Artist Bob Bonies (b. 1937, The Hague) has created a body of work that now spans six decades. Since the 1960s he has been making ‘concrete art’, abstract geometric paintings that have defined the look of abstract art in the Netherlands, and still appear contemporary today. The monochrome planes of colour in his paintings are nothing other than what they appear to be: colour and form.
Film: Gerrit Schreurs
Bonies lived for a time in the United States and Canada in the early 1960s. There, he encountered color field painting and hard edge painting: large, abstract works with bright planes of colour. He also discovered minimal art. After his return to the Netherlands, Europe had its first taste of minimal art in Bonies’ home city of The Hague, at a 1968 exhibition organised by Kunstmuseum Den Haag.
Bonies may have been influenced by the art he encountered in the United States, but he is above all a European artist. He trained at the Vrije Academie and the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in The Hague, and at the Konstfack-Skolan in Stockholm. From his first abstract-constructivist work it has been clear that he is an artist in the tradition of the Russian avant-garde, painters like Kazimir Malevich and El Lissitzky, and De Stijl, whose members included Piet Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg, movements which – not coincidentally – are well-represented in Dutch museum collections. Modernists Piet Zwart and Paul Schuitema, who espoused similar ideas to the De Stijl movement and both taught at art academies, also had a lasting influence.
Bonies has been making ‘shaped canvases’ since 1964. He uses the common type of canvas for a painting – rectangular or square – but ultimately achieves a complex form by joining several canvases together. Bonies achieves optimum contrast through his choice of colour, creating areas of plain red, blue, yellow or green.
Bonies approaches his work in a strictly conceptual way, creating his paintings on the basis of predetermined rules. The mathematical laws that underlie his compositions produce a harmonious result, creating a sense that the work is tilting, that areas of colour are shifting, or continue beyond the edge of the canvas. With his systematic approach, Bonies can also be regarded as a leading proponent of pure conceptual painting.
Bonies also applies his approach of reducing things to their essence to publications about his work. Since the 1960s he has insisted that every catalogue, art book, newspaper or magazines are illustrated not with photographs of his paintings, but with graphic representations. The unique publication currently being developed for this exhibition, to be published by Walther König, is no exception.
A major museum show has been devoted to the work of Bob Bonies every decade since the 1960s. He has also taken part in many international group shows. Today, his work features in the collections of some of the world’s leading museums. Kunstmuseum Den Haag organised a major retrospective in 1979. Now, in 2021, the museum is to stage another retrospective, in close collaboration with the artist himself.
Gerrit Schreurs visited Bob Bonies in his studio, filmed the preparations and made a documentary of 14 minutes (subtitled in English) about Bob Bonies. Watch and enjoy the film:
Film: Gerrit Schreurs
Documentary Bob Bonies
“How can it be, with such a limitation, that you don’t end up repeating yourself. In my case it’s a matter of: Art evolves from art. The result is nothing but art”, says Bob Bonies.
Watch and enjoy the new documentary about Bob Bonies and his exhibition in Kunstmuseum Den Haag.