River Valley Art Beat

Inside the Windgate Art & Design building at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith, on the first floor adjacent to the Main Gallery, one may discover a body of work, which lives in the Nadine and Bob Miller Pre-Function Gallery. Yugoslav-Canadian Artist Bratsa Bonifacho donated nine of his favorite paintings to the Windgate Art & Design building in 2016. These paintings are part of his “Habitat Pixel” series and are valued at $117,000.


Initially Bonifacho was supposed to exhibit his work at the Windgate Art & Design building, which opened to the public in September 2015, but a serious accident prevented that from happening. He said he felt terrible about letting the university down and chose the number of works to donate because he wanted them to be impactful. Don Lee, who at the time was associate professor of art and director of the Windgate Gallery, described the gift as “generous beyond words.”


In Bonifacho’s work, there is evidence of how the artist plays with layers of text, using visual language that often suggest the result of computer viruses. He was inspired by a moment in which he turned on his computer only to find the screen filled with strange symbols.“ I immediately saw beauty in it,” he said. “Even though it was the beauty of creative destruction.”


Like many of the Habitat pixel paintings, one of his works, “Metropolis Notturno,” features letters, numbers, symbols and signs arranged in a grid pattern and painted with vibrant colors.


Another work of art, “Lyrics” Imagery, continues with the grid-like structure and falls in line with his lat-period abstractions. Placed on top of vividly colored rectangles are overturned, contrasting letters that are arranged to create a visual rhythm. All of these design aspects working in conjunction suggest a highly lyrical and musical quality of the painting.


After his geometric grid compositions of his Habitat Pixel series, Bonifacho devoted himself to “In Nucleo,” a series which expressed his personal dissatisfaction with the contemporary world. In his particular work of art, “Animon Et Fide,” phrases that read, “What you see is what you get,” “Manifestation of bad taste,” and other phrases are mixed in with conglomerations of random letters. Like other works in the series, this painting supports the ideals of contemporary art.


Bonifacho attended the University of Belgrade, Serbia, where he earned his Master of Fine Arts degree. Before immigrating to Vancouver, Canada, his work was exhibited extensively throughout Europe and his artwork can still be found in collections in many places all around the world. Overall Bonifacho’s work carries the elegance of programming code and indicates the deep layers of chaos and confusion caused by viruses.


“I communicate and express essentially non-verbal thoughts and emotions abstractly, within the discipline of formalism — through colour and shape, gesture and surface. I work in the standard oil medium, applying it to large squares and rectangles of prepared canvas. Sometimes I use encaustic for its particular luminosity and tactility; occasionally I do shaped canvases, or mixed media constructions. As a relief from the intensity of prismatic colour, I periodically explore the singular qualities of geometry, surface, gesture and sgraffito, in metallic paints. Such decisions occur within the context of extended serial planning,” says Bonifacho.


This column is produced by the River Valley Arts Coalition, whose mission is to inform citizens and visitors of the available fine art exhibition and education opportunities in Fort Smith and surrounding region. We also want to tell the stories of the people who make the local art scene such a vibrant and important part of our community. To send comments or for more information on the River Valley Arts Coalition contact lmeluso@fsram.org.