Filipino painter Bree Jonson passed away at age 30

Published September 20, 2021, 3:05 PM

by John Legaspi

She was found unconscious in a hotel room in La Union

The local arts and culture scene mourns the death of Filipino artist Bree Jonson, who was first found unconscious in a hotel room in La Union on Sept. 20, 2021.

Bree Jonson and one of last artworks (Photos from @breejonson on Instagram)

Born in 1991, Bree is known for painting “animals and plants to critique the relationship that humans have with their environment, and the divide that has grown between them, a divide that displaces them as Other, different from humans, and lowers in importance and hierarchy.”

“Art is refinement even in its brutishness and destitution. 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,” she said to Art and Market. “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.”

Art spaces such as the Leon Gallery and Vintana PH expressed their sorrow about the news of her passing, saying that she is “undoubtedly a major loss to Philippine Art” and definitely “gone way too soon.”

Bree was first a graduate of industrial engineering at Ateneo de Davao University before pursuing fine art studies at the University of the Philippines in Diliman. The contemporary painter has presented numerous exhibits here and abroad. Among them are “Statim Finis (The End of All Things)” (2016) at Stephen Romano Gallery, New York; “Left Hand of Darkness” (2018) at MO_Space in Manila; and “Notes on Stillness” (2019) at Yavuz Gallery, Singapore. In 2018, she also became a part of “Filipino Artists and Their Studios Volume 2,” a book by Pinggot Zulueta, published by the Manila Bulletin.

Police reports say that Bree was pronounced dead on arrival when she was brought to the hospital. During her stay in La Union, she was with art patron Julian Ongpin, the son of property developer and former trade minister Roberto Ongpin. Julian was taken into police custody due to illegal possession of drugs. The cause of the artist’s death is yet to be confirmed.