Canadian artist Bruno Capolongo is known widely as a contemporary still-life painter whose work straddles modern and classical sensibilities. In the Kintsugi series Capolongo continues to work with elegant Asian pottery, especially of the Ming and Qing dynasties, but also very evident is the artist’s more recent emersion into the world of Byzantium, rich with shimmering gold, mosaics and icons. These influences come together organically in the Kintsugi works as naturally as Byzantium of old rested at the crossroads of East and West.
The very human symbolism inherent in the art of kintsugi strikes a personal chord with the artist. In this new series Capolongo begins to explore kintsugi as a metaphor for human experience. Kintsugi (golden joinery) or kintsukuroi (golden repair) is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold or other precious metals. Rather than attempting to hide the breakage, what is broken is accented, becoming part of the object’s history. Like in the work of Canadian Native artist Nadia Myre and the pain that she conjures in her Scar Project, Capolongo’s Kintsugi paintings allude to scars and healing not merely of the inanimate pottery that is his starting point, but of a more personal nature. “Kintsugi is for me the art of becoming whole, of finding beauty and meaning through the fractures and fragments of life, of seeing life as made up of these pieces, jagged as they are, as in a mosaic.”
Capolongo - who has for years painted still-life and other genres within a Mondrianesque grid - has found kintsugi and the related Japanese philosophy of Wabi-Sabi (where flaws and imperfections are embraced) liberating. “For me there is an exhilarating loss or easing of control in it all” he says as he relates how many of the Kintsugi works actually begin as fragmented panels, with some literally being shattered first. Once reassembled and mounted onto rigid supports, this randomness gives way to mosaic-like abstractions and so the paintings evolve, often with no image in mind until well into the process. “This is me letting go; giving up on the delusion of perfection and complete control over everything is truly liberating and makes increasing sense to me in life and in my painting.”
The use of kintsugi as a starting point for Capolongo suggests that for the artist there is vision and beauty in the act of breaking and mending with gold; something analogous to redemption and rebirth. “This really resonates with my life in and outside the studio as so often I find the dragons in life prove to be among the greatest blessings, because by battling and exorcising those personal dragons I come closer to an experience of wholeness.”