Meet Rebecca Bonaci, the Tattoo Artist and Painter exploring a love for Malta’s heritage

You’ve probably already heard of Rebecca Bonaci’s work in some way or another. For many years, the name was synonymous with some of the best tattoos on the island. That was until 2023 brought Rebecca’s official solo debut as a painter within Malta’s art scene, with her exhibition ĠUF at Valletta’s Spazju Kreattiv, exploring the theme of motherhood from the lens of a young mother navigating a modern world.

I sat down with Rebecca Bonaci to find out more about her roots, inspirations, and how her practice has evolved into the now, as one of the young and promising Maltese artists on our radar.

So, let’s go back to the early days – how did you enter the world of art?

Ever since I was a little girl, I loved to draw. I remember my dad coming home from work with drawing books or new pencils, I never really played with dolls. When I was around 13 years old, my mother decided to take me to art lessons and from there this hobby turned into a passion. My teacher, who was Mr Micallef at the time, introduced me to painting, drawing still lives etc. I used to go for private lessons for three hours every week and I chose art as one of my subjects at school, I attended the school of art for a number of years and continued to study Fine Arts at MCAST until I eventually got my degree.

What inspires you?

I’d say everyday life in general, things that I’m going through, my thoughts on life, the things I would like to change. I write and sketch every day, most of the time before I go to sleep. It’s like a daily ritual where I need to write down my thoughts or sketch something.

How has your style or approach evolved over the years?

My art changes constantly; subject matter, the materials I use, etc. For starters I don’t like to limit myself to one particular medium or subject matter. Apart from having all these different thoughts and concerns about various things in life, I do believe that an individual has more than one ‘identity’ in a way. When I look at my work I always think about how much I’ve changed over the years, and essentially life changes too. I am definitely not the same person as I was a couple of years ago, experiences shape who you are and ultimately change you so it makes sense that my work changes too.

What’s your creative process like?

Most of the time my work evolves from a thought process, sketches, diary notes and contemplation. I then move on to how I should go about translating these thoughts and feelings visually, so I usually focus my time on more sketching until I feel confident enough to start working on my final work.

Is there a particular theme that you feel defines your work?

I usually focus on feelings and thoughts, on what I am going through in a particular time, reflecting on my life in this moment and trying to translate that into visual art. I guess it’s part of who I am, I am a thinker and in a way art helps me analyse, contemplate, have arguments with myself and then let go. When I feel ready, I move on to something else.

What has been the most challenging aspect of your artistic career, and how have you overcome it?

It took a while for me to accept that not everyone will like what I do, and that is ok. I have also always been conscious about setting my visual art apart from my tattooing and more commercial work. I have finally realised that I do need both of them in my life. I can embrace both and in a way both aspects complement each other and represent who I am.

Are there any artists or movements that have significantly influenced your work?

Apart from art, I also studied Philosophy and History which I do think have shaped a lot of how I think and my process in general. In a way when I think about what I am going through I also tend to think about how it must have been before I was born, about different generations and then reflect on these thoughts in a contemporary setting and how things should be for future generations. I do think a lot about the limited time we have on earth and how our actions will ultimately reflect how future generations will evolve.

What is your ultimate aspiration as an artist?

I guess apart from my art being a process of self-discovery for me, my aim is not to give out answers, sometimes my thoughts change from when I start working on an artwork to when I finish it. My aim is to start a dialogue, to reflect on different ideas in the hope of discovering how I feel about it, to connect with other individuals and hopefully for the process to lead me to other things while learning and rediscovering. Hopefully my work will still be relevant long after I am gone and challenge different individuals to share their take on the subject.

What kind of impact do you hope your art will have on your audience or society in general?

Nowadays I try my best not to focus too much on how other individuals will think of my work. I do feel that in the past this has limited my work to an extent. Overthinking things can be a destructive process for me. So now I just tend to focus on what I have to say and create. Most of the time people tend to focus their opinion on visual taste and what they think fine art should be. Society tends to create a lot of stereotypes and dictates how things should or should not be. However I have learned, that the world is full of different people, with different opinions, different tastes who live different lives. So ultimately my art can’t connect with everyone just as I can’t connect with every artist’s work.

And finally, what advice would you give a young artist today?

Don’t overthink things, just enjoy the process of creating and just do it for yourself.


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