Many of her works have been exhibited locally and abroad.
Artist Breanna Patricia Jonson Agunod, better known as Bree Jonson, was an emerging talent in contemporary visual arts.
The 30-year-old’s budding career, however, was cut short when she was found unconscious at a room in a La Union resort and was later declared dead at a hospital.
Her companion and boyfriend, Julian Ongpin, was with her at the time according to reports. Recovered from the room was cocaine, a drug they both tested positive for, as well as Jonson’s PWD card for a psychosocial disability. This covers a wide range of ailments like epilepsy, addiction, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, but does not necessarily mean that one is suicidal.
The 29-year-old Ongpin, the son of business magnate and former trade minister Roberto Ongpin, told police that he found Jonson hanging in their room’s bathroom.
He was charged for possession of cocaine under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of RA 9165, but was released from detention.
In a CCTV video obtained by police and released to the public, Jonson can be seen picking up a bottle and drinking from it. Ongpin then takes it away.
Jonson, followed by Ongpin, walks back towards their room where they appear to have an argument. Ongpin is then seen going back to where he was outside. The Police would find them an hour and a half later.
An initial autopsy by San Juan, La Union Police revealed that Jonson died of asphyxiation or lack of oxygen.
A second autopsy has been conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation at the request of the family. According to their legal team’s statement, the examination is in the hopes to “uncover the truth, exhaust all remedies to secure justice for Breanna’s untimely demise, and find closure for the family, friends, and loved ones of Breanna.”
But who is Jonson beyond the current headlines surrounding her passing and what were her artworks like?
Jonson was an industrial engineering graduate from Ateneo de Davao University.
She dabbled not only in engineering, but also music. She was part of the indie band Alto Indio and played gigs in her hometown Davao. The group also fronted for acts like Pedicab. Taken By Cars, Gaijin, and The Diegos.
In 2012, she moved to Manila and enrolled in the College of Fine Arts at the University of the Philippines. She dropped out after a semester and became a full-time artist.
A Vintana Art Gallery feature describes Jonson as an animal lover. Her work is heavily inspired by Aesop’s fables, her veterinarian mother, and the “wildlife from her childhood.”
This is reflected in her colorful, vivid, and intricate paintings of flora and fauna.
In her website, Jonson says 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.”
She hopes for her work to “bridge this gap and bring out the innate wilderness in human nature, to culminate a sense of interconnectedness, and ro move away from an anthropocentric worldview to one more inclusive of multiple species.”
Art on display
Jonson’s works have been featured in numerous exhibits here and abroad.
In 2014, she had her first solo exhibit called Therion Mythos in Kuala Lumpur. The following year, she had another exhibit I Stared at the Abyss and the Abyss Stared Back at West Gallery in Manila and in 2016, Argh! Screamed they who were sucked into the orifice at the Underground Gallery.
Her last solo exhibits include 2021’s ZZYZYK in Manila, 2019’s Notes on Stillness at Singapore’s Yavuz Gallery, and 2017’s Writhing in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
She also participated in group exhibits, the first being in 2015 through Worlds Apart at Altro Mondo in Manila. In 2017, her works were part of 2,774 KM at the YOD Gallery in Tokyo.
The same year, she collaborated with photographer Michael Baratz-Koren for the Cumulus Blimp exhibit in Mabini, Manila.
Her latest group exhibits were Mga Misteryo sa Tuwa at Art Informal in Manila and Searching Sanctuary at Silverlens, both from last year.
Her works were featured in prominent museums including UP Vargas Museum in 2020, BenCab Museum in 2015, and at the Vestfossen Kunst Laboratorium in Norway in 2018.
She was also a participant of the Art Fair Philippines 2020 and the Sydney Contemporary Art Fair in 2018.
Passion for the craft
In a 2020 Art and Market interview, Jonson shares that nothing else but art “keeps me going,” despite the harsh realities of living independently.
“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,” she says. “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.”
Banner Photo from @breejonson on IG.