.
The pyramid is the first possible three- dimensional form. A cosmic mountain.
The Ziggurat - the stepped pyramid

Pythagoras espoused that the creative force of the Universe was number.
no1 - the point
no2 - a line or bridge between 2 points
no3 - the plane
no4 - the tetrahedron / solid…

One is the Source of all, the point of origination, the beginning. In cosmic terms, One is the first swirlings of creation - the nebula. It is something appearing where nothing was. One is the creative spark of being, the original burst of creative force. One is ultimate unity, it is The One.
One is the sphere of originating universal light. It is that which generates reality -the worlds and realms -and that to which all returns. It is the aim of spiritual traditions to link consciousness and being with this ultimate Source.
The universal geometric symbol of One is the point or dot.

Two is the number of basic polarity and dichotomy, the principle of opposites. Two is an extension or expression of the original creative burst,the Source- it is the universal axis or spindle of creation..

Three is the first form, the triangle, the first shape.It is a signifier for the containment or envelopment
of force.In architecture and building, the triangle is recognized as the strongest shape.
Three is strong, Four is stable….

From Plato to the Umayyads of Arabia to the Renaissance thinkers, geometry has been seen as a way of understanding the universe, both in a physical and a spiritual sense. Across the Christian, Islamic, Vedic, and Native American traditions, various shared patterns offer a way into the intersection of the physical and the spiritual.
Sacred geometry thus emerges as a universal language across world cultures and religions.


Writing is a medium of communication that represents language and emotion through the inscription or recording of signs and symbols. It is a mark making activity that is infused with meaning which needs to be deciphered.

Thinking in Abstractions is considered by anthropologists, archaeologists, and sociologists to be one of the key traits in modern human behaviour, and it's development is likely to have been closely connected with the development of human language, which (whether spoken or written) appears to both involve and facilitate abstract thinking.

Writing is not a language but a form of technology.

The writing process first evolved from economic necessity in the ancient Near East.
Around the 4th millennium BC, the complexity of trade and administration transcended the power of memory, and writing became a more reliable method of recording and presenting transactions in a permanent form.

Writing has been instrumental in keeping history, maintaining culture, and disseminating knowledge through our written records.
The oldest recorded story is the epic tale of Gilgamesh, scribed in Akkadian 1000 years before Homer's Iliad.

A Lingua Franca is a language that is adopted as a common language between speakers whose native languages are different.- a symbolic universal language.
Art can transcend its localisation and communicate directly with our common humanity through this universal language that is understood by all- a bridge that spans across the vast distances separating world cultures.

I have chosen to work with an abstraction of writing - symbolic writing - it says something- it looks like the written word, it must have meaning, yet the meaning is open to the interpretation or understanding of the viewer.The communication is between the artwork and the viewer.
One cannot read what is scribed, but we have a hunch that it says something that we all completely, universally, understand.

Of abstract thought - what is beyond the edge of the known universe, outside of the arena? There are no words to describe what we do not know.
The Unknowable.

Tanya Bonello, Fine lines study (detail) 400x300mm, gypsum and oil on board, 2013

Tanya Bonello, Fine lines study (detail) 400x300mm, gypsum and oil on board, 2013