Bratsa Bonifacho

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Bratsa Bonifacho
Scripsi (from Testament Papers series).jpg
Scripsi (2014)
Born (1937-02-10)February 10, 1937
Belgrade, Serbia, formerly Yugoslavia
Nationality Canadian
Education Belgrade University,
Known for Painting
Notable work 4 x MCH (1980),
Brabancon La (1992)
La Vila Arson Presente (2002)
Movement Abstract

Born in Serbia in 1937, painter Bratsa Bonifacho (Braca Bonifacije) became a Canadian citizen in 1976 and now lives in Vancouver, Canada. Working from a discipline based in formalism, he is an abstract expressionist who chooses between many elements including symbolist and figurative to express non-verbal thoughts and emotions abstractly.

Life and work[edit]

Bonifacho grew up in Belgrade during World War II's German occupation and post-war Russian occupation of Yugoslavia (behind what was then known as the Iron Curtain).[1] He speaks Serbo-Croat, Russian, and English. Before settling near in Vancouver, Canada in 1973 and becoming a Canadian citizen in 1976, he lived as a painter in France.

Utilizing techniques and relying on skills culled from over 25 years of training and 50 years practice in the arts, Bonifacho works in the medium of oil which he applies to large squares and rectangles of prepared canvas. On occasion, he has also used encaustic for its tactility and luminosity. Periodically, Bonifacho has focused on qualities of geometry, surface, gesture, and sgraffito in metallic paints as a relief from working with prismatic colour. His work is represented by the Bau Xi Gallery in Toronto and Vancouver (Canada), the Foster/White Gallery in Seattle (US), and the Herringer Kiss Gallery in Calgary (Canada).

An accomplished musician, Bonifacho fell in love with jazz in the 1950s [1] and studied at the School for Jazz (Dept. Of Drums) which was operated by the Belgrade Association of Jazz Musicians. After graduating, he was both leader and drummer for the Braca Bonfacije Dixie Quintet in Belgrade from 1957–1960.


  • Sumatovacka School of Art, Belgrade (Drawing and Painting), 1959–1960
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) University of Belgrade, 1961–1964
  • Bachelor of Architecture (B. Arch) University of Belgrade Faculty of Architecture, 1964–1967
  • Atelier Kruger (Old Master printing techniques), Frankfurt Germany, summer seminars 1966-1968
  • Completion of one year course. School for Jazz (operated by the Belgrade Association of Jazz Musician) – Department of Drums, 1959

Important themes[edit]

Bonifacho’s earliest work dating from 1959-1963 was the politically motivated and intensely emotional “Eyes over Belgrade” series. He used roof tops and the exterior surfaces of buildings as massive canvases where he painted target-like pop designs critiquing war and the US and Russian space race while engendering ire in his neighbours.[2] Even though Yugoslavia had pulled out of the Warsaw Pact in 1948 and Belgrade was as artistically progressive as London [3] (for example, noted New York-based performance and fellow Serbian-born artist Marina Abramović was a member of Bonifacho's social and artistic milieu), it was under the rule of president-for-life, Josip Broz Tito. The themes of war, nuclear holocausts, environmental devastation, and human vulnerability have dominated much of Bonifacho’s work as noted in an article by social activist and author Christian Parenti in his comments about Bonifacho’s 25-year retrospective show at Belgrade’s Progress Gallery (Galerija Progres) in 2000.[4]

The first paintings to gain Bonifacho critical acclaim in Canada were the Blackboards series produced between 1978 and 1982. The series features racing greyhounds, targets, pop culture symbols (e.g. Marilyn Monroe) and/or American flags in sometimes unexpected juxtapositions. They are a commentary on the “rat race, the arms race, and the space race,” and human vulnerability.

Bonifacho also references sexuality both overt and covert, in the context of global bio-degradation, nuclear devastation, and anti-war themes.

Landscapes have played an important role in Bonifacho’s work as more than just reference points for geography; Alberta Landscapes his first series after immigrating to Canada not only played a locative role but was also a means of coming to grips with memories of war-ravaged landscapes and environmental devastation and yearnings for imagined landscapes.

The Parallelograms series stands in sharp contrast as it is a meditative, minimalist series that is limited to gold and black while the greater body of Bonifacho’s work is saturated with prismatic colour.

Always fascinated with language, Bonifacho’s painting titles from the earliest days feature word play. He also mischievously embeds words from various languages in his paintings daring the viewer to find and make sense of them. His Habitat Pixel series depicts computer viruses while referencing the alphabet, typography, and the printing press.

The city of Vancouver (Canada), Bonifacho’s adopted home, honoured him by hanging six images chosen from his Habitat Pixel series on city banners that were displayed along major thoroughfares and bridges in 2008. He joined the company of such internationally renowned local artists as Jack Shadbolt, Toni Onley, Gordon A. Smith, and Bill Reid.[5]

In what could be described as a ‘tour de force’, Bonifacho’s 2013 series, Testament Papers, features five compositional styles integrating themes explored over several years. By constraining himself to a grid format and enclosing symbols, he freed himself to comment anew, both seriously and humorously, on pollution, war, sex, energy, politics, and more. Using symbols such as letters from the Romanized and Cyrillic alphabets, numbers, and drawing words from multiple languages (Hebrew, Italian, Serbian, Russian, French, German, Spanish, Latin, etc.) and the five styles used in this series, Testament Papers, is richly evocative of abstract art, expressionist painting, and symbolic representation. Taken as a whole, Testament Papers, is a workshop demonstration of an artist’s consummate skill, intuition, passion, history, and infinite creative drive.

Selected exhibitions[edit]

  • 1978 Alberta Landscapes, Gallery Scollard, Toronto, ON
  • 1979 Alberta Landscapes, Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver, BC
  • 1982 Blackboards, Burnaby Art Gallery, Burnaby, BC
  • 1982 Blackboards, Richmond Art Gallery, Richmond, BC
  • 1987 Combustion, Atelier Gallery, Vancouver, BC
  • 1990 Scotland, Heffel Gallery, Vancouver, BC
  • 1991 Earth and Fire, Heffel Gallery, Vancouver, BC
  • 1992 Parallelograms, Doheny Gallery, Vancouver, BC
  • 1993 Scotland, Fran Willis Gallery, Victoria, BC
  • 1995 La Habana, Bau-Xi Gallery, Vancouver, BC,
  • 1995 Earth and Fire, Bau-Xi Gallery, Toronto, ON.
  • 1995 Blackboards, Fran Willis Gallery, Victoria, BC
  • 1996 Peloponnesus, Bau-Xi Gallery, Vancouver, BC
  • 1997 Parallelograms, Richmond Art Gallery, Richmond, BC
  • 1999 Al Campo Santo, Bau-Xi Gallery, Vancouver, BC and in Toronto, ON
  • 2000 Retrospective, 25 Years in Canada, Galerija Progres, Belgrade, Yugoslavia
  • 2001 Lexicon Cosri, Bau-Xi Gallery, Toronto, ON
  • 2001 Blackboards, Savremena Galerija Zrenjanin, Zrenjanin, Yugoslavia
  • 2002 Retrospective, Galerija Matice Srpske, Novi Sad, Yugoslavia
  • 2002 Habitat Pixel, Bau-Xi Gallery, Vancouver, BC
  • 2003 Habitat Pixel, Bau-Xi Gallery, Vancouver, BC and Toronto, ON
  • 2004 Habitat Pixel, Bau-Xi Gallery, Vancouver, BC and Toronto, ON
  • 2005 Habitat Pixel, Foster/White Gallery, Seattle, WA
  • 2006 Moderato Cantabile, Foster/ White Gallery, Seattle, WA
  • 2006 Moderato Cantabile, Bau-Xi Gallery, Vancouver, BC
  • 2006 Je t’aime, Bau-Xi Gallery, Toronto, ON
  • 2007 New Work, Bau-Xi Gallery, Toronto ON
  • 2008 Blackboards Retrospective, Foster/White Gallery, Seattle, WA
  • 2009 Alpha Code, Bau-Xi Gallery, Vancouver, BC and Toronto, ON
  • 2009 Human Farm, Foster/White Gallery, Seattle, WA
  • 2009 New Work, Herringer Kiss, Calgary, AB
  • 2010 Montparnesse, Herringer Kiss, Calgary, AB
  • 2010 Garage Series, Bau-Xi Gallery, Vancouver, BC
  • 2011 In Nucleo, Foster/White Gallery, Seattle, WA; Bau-Xi Gallery, Vancouver, BC; Bau-Xi Gallery, Toronto, ON
  • 2012 Messages, Bau-Xi Gallery, Vancouver, BC
  • 2012 Inside Habitat Pixel, Evergreen Cultural Centre, Coquitlam, BC
  • 2012 Skalamerija Time, Foster/White Gallery, Seattle, WA
  • 2013 Testament Papers, Bau-Xi Gallery, Vancouver, BC
  • 2013 New Work, Bau-Xi Gallery, Toronto, ON

Selected group shows[edit]

  • 1979 BC Artists Show, Vancouver City Savings Credit Union, Vancouver, BC
  • 1983 Open October Salon, Belgrade, Yugoslavia
  • 1984 Warehouse Show, Vancouver, BC
  • 1985 FESF Narodna Biblioteka, Belgrade, Yugoslavia
  • 1987 101 Vancouver Artists, Pitt International Galleries, Vancouver, BC
  • 1988 Three Artists, Wade Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
  • 1990 North of the Border, Whatcom Museum, Bellingham, WA
  • 1990 Contemporary Art Abroad, National Museum, Belgrade, Yugoslavia
  • 1991 The Stendahl Effect, Emily Carr College of Art & Design, Vancouver, BC
  • 1993 Inaugural Exhibition of new Richmond Art Gallery, Richmond, BC
  • 1994 Three Artists from the Permanent Collection, Richmond Art Gallery, BC
  • 1995 30th Anniversary Exhibition, (5 artists), Bau-Xi Gallery, Vancouver, BC
  • 1995 West Coast Artists, Fran Willis Gallery, Victoria, BC
  • 1996 Two Artists, Gango Gallery, Portland, OR
  • 1996 Collective Show, Kimsey Miller Gallery, Seattle, WA
  • 1997 The Time Machine, Anchorage Museum of History and Art, Anchorage, AK
  • 1997 The Canadian Collection at APEC 1997, Vancouver, BC
  • 1998 Permanent Collection, Richmond Art Gallery, Richmond, BC
  • 1999 Jack Shadbolt: A Tribute, Bau-Xi Gallery, Vancouver, BC
  • 2000 35-Year Anniversary, Bau-Xi Gallery, Vancouver, BC
  • 2004 Coloration, Foster/White Gallery, Seattle, WA
  • 2005 25 Years • 25 Artists, Richmond Art Gallery, Richmond, BC
  • 2006 Bau-Xi at Oni One, Toronto, ON
  • 2008 Red Dot, New York, NY
  • 2010 Le Select, Herringer Kiss Gallery, Calgary, AB
  • 2010 Olive Brunch Group Show, Foster/White Gallery, Seattle, WA

Selected collections[edit]

  • Brazilian Coffee Producers, Sao Paulo, Brazil
  • Canaccord Capital Corp., Vancouver, BC
  • Canadian Embassy, Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • DT&Shop, Bad Bocklet, Mangelsfelt, Germany
  • Eric Law and Rutberg Ltd., Palm Desert, California
  • First City Trust, Toronto, Ontario
  • Museum of Matica Srpska, Novi Sad, Yugoslavia
  • James Hoggan & Assoc., Vancouver, BC
  • J.P. Morgan Securities Asia, Tokyo, Japan
  • Kinkoss Gold Corporation, L.O.M. Western Security, Vancouver, BC
  • Museum of Modern Art, Belgrade, Yugoslavia
  • National Museum, Belgrade Yugoslavia
  • National Museum Kraljevo, Serbia
  • National Museum (Serbs in the Diaspora), Belgrade, Yugoslavia
  • Olivetti S.A., Milan, Italy
  • Politika Publishing Group, Belgrade, Serbia
  • Serbian Academy of Art and Science, Belgrade, Yugoslavia
  • St. Paul's Hospital, Vancouver, BC
  • Toronto-Dominion Bank, Toronto, Ontario
  • Vancouver Hospital, Vancouver, BC
  • Embassy of Republic of Serbia, Ottawa
  • Works also held in numerous private collections internationally.



  1. ^ a b Farr, "A war survivor's dark memories and visions"
  2. ^ Johnson, "Reflections of a jazz musician", p. 23
  3. ^ Lindberg, "Bratsa Bonifacho: Parallelograms", p. 28
  4. ^ Parenti, "Art in the Enemy Camp; Letter from Bohemian Belgrade", p. 26
  5. ^ Rolfsen, "Colourful banners to light up city"


  • City of Vancouver (13 May 2008). "New banners mark 50th anniversary of celebrating local artists". News release. Archived from the original on 2011-07-06. Retrieved 200-10-13.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  • Farr, Sheila. (8 February 2008). "A war survivor's dark memories and visions". Seattle Times. Archived from the original on 8 February 2013. Retrieved 2009-10-12. 
  • Godley, Elizabeth. "Wood turns his eye to West Coast landscape." The Vancouver Sun Wednesday, Oct. 18, 1987: C5.
  • Grace, Sherrill. "Bonifacho at Atelier Gallery." Vanguard February/March 1988: 40.
  • Johnson, Mia. "Reflections of a jazz musician." The West Ender June 24, 1982: 23.
  • Lassagne,Louise. "Bratso [sic] Bonifacho à la Heffel Gallery." Le Soleil de Colombie Vendredi, 28 Octobre 1988: 33.
  • Lindberg, Ted. "Bratsa Bonifacho: Parallelograms." Artichoke; Writing about the Visual Arts 9.3 (1997): 28-31.
  • Parenti, Christian. "Art in the enemy camp: Letter from Bohemian Belgrade." San Francisco Bay Guardian September 6, 2000: 25-26.
  • Rolfsen, Catherine (14 May 2008). "Colourful banners to light up city". Vancouver Sun. Archived from the original on 2012-11-07. Retrieved 2009-10-12. 
  • Johnson, Mia. "Testament Paper—Vancouver 2012 - 2013." Self-bublished in collaboration with Bau-Xi Gallery, Vancouver & Toronto, 2014.

Further reading[edit]

  • Armstrong, John. "Abstractionist lays bloody, brutal memories on the bull’s eye." The Vancouver Sun, Vancouver, BC
  • Baillaut, Jeanne. "La Habana de Bonifacho," Le Soleil de Colombie, Vancouver, BC, review of exhibition, Bau-Xi Gallery, Vancouver, BC
  • Richardson, Joan. “Bratsa Bonifacho: Al Campo Santo; review of exhibition at Fran Willis Gallery, Victoria”, Vie des Arts, 1999 (?)
  • Currie, Rosemarie. "Combustion + Earth and Fire; Two series of works by Bonifacho; A retrospective catalogue." 2005: 8-9
  • Farr, Sheila. "Canadian art comes south of the border." The Herald, Seattle, review of exhibition, Whatcom Museum, Bellingham
  • Johnson,Mia. "Bonifacho." Artmagazine, Toronto, review of exhibition, Burnaby Art Gallery, Burnaby, BC
  • Jajic, Branka "Crne table otpora." Novine Zrenjanin, Zrenjanin
  • Jankovic, Nebojsa , Braca Bonifacije, "Havana moje mladosti (Havana of my youth)." Kisobran, Vancouver
  • Kovski, Tirpani. "Boja c krova na plantu (Colour of the roof is on the canvas]." Illustrovana Politika, Belgrade, Yugoslavia, July 8, 2000
  • Laurence, Robin. "Bonifacho’s Habitat Pixel." The Georgia Straight, Vancouver, BC
  • Lindberg, Ted. "Combustion + Earth and Fire; Two series of works by Bonifacho; A retrospective catalogue." 2005: 7
  • Lindberg, Ted. "Landscape Paintings; Works on Canvas and Paper; A restrospective catalogue." 2005: 7-9
  • Lindberg, Ted. "Parallelograms catalogue." 2005: 7-17
  • Nikolic, Teodora, "Pun kofer avantura: Secanja Braca Bonifacija [A suitcase full of adventure: memories of Bratsa Bonifacho]." Glorija, Belgrade
  • Panic, Anita "Po Krovovima Sveta [On the roofs of the world]." Prestup, Belgrade
  • Petrovic, Dragana "Vankuver zamirse na Srbijn: kadja pristavim sarmu (Vancouver smells like Serbia when I am cooking cabbage rolls." Licnosti, Belgrade, June 2000
  • Rosenberg, Ann "Capturing motion." The Vancouver Sun, Vancouver, BC
  • Rosenberg, Ann. "Blackboards; and related works 1978-1992." Catalogue, 2006: 5-15
  • Rosenberg,Ann. "La Habana and Peloponessus catalogue." 2007?: 25-49
  • Rosenberg, Ann. "Richmond comes of age." The Vancouver Sun, Vancouver, review of exhibition, Richmond Art Gallery
  • Tomak, Novo. "Mocnicima saljem poruke us virusim (To the mighty ones I’m sending messages with viruses)." Novosti, Belgrade, July 2007
  • Cramp, Beverly. "BRATSA BONIFACHO, Inside Habitat Pixel, February 24 to April 7, 2012, Evergreen Cultural Centre, Coquitlam." Galleries West, Dec. 31, 2011.
  • Laurence, Robin. "Bratsa Bonifacho: Inside Habitat Pixel." Georgia Straight, Feb 29, 2012
  • Griffin, Kevin (20 March 2012). "Bratsa Bonifacho: paintings that play with language". Vancouver Sun. Archived from the original on 2014-05-25. Retrieved 2014-05-25. 
  • Johnson, Mia, “Bratsa Bonifacho: Skalamerija and Messages,” Preview: The Gallery Guide, Vancouver, Sept./Oct. 2012
  • Flock, T. s. "Bratsa Bonifacho: SKALAMERIJA at Foster/White." Seattle Arts News, 2012
  • Bonifacho: Retrospective: 1973 - 2013–40 years in Vancouver. Self-bublished in collaboration with Bau-Xi Gallery, Vancouver & Toronto, 2012.

External links[edit]