contemporary art / history of art

Artwork of the Month / May 2020

Au Coucher du soleil – At Sunset (short version)
Patricia Jacomella Bonola

Video (Single-channel digital, colour, sound)
10’ 07’’

Courtesy of the artist


Patricia Jacomella Bonola’s video “Au Coucher du soleil” (At Sunset) is the time lapse version of a film with the same name, with a duration of 1 hour, 9 minutes and 11 seconds. It was made during the artist’s voyage from Genoa, Italy to Newark, United States on the CMA CGM Georgia. The by a static camera recorded motion picture shows the view to the stern through a railing. It is looking at a platform with containers. In the background is an outlook to the sea with the propeller moved water and the sky. Due to the colour change of the firmament and the increasing shadows, it is recognisable that one assists to a sunset, even though the sun remains invisible. Time is only perceptible by these transformations and some human shadows occurring on the containers. Additionally, there is the monotone sound of the sea and the ship engines.

Even in the accelerated short version, time is passing slowly. Without the troubled water and the sound, one might think at first glance of a film still. The changes are only perceptible when the observer concentrates on the image to recognise the minimal modifications. However, the discernible movements in the image space make the bypassing time detectable.

In art history, it was not always possible to represent time through direct movement, so artists developed other strategies to depict it. Jan Vermeer van Delft shows with “The milkmaid” (c. 1658) the continuing process of milk pouring like a still life, which captures the atmosphere and the presence of the scene. Here intensity is emphasised to underline the ongoing activity. More than 200 years later, in 1878, Eadweard Muybridge demonstrated the motion cycle of horses with his chronophotographic sequences “The Horse in Motion”. The scientific results inspired artists to realistic depictions of movement. Inter alia his studies stimulated the development of moving pictures and herewith cinema films. However, it should still take some more years until films were produced and presented commercially. In parallel, artists continued to depict time and movement. In the first half of the 1890s Claude Monet painted his series of Grainstacks and the Cathedral of Rouen, where he captured the different light reflexes depending on the daytime and season. As image sequences they depict the light conditions in the course of a day/year. As single paintings, they capture the spirit of the sight comparable to Jan Vermeer’s milkmaid.

Patricia’s “Au Coucher du soleil” takes up some of these elements. On one hand, it is a still life, capturing the atmosphere during sunset on a container ship. On the other hand, it is a sequence of pictures – or better a film – illustrating the movements and the bypassing of time. Herewith, she unites the efforts to reflect the sentiments of a situation in still images and the possibilities of moving pictures to show the progress of time. Even though, the changes are close to be invisible due to the slowness of the motion.

To underline the duration of the process, Patricia has chosen the French expression for sunset. In contrast to many other languages, the French needs nearly a phrase to describe the period of the evening twilight. On the contrary to the romantic connotation of a sunset at the sea, the artist underlays her film with the motor noises of the container ship. Also the view to the containers on deck is all but dreamy. They prevent a panoramic view to the open sea, only the section with the propeller moved water is visible. The sun remains hidden behind the containers, so that they are the real projection surface, were most of the movements take place.

Even though suggested otherwise by the title, the main actors of the video are these transport boxes. This is not only submitted by the images and the sound, but also by the destination of the cargo ship. Starting in Genoa the target location of the journey was Newark. From here started the first container cargo in April 1956. After the successful utilisation for the US-army during the Vietnam War and a harmonisation with European standards, the ISO container, invented by Malcom P. McLean, conquered the worldwide intermodal freight transport system. In consequence, the container stands for international commerce and with that for globalisation. This economic revolution has also social and environmental impacts in changing modes of production and living habits. Hence, that might be why the container is the main protagonist in Patricia’s video and conceals the view to the natural event of the sunset.


Patricia Jacomella Bonola

Born in 1952 in Geneva, Switzerland Patricia Jacomella Bonola made in 1974 a Master in Fashion Design at the Istituto Marangoni in Milan, Italy and later the Master of Fine Arts at the Accademia di Belle Arti Brera, also in Milan. Afterwards, she participated in the After-Degree Program at the Istituto Statale d’Arte in Urbino and the research program of the Istituto Internazionale di Grafica in Venice.

From 1991 to 2011 Patricia formed the artist duo J & W Management Consulting with Maria Walther. The name was an ironic comment on the capitalisation of the art market. Correspondingly, the two artists wanted to advance new intercultural forms of trade and investment with their interventions. Performances and installations pointed at the inequality of artistic outcome at the art-market, depending on the region of production. However, the actions not only increased the awareness of the problem, but supported artists in the third world or immigrants from there. Moreover, they questioned the value of artworks and phenomena of the society.

Also in her solo carrier, Patricia deals with social-critical themes such as environmental pollution, economic mismatches, migration, globalisation and parallel realities. Hereby, she explores different materials and media to create installations, performances and participative art events. Her video installation “Au Coucher du soleil” (2018) implies a romantic sunset at the sea, which could be watched while sitting in a sun lounger under a parasol. Though the video of the same name – our artwork of the month May 2020 – only shows the sunset perceptible by the light change, because containers cover the panoramic view. Moreover, the engine sound of the container ship disturb the idyll.

During her long artistic practise, Patricia had numerous solo exhibitions and participated in many group shows, mainly in Switzerland, but also in Germany, Italy, Albania and United States. Her artworks are part of public and private collections. She was jury member for the Apexart’s Open Call NYC Exhibition (2019) and of the Professional association of visual arts Switzerland (2003-2014), for which she was before in charge for the resort Info-Pool and Communication. At the same time, she was member of the editorial staff of the art magazine “Schweizer Kunst” (Swiss Art). Besides some prizes, she was awarded with working grants and had residencies in New York and Cairo. A sojourn in the Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris is scheduled for 2020. The artist’s most recent exhibition reflects her experiences in Egypt: “Is-maA – The Sound of Cairo” (March 2020) in the Shedhalle Zug. Here she exposed new works reflecting on the history, production and use of papyrus and paper. For November 2020 the show “Kunst-Stoff Plastik is planned at the Hans Erni Museum in Luzern.

Patricia lives and works in Zug, Switzerland.