Pierre Bonnefille is an amazing artist, one who creates his own materials and textures from mineral powder, limestone, lava, marble, earth, and the ground’s natural pigments and metallic powders. He is utterly fascinated in color… an observation that is clear once you view his unique work.
Perhaps Bonnefille is best known for his custom murals and finishes; the result of his process which is both personal and original. To create his highly textured pieces, he mixes pigments with ground rock and sand. He might apply a gold or silver leaf to the top or stamp the surface with fabric, leaving behind the imprint of the weave. This is what Bonnefille refers to as “textile fossil.”
Bonnefille’s inspiration comes from nature and how it is different throughout the world. It might be a fascination from moss at one of Kyoto’s famous temples or a collection of iridescent scarab beetles he bought in Thailand. He said about these specific beetles, “The particularity of scarab battles is that their color is extremely durable. Some of them found in ancient Egyptian temples have still retained their hues.” Bonnefille says that it is the complexity of the insects’ shells that he enjoys… some absorb light and others reflect it. These small distinctions gives rise to incredible sheen and luster.
In 2016, Bonnefille launched his own furniture collection, Metamorphosis. This collection includes tables, cabinets, and credenzas. The shelving systems are angular and reminiscent of a copper mineral collection the artist acquired from an antiques dealer. This entire collection shows Bonnefille’s desire to explore the richness of the Earth’s crust. Using the geometry that is created by natural phenomenon such as crystallization and mineralization is also a key piece of inspiration for Metamorphosis.
To further cement the similarity to rocks’ fundamental combinations; copper, brass, bronze, and steel all converge with the rare colors of the materials’ elements. Specifially, two different forms of copper compose the base of Metamorphosis; the first is composed of sheets of copper and installed on wood structures and the other covers a texture and is made from a copper powder.
There is no doubt that Bonnefille’s upbringing close to nature contributed to his career of choice. He was brought up in the Auvergne region of France where he was always close to nature. Spending time with his great-aunt who was an archaeologist spurred in him a desire to pursue a creative path.
One of Bonnefille’s initial projects was working with Olivier Gagnere in the mid-1990s. The pair worked on the Cafe Marly at the Louvre; the overhaul they performed is still intact 25 years later. Bonnefille suggested that Pompei be the inspiration. In such, the walls’ tones were created with the 79 AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius in mind. Ash was added to the wax polish and just prior to completion, Bonnefille passed a hot iron over the finished surface to create a burnt effect.
Bonnefille has been at his atelier for close to 25 years. This former wood workshop is across the property of his home’s garden. The sixty trees in the garden, the most striking of which is an enormous Bordeaux-colored cherry plum, provide the artist with daily inspiration. The space is dominated by two long-trestle tables and a filing cabinet that once belonged to the British Museum in London. Not too far away is a larger two-level, beautifully-lit production workshop with a glass roof. Under Bonnefille’s tutelage and spread between the two spaces and a central Pari showroom, he employs 20 very talented people..
Asked to describe the evolution of his work over the past four decades, Bonnefille says, “I have the impression I always do the same thing, but each time in a slightly different fashion.”