Painter, Visual Artist
July 25, 1991 – September 18, 2021
Born in July 25, 1991, Breanna Patricia Jonson Agunod, better known as Bree Jonson, was a painter and visual artist primarily known for her paintings of flora and fauna exploring the relationship between mankind and the environment.
Her art revolved around paintings and drawings of plants and animals, rendered in the aesthetic and scenery of illustrated fables. In an interview with Vintana.ph, Jonson said her love for flora and fauna was influenced by Aesop’s fables, her veterinarian mom, and exposure to wildlife from her childhood.
Born to Sally Jonson and Vincent Tagunod, the young Bree was raised in Los Baños, Laguna and spent her adolescence in Davao. Before moving to Manila, she was a member of punk and indie bands and was part of Davao band Alto Indio. The band fronted for Pedicabs, Taken By Cars, Gaijin, and The Diegos during their gigs.
She received her Industrial Engineering degree from Ateneo de Davao University in 2012. She then went to Manila and attended the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Fine Arts for one semester before dropping out.
Jonson further developed her technique in painting as she apprenticed under painter Jason Montinola and pored over art and literature books.
“It is the art that keeps me going, and nothing else. The ultimate ideal is to find a higher order that is above the chaos of modern life. Art is refinement even in its brutishness and destitution. And for me, a relevant, timeless message that I want to deliver with my work is the connection we have with nature, and the need to revive that. The world is bigger than just us humans, and there are others that are equally as important. My mission is to find new ways to reconnect,” Jonson told ArtandMarket in a 2020 interview.
On her website, Jonson said her paintings are visual commentaries on “the divide that has grown between [nature and mankind] — a divide that displaces them as Other, different from humans, and lower in importance and hierarchy.”
Her colorful, vivid, and intricate artworks aimed to “bridge the gap and bring out the innate wilderness in human nature, to culminate a sense of interconnectedness, and ultimately move away from [an] anthropocentric worldview to one more inclusive [of] multiple species.”
Jonson exhibited solo and in groups, locally and abroad (Malaysia, Japan, Taipei, Singapore). Her first solo exhibit, “Therion Mythos,” was shown in Kuala Lumpur in 2014. The following year, her exhibit “I Stared at the Abyss and the Abyss Stared Back” was showcased at West Gallery in Manila.
Her most recent solo exhibitions included “ZZYZX” at Art Informal, Manila (2021) and “Notes on Stillness” at Yavuz Gallery in Singapore (2019).
Jonson’s works were featured in prominent museums including the UP Vargas Museum, BenCab Museum in Baguio, and at the Vestfossen Kunst Laboratorium in Oslo, Norway. She also participated in the Art Fair Philippines and the Sydney Contemporary Art Fair in 2018.
She passed on last September 18, 2021 in La Union at the age of 30.
In a Facebook post, Leon Gallery described Jonson’s work as “a visual and critical commentary on the contemporary human experience in contrast with the idea of human nature itself” and added that her passing is “undoubtedly a major loss to Philippine art.”
In a written tribute, artist Gregory Halili remembered Jonson as “one of those rare artists whose concern is to fundamentally enlighten with the current state of the world through her art.”
“She loves nature and we talked about its decline, but also its hope. People love her because she’s very intelligent and speaks her mind. We will definitely miss her. We all lost a great artist,” Halili added.