Bertoncino’s paintings are subtle visual enigmas that mystify, challenge and amaze the viewers. Usually centered on a lovely luminescent background is an elegant, only partially drawn, human figure that is the focus of the viewer’s attention and the ambiguity that dominates the painting. Thus it is the everlasting enigma of life, of man, that is presented. As we ponder the many possible answers for the enigma, we learn not only about the painting, but of ourselves.
From the first glance we are enchanted by the luminescence the artist has created for the background by applying layer upon layer of different variations of a single color. This luminosity is gently demanding and lively, never glaring or dominating. In effect the color establishes the painting as a unique world. A master of patience, as well as of color, Bertoncino applies himself to a tremendous variety of colors, always preserving his exciting, signature luminosity.
At the center of this enchanting luminosity the artist very often draws a single serene human figure, using a simple delicate line that just barely defines the body. Often, also, there is some derivation from the basic image: another, but lesser, figure imposed upon or near the main figure; am extra arm or leg jutting away from the main figure. Sometimes, also, the head becomes a solid while the rest of the body is a linear presentation. These paintings are contemporary palimpsests.
In medieval monasteries scribes wrote on precious vellum, animal skins that had been especially treated. Other monks, called illuminators, painted and drew all types of beautiful images to glorify the words. As vellum was expensive, the monks often had to scrape the words and images off the vellum and reuse the page; this happened often, especially to old manuscripts whose subjects matter was out of favor. Nevertheless, some words and images never were completely eradicated and a much used sheet of vellum often showed traces of writing and imagery from a previous work. Those pages were called palimpsests. Bertoncino’s paintings, with its overlays, partial imagery and strange juxtapositions are akin to the medieval manuscripts as well as the contemporary surrealism.
Let us not confuse Bertoncino’s surrealism with the punditry of Salvador Dali or the sentimentality of Walt Disney: Rather Bertoncino’s surrealism presents simplified, very abstracted, human imagery in strange distortions and juxtapositions. Bertoncino’s world is one of mythic concepts, ideas that taunt and haunt us because, try as we might, we can not solve the ultimate enigma.
Viewing Bertoncino’s paintings is a life-enhancing experience. We are forced to reason, to look back to genesis and forward to eternity.
The incredible beauty of ideas, color and imagery is given to us in paintings of rare distinction.