I work in sets and series exploring Drawing, Printmaking and Book Art. My aim is to produce a visual journey addressing an intimate moment in time and movement within a space, allowing a continuous narrative to evolve.This exploration has for me an historical affinity to the tradition of the Sample book, in use for over 300 years.
Originally produced to contain explorative examples of assorted textile patterns and needlepoint often taken from plant life, sample books were also used for detailed investigative scientific drawings and recordings of nature to document the natural world.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, women usually produced these samples, which was frequently considered a feminine leisure activity. However, intrepid Victorian women travellers Marianne North, Constance Cummings, Miss Burgess and Miss Rowe of Liverpool took the pastime of gathering, collecting, researching and recording very seriously and with resonance for their subject matter. They rightly gained respect for the detailed intricacy of their drawings and watercolours from nature.
I am responding to the botanical works of Miss Rowe whose herbarium is held in the collection of The Yale Center for British Art, USA.
Very little is known about Miss Rowe other than she was a member of a garden guild, which became known as the Liverpool Botanical Society in the mid Nineteenth Century.
Miss Rowe's unusual and beautiful collections of botanical specimens have been saved from disappearance, though not always from extinction, as she herself has been recovered out of the past towards a future in which wild flowers too might be protected. It is this connection of past and present hopes for life into the future, patterned in the handling and imaging of plants that constitutes the spirit of collaboration in and celebration of the work of Miss Rowe.
One unique detail was that she wrote a small poem to each plant inside each booklet.
The empathy in this practice has a particular interest for me as within my work I collaborate with British writer and poet Gabriel Gbadamosi who connects my images with a poem that draws on threads of the moments, which are integral to the work.
I am interested in the use of typographic punctuation marks transferring them into different patterns and formations forming their own visual narrative, linking the text and the image.
I noticed that these marks related directly to botanical pattern formations as seen under a microscope.
The time it takes to draw these sequences unites the pursuit of hand stitched needlepoint Botanical samplers as well as forming their own story utilising a repeated mark within a non-repeated pattern.
BA (Hons) Creative Arts
- MA (RCA) Royal College of Art
- MA(RCA) printmaking 1983
- BA(hons) Fine Art 1979
- 2008-2011 External Examiner Fine Art Open University
Other external roles
- 2013 Printmaking workshop, woodengraving, Minnesota Center for Book Arts USA
- 2013 Presentation at Round table, Minnesota Center for Book Arts USA
- 2011 Presentation at Prints Symposium Exchange Gallery Cornwall
- 2008 Visiting Lecturer Derby University
- 2005-9 Visiting Lecturer Brighton University
- 2004-06 Visiting lecturer National Portrait Gallery London
- Printmaking: etching. lithography. relief inc woodengraving and artist books
- 2014 Josef and Anni Albers Foundation Artist in Residency USA
- 2013 Minnesota Center for Book Art, Artist in Residency USA
- 2013 Xian China International printmaking Festival
- 2011 Muir Arts Trust in association with Buckinghamshire County Museum, artist in Residency UK
- 2009-10 Josef and Anni Albers Foundation Residency, USA
- 2006 Ford Foundation, Artist residency programme, kenyan Artists BSU and london Print Studio
- 2004 Birgit Skiold Trust UK
- 2004 Visiting Arts, UK
- 1999 Oppenheim John Downes Trust UK
Research and academic outputs
Bonnell, M and Mumberson, S (2008) Printmaking on a budget. A & C Black, London. ISBN 9780713673494
Bonnell, M (2007) Antmothbeetlemillepedespider.
Bonnell, M (2001) The Second Life of Shells.
Bonnell, M (2020) Fragile Stories. Palazzo Mocenigo, Venice, Italy, 2020 (forthcoming).
Bonnell, M (2019) 'Moth' & 'Jasmine flowers'. In: 25th Anniversary: Celebrating Our Collectors, One Off Contemporary, Nairobi, Kenya, 15 May - 16 June 2019.
Bonnell, M and Horstman, F (2019) Bethany Grasses. In: Special Editions, Eagle Gallery EMH Arts, London, UK, 28 March – 20 April 2019.
Bonnell, M and Brooks, J (2018) From the Ground. Drawing Projects, Trowbridge, UK, 5 May - 30 June 2018.
Bonnell, M (2017) Solo exhibition. SG Gallery, Venice, Italy, 2017.
Bonnell, M (2016) Imaginary Worlds [group exhibition]. Oriel Davies Gallery, Newtown, Wales, 22 October 2016 - 25 February 2017.
Bonnell, M and Farrer, J (2015) Seeds and Syntax. Eagle Gallery EMH Arts, London, UK, 6 February – 6 March 2015.
Bonnell, M (2015) Contemporary Printmaking [group exhibition]. Gus Fisher Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand, 2015.
Bonnell, M, Fairman, E, McCracken Peck, R, Duggins, M and Burnett, D (2014) Of green leaf, bird, and flower: artists' books and the natural world. Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven, 15 May - 10 August 2014. ISBN 9780300204247
Bonnell, M (2011) Print! The Exchange Gallery, Cornwall, UK, 9 April - 2 July 2011.
Bonnell, M (2011) The Muir Trust Artist in Residence. County Musuem, Aylesbury, UK.
Bonnell, M (2009) On the fractured stage of the book. The Eagle Gallery, London, 2009.
Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers. Annual Exhibition 2005. 15 September - 2 October presented in association with visiting arts.
Bonnell, M (2005) Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers. Annual Exhibition 2005. 15 September - 2 October presented in association with visiting arts. Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers. Venue: Bankside Gallery, 48 Hopton Street, London SE1 9JH..
Bonnell, M (2005) The Jerwood Drawing Prize 2005. Entrying catalogue "Pattern from a stick insect 2" (2004). Venue: The Jerwood Space, 171 Union Street, London SE1 0LN..
Bonnell, M (2009) Fellowship and Honour.