Over the Bridge

by frecqle

A reflection on frecqle’s latest exhibition of Bonkleigh Strut’s works.


Strut’s collection explores joy, perseverance, faith and victory.


“I want to bring life, I want to spread hope, and I think the way that I’m born to do it is through my artwork. So to do this, I feel so full.”
Bonkleigh Strut 


Bonkleigh Strut’s artwork opens opportunity for the mind to wander, seek, and find. Inward tangling and half grasped thoughts sprawl in colour and brush swipes, and unravel before the viewer. A figure often resides in the foreground of Strut’s organised commotion. His work carries a sense of deep compositional consideration while maintaining an intensity and spontaneity that sets his work free and charges it with movement.


Entering Melbourne’s newest fine art gallery, frecqle, from a drizzly, leafy street I was welcomed by the ethereal glow of a sculpture created by artist Adél Mora. A sprig of gum leaves is encased on three sides by a draped temple of soft fabric and wire mesh. Irish folklore is something I hold close to my heart. I don’t have reason to believe Mora drew any inspiration from Ireland in her sculpture, but I absorbed all its detail through this lens. Irish folklore is imbued with the belief that the physical world and spirit world exist side by side, separated only by a thin veil. The softness of Mora’s sculpture whispered to me of the thin veil that separates day-to-day routine from the exquisite experience of community gathering to celebrate expression and creativity. Which is precisely what was happening in this small, vibrant space.


Beyond the temple’s plinth hung Bonkleigh Strut’s Over the Bridge (2023). This work instantly held up a mirror to my recent self-reflections. A vague figure is nestled in the foreground of the work, taking up the entire left hand side. The figure’s head is rendered almost indistinguishable amongst a fog of carefully considered, haphazard lines and scrapes that reach back across a horizon. I liken the contents of this fog to the layers of careful planning, random events, odd choices and serendipitous moments that form the path we walk in life. My eyes traversed the swirling fog and I became aware of my desire to cross the floating arc that is evidently the titular ‘Bridge.’ I reflected on the courage I’m going to need to navigate the coming chapter of my life; a chapter outlined clearly by my current choices and hazily coloured by the question “but how will it all pan out?”


I circled the gallery a few times and on my third passing of this piece I noticed the figure’s nose and eyes; he’s facing away from the bridge - not gazing longingly, courageously towards it, pulled by a fog of his thoughts as I had initially seen. In that moment I was delighted by the extent to which this painting could take my reflections; I had first seen myself hopefully looking towards the unknown of the ‘other side’ of that bridge but with this new angle I imagined my future self; having crossed the hovering arc, with the fog of uncertainty trailing off behind me. Bonkleigh Strut’s art truly calls for one to pause and ponder awhile, to allow a personal journey to gather and settle within the viewer’s imagination.


Strut’ described his process of creating Over the Bridge (2023) and it reminds me of Michelangelo’s famous comment:

“The sculpture is already complete within the marble block, before I start my work. It is already there, I just have to chisel away the superfluous material.”


Strut spoke to me of searching; of laying out some lines on the canvas and seeking an image within. He explained that he’d begun carving a figure into existence from these lines, only to discover it was the wrong one; the figure existed elsewhere in an area he had thought was the background. This adds to the figure’s subtle presence; even though he’s large, taking up about half the work, he seems to share equal weight with the ‘chaos-fog’ and the bridge on the right side of the canvas.


Strut spoke more broadly about his year, “Every time I was going down the freeway, I’d [find myself] getting stuck in a court... but now, this whole month has been crazy!” He spoke of perseverance and his growing faith after getting knocked back from a number of jobs. After months of little opportunity to paint, the joy he had experienced over recent weeks creating pieces for this exhibition, and helping gallery owner and friend Attila Mora renovate the space, was evident and infectious.


I could see Strut’s relief, and release, in the brush strokes of Over the Bridge. I saw his self portrait; a figure moving through chaos and set backs, putting faith in God to cross that bridge on multitude occasions throughout the year. I could see the dust settling around him in time for the new year, and some much needed breathing space to move forward with a clearer direction and growing opportunities. Strut’s towering Victory, completed the morning of the opening, stood proudly in the gallery corner overlooking the gathering. An homage aptly named.


A visit to frecqle is a must for any Melbournite, or Melbourne visitor, who proclaims they appreciate thought provoking art. Nestled beside a cafe in a leafy Malvern street, the gallery is easily accessibly by train or car. Upon entry you’ll be met by happy chatter, a piano that bears flecked evidence of freshly painted walls, and of course; magnificent art.

Authored by Sarah Saxon