Todd Bonita (visit his website, the blog “Painting-Life” and the “Art Blog“) is an American artist who paints realistic still life, portraits and marine scenes with boats, which play an important part in his repertoire and are the focus of this review.
Autumnal palette and murky waters, bloated with soft rippling, lull the viewer, as if placing him or her inside one of the vessels. Concurrently, these may be seen as cradles, rocked by the sea — a figurative maternal entity of such magnitude as to reduce any seafarer into an infant. The rhythm of the ripples soothes; the surface absorbs and creases light to produce repetitious hypnotic patterns that float upon the sea as a weightless iridescent net. It gradually enmeshes the imagination, as if cast into the beholder’s mind with the secret motive to fish dreams out of its depths. The artist captures the mystical essence of human relationship with the sea in a counterpoint of realistic depiction, keeping stylistic balance and producing sober and neat compositions.
Geometrical juxtaposition of planes, lines and figures adds the necessary material weight to the prone to fancy images: the blue of the sea and the white of the boats may undergo a simple overturn to represent a filled with clouds sky. To keep the viewer’s head away from such lofty realms, the artist emphasizes the dynamic between the two dimensional plane of the water and the three dimensional objects that float upon it — a scientific reality check, stipulated, nevertheless, by an artistic purpose. A pair of curved planes form the sides of the boats; perpendicular rectangular planks link the sides in what might be seen as an explicit spatial maneuver. Bent lines meet at the head and form a powerful triangle. These are not clouds but sturdy and well thought-out vessels; they arise above the waters to control them.
Paradoxically, said mathematically objective hierarchy of dimensions reminds of man’s tense and unstable interaction with the sea — a power play of fear and domination, with precedence constantly shifting from the element to those who try to master it, and back. The sea likes to remind sailors that it is not only flat, but also deep. Furthermore, by setting off the scientific known, expressed by a stylistic method, against the mentioned unpredictable forces of reverie the artist implies how the search for knowledge and information continuously upsets the balance achieved in this interaction. More advanced navigating instruments disturb the status quo by inspiring hubris; it’s sextant versus fata-morgana — a battle of Titans…
Ernest Hemingway’s novella “The Old Man and the Sea” epitomizes these ideas in a literary form; Todd Bonita’s paintings illustrate them, as well as some of the more beautiful passages from the classic book.