John Bonner’s paintings of neighborhoods in Marblehead and nearby towns appropriately deliver a sense of the familiar environments that we live in or pass through so routinely. However, like the very good representational painter that he is, Bonner stops our vision from routine and compels deeper looking.
Sewell Street, Fall Over Spring is a large canvas with a view down a street flanked by house with a small view of the sea. As in most of Bonner’s paintings in this show, the colors in Sewell Street tend towards muted grays, tans, and browns woven with shadows that further mute. Occasional passages of white architectural trim or blue sky challenge Bonner’s palette with a reserved sparkle.
That Tree Again is a small painting of a gnarly tree trunk with irregular little caps of snow set just behind a thin, gray picket fence that runs along the bottom third of the painting. More muted that his street paintings That Tre Again encourages the slow inspection that yields an understanding of Bonner’s work as keyed to abstraction and the process of painting as an end. The tree, a thick collection of knots and sweeps of paint opening up and out towards the top of the painting becomes more emotionally weighted compared to the precision of the fence.
In larger works such visual oppositions and tensions take over what might be though of the painter’s mission–visual disruption and quiet anarchy. Beverly Over Fence uses a similar perspective as Sewell Street, sloping down a shady space, with occasional moments of brightness where low sunlight carves out whit and light gray facades. against the regularity of pattern of houses, there are a few cars that are painted with a slightly;y clumsy hand similar to the lumpiness of the snow in That Tree Again.
Working through a sometimes visible grid system where he blocks out all but one section on which he is working, Bonner makes a series of paintings in each painting that bring about this sense of disruption. It is unlikely that Bonner could predict how an image will resolve at the start. Improvisational and exploratory, Bonner’s paintings are their own history of unfolding painting moments.
- David Raymond, Art New England, April/May 1010