Introducing the young artist whose works draw inspiration from ancient history and mark a return to the world of classicism
Beyond every artwork’s aesthetic appeal, there is an in-depth story of inspiration, and these themes derived from inspiration are found in the most unexpected places. For artist Arianna “Anya” Bongato, she found hers after seeing Versace’s tribute collection featuring Trésor de la Mer patterns with blue, white, and gold hues. This powerful idea from a luxury fashion house brought to life Arianna’s first exhibition, SALT.
In an exclusive interview with MEGA, Anya Bongato takes us on a virtual tour inside her first exhibition as she shares her creative process and the rationale behind her classical subjects, bridging the gap between modernity and classicism.
The key ingredient
Salt is a vital compound that plays a crucial role in human health and survival. It is a mineral essential to everyday life as it gives a balanced flavor to any food and can be a main ingredient for food preservation.
Anya chose this name for her first exhibit to carry over the taste of saltwater, depicting her post-lockdown beach trips to her audience. She wanted them to treat her masterpiece to be seen as a form of therapy that could provide a much-needed escape from the fast-paced and demanding world that surely can be overwhelming most of the time.
“Given the representation of water, nature, and classical ideals in my compositions, most of which are not readily available in a city setting, I believe my viewers gravitate towards feelings of pleasure and relief through the novelty of it.”Anya Bongato
Anya shared the story behind the small work she accomplished around November last year, called North Star. She explained in detail that we could imagine the placement of Empress Sisi with half of the classical figure’s face covered by a gold leaf. Through that art, Anya could see the value of keeping a portion of oneself private amidst today’s culture that demands the youth to expose too much of themselves online.
Talking about her reflection on the North Star, she was able to slowly heal from being a victim to the pressures of societal trends. “In a way, painting North Star mirrored my own desires to step away from reality,” Anya shared as she explained her deep connection with the artwork.
Value in emptiness
As a young artist who just concluded her solo show, Anya has already proved something out of her pieces. It is not just the finished figures that have meaning in an art piece—emptiness and space are also part of the whole composition.
She finds her own space in real life liberating, where she can breathe better and work freely without being disturbed and judged. Through varying degrees, every artist has a different take on rest. For Anya, she allots 40% for regular breaks during her working hours. As her paintings’ contemporary twist involves breaks and spaces, she clearly understands the value of both in real life. Without adequate rest, it can be difficult for an artist like herself to maintain focus, generate new ideas, and produce high-quality work when faced with tight deadlines.
Creating new classics
It’s no wonder that Anya Bongato’s first half of 2023 is already jam-packed with projects and shows, as all of her paintings were sold out right before the launch of her first exhibition.
With the desire to be recognized as the artist who can execute her technical skills and innovative vision in art amidst the male-dominated space of the Philippine art scene, Anya’s mission to become the artist who produces beautiful work to make everybody feel beautiful has been set to stone. Through this purpose, she wants to set herself apart from the traditional mold that defines a female artist in our society.
True enough, Anya was able to advance her mission in the world of art through her recent exhibition, which highlighted her artistic creations of classicism. Every painting encompasses her connection to classical figures with her main inspirations in the art realm, namely William Adolphe-Bouguereau and Franz Winterhalter. She said that practicing these renowned painters’ works led to her developed techniques. Also sharing with us a bit of her inner being through her creations, Anya said, “Through painting figures, I sort of roleplay scenarios of my inner self or others.” Giving one specific scenario of her reflection, Anya let us picture her imaginary concept on a beach where we can find a classic figure lying on the sand. She would manifest her inner being on that subject matter while letting go of all her thoughts as she hopes that her feelings can resonate with others as well.
“As most of my subjects are representations rather than abstract shapes, it’s easy for people to perceive what is shown on my works, and so it’s up to them to form relative conclusions to reflect their own stories.”Anya Bongato on how she unleashes her inner being through art
Moreover, she also dropped the name of famous painter Oh de Laval as she hopes to add more nuanced and complex themes into her future works, similar to the style of the aforementioned international artist. In the local art scene, Anya looks up to Andres Barrioquinto, a Filipino artist known for his surrealistic portraits. His strong visual impact and style led him to a successful path that Anya admires about him.
Learnings beyond art
Anya Bongato’s life is not only a testament to her creativity, but her profession is also an overflowing source of valuable life lessons. The young artist learned how to analyze art critically as she was exposed to different art disciplines, such as sculpture, painting, theory, ceramics, and art history. This acquired perspective helped her develop uncommon skills for many people—the ability to understand art deeply.
“I learned how to put apart comments through different categories such as the formal critique (viewing art based on how it looks) and conceptual critique (viewing art based on its narrative).”Anya Bongato on critiquing the works of others and her own
Meanwhile, art can also teach the lesson of purpose through Anya Bongato’s words. “To discover something, you need to take steps to discover it. You don’t gain significant things from waiting and doing nothing.” That is one of the three important things that the blossoming artist would want the youth to learn from her—allot time to explore things and make an effort to discover something new in life because she is a firm believer that there is no gained knowledge from doing nothing.
Another critical lesson that Anya learned through experience is viewing failures and setbacks as essential factors in achieving success. As a young artist, she was not exempted from experiencing failures, she might even have more compared to all of us, but she was able to conquer it with pride and still willing to encounter more along the way. “To succeed a lot, you need to fail a lot, too, so you should embrace failure.”
Knowing that Anya is speaking from experience, she shared with MEGA one of her most used life philosophy: “Fuck it. Basta ako, I like my work,” she tells herself when she has to remember to enjoy the process and embrace the outcome of her paintings, regardless if it sells or not. This mantra keeps her going in the art industry despite loss and failure here and there.
Lastly, with Anya’s openness to learn from her mentors and role models, she wants the youth to practice listening more than talking. Just like in our everyday lives, the constant flow of information can frequently and easily influence our perceptions and beliefs. With the constant barrage of notifications and messages, it can take time to truly listen and learn from the people around us. However, according to the artist, who can attest that learning from experienced people is a significant contribution to her success, it is important to take the time to actively listen because according to her, one will never know when “people [will] drop hints to help you succeed.”
Photos from ANYA BONGATO