Pallant House Gallery is delighted to present an exhibition of works by Manuel Bonifacio in the Studio from 29 April - 1 June 2014. 'Manuel Bonifacio: My Imaginary Cave' will be the fourth solo show in a series celebrating the six Award Winners of Outside In: National 2012; a triennial competition for artists from the margins.
Born in December 1947 near Lisbon, Portugal, Bonifacio pursued his interest in drawing and pottery after dropping out of school at the age of eight. His most recent collection of work, which features the award winning Mermaid and a selection of pottery, is inspired by his passion for archaeology and animals. Bonifacio paints, draws, sculpts and makes at ArtVenture - a creative day centre for adults with learning difficulties - for four hours every Wednesday and Friday. Since his Award win, Bonifacio has exhibited in Birmingham and London and now has work in collections in Switzerland and New York. In recognition of Bonifacio's talent, an Outsider Art collector will be travelling over from Switzerland to attend this much-anticipated exhibition.
At a young age, Bonifacio joined the fire brigade as a volunteer and his life's ambition was to be in the army. Many of his works reflect his passion for army transportation, depicting helicopters, aeroplanes, motorbikes and boats. His work is also inspired by politics and everything he sees on television, but most of it comes straight from his colourful imagination.
Keen to explore and take on a challenge, Bonifacio has previously experimented with printmaking and wood carving and he occasionally dabbles in watercolours and oils. His portfolio also includes an array of distinctive ceramic mugs, vessels and faces. Walking from Cobham to Kingston regularly - a 20 minute drive - Bonifacio notes down road names, makes sketches and absorbs nature and life, which are ever present in his work. One of his figures was inspired by a statue on a roundabout in his hometown, but more generally, the characters he so vividly creates come straight from his mind. There is a sense that he could conjure anything; a donkey, a bullfighter, various forms of transport.
Bonifacio's sister, Maria Odone, says: 'Manuers work has been a valuable asset to everyone who knows him as it is also a way he likes to communicate. His ideas and perception of what is going on around him both locally and nationally are very unique. His ambition as an artist is to travel around the world, finding places and people that will inspire him.'
Roger Cardinal, who coined the term Outsider Art in 1972 as the English equivalent of Jean Dubuffet's Art Brut, was one of the Outside In: National judges. He speaks of the moment he first saw Bonifacio's Mermaid at the Gallery, 'It struck me as entirely familiar and made me think of the Frenchman Guillaume Pujolle, an early star of Art Brut whose lyrical images I cherish. This brief and decisive moment established Bonifacio as my top choice. The Mermaid is a perfect reality for him [Bonifacio]. I see her arms and elongated fingers as enacting the motions of swimming, although she can also be said to be flying. Hence she is capable of traversing earth, sea and air, and becomes an emblem of the artist's unfettered imagination.'
Bonifacio loves people to see his work. 'My service is to start and finish. I like to walk around, looking at buildings,' he states. He is also incredibly ambitious and proud of what he creates: 'I'd like to make a book for children, for schools. And for adults, I would like to have my work in newspapers, hospitals and aeroplanes. But I don't feel big. I am a small person.' Of his upcoming solo show at the Gallery, he says: "Everybody can come and see it!"