Like a divine reptile…

/ 1 June, 2018

The work of Vicente Rodríguez Bonachea entered my life when I was a child, through illustrations that (…) belong to a book by Cuban writer Ivette Vian. Worlds of flying lizards, stars wearing a bridal veil, humanized birds and insects, elephants that lived inside a flower. Magical, oneiric, pleasant, apparently chaotic universes, but strangely organized, spectacular to give free rein to the rich imagination of a child.

Later I discovered his painting in exhibitions and through friends and relatives (…) But it was not until 2010—unfortunately very late, since Bonachea passed away in 2012—that I had the fortune of personally getting to know him and work with him in the production of a display (…) together with two of my best friends and great artists, Eduardo Abela and Ernesto Rancaño.

Every time I saw him, “Bona” had a big smile on his face, a mixture of humility, hope and a great deal of security. Those who knew him well say that he was never sad or in a bad mood, even when life did not smile on him with the same perseverance. (…) He would receive you with joy and treated you as equals, without masks or poses. I remember that the first time I saw him, I used the “Bonachea comes from ‘Bondad’ [goodness],” Abela says endearingly, playing with the possible etymology of his name. “Bonachea was Happiness,” Rancaño nostalgically says.

Vicente R. Bonachea was an exceptional artist, very hardworking and complete, one of those artists who don’t abound anymore and who are greatly missed. (…) He studied in San Alejandro, and after graduating in 1976 he started working in the Cuban Institute of Cinema Arts and Industry (ICAIC), where he made numerous set designs for Cuban films, among them Patakín (1985, Manuel Octavio Gómez). His vocation for creation made him experiment with all the techniques and manifestations dictated to him by his restless spirit, from book illustrations to painting, drawing, sculpture, set designs, stainedglass windows, ceramics, engraving, murals. He was the author of a sui generis iconographic universe in which hybrid characters and a singular bestiary gave him a distinctive stamp in Cuban art.

(…) Bonachea’s art is generally associated to adjectives like “loving,” “dreamy,” “happy,” “colorful” …. And it is really true that a great deal of his creations tally with those descriptions, especially if we take into account his experience as an illustrator. But there’s also a dark, melancholic and sad Bonachea, who isn’t satisfied with the mere pleasant insinuation, who “pains us” and annoys in cold shades and not so comforting titles. (…)

Bonachea was barely 55 years old when he said goodbye to us; suddenly, like a bolt of lightening. But the truth is that Bona did not leave that evening (…), he stayed trapped in the universes of his own creation (…).

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