Painter and Sculptor - Italian 20th century artist


Videointervista 2023:

2021 interview given to De Agostini on the occasion of his inclusion in the Atlas of Contemporary Art. The artist Aristide Gattavecchia is introduced by his nephew, Marco Gattavecchia, on the occasion of the interview given to Dr. Leonarda Zappulla, critic, curator and artistic promoter, student of the Professor Vittorio Sgarbi.

2021 interview given to De Agostini on the occasion of his inclusion in the Atlas of Contemporary Art.

LZ: Your grandfather, Aristide Gattavecchia, was born in 1907 and passed away in 1994. Those who knew him testify that he was a man full of passion and enthusiasm for life, for him creating was a necessity, a mission and at the same time a vocation that accompanied him throughout his life: we find a strong dichotomy between the surreal silence of his works and the scream of his message. But who was Aristide, deep down? Tell us about the man, the person you met.

MG: Aristide was a self-taught artist, passionate about painting, sculpture and history. He loved visiting museums, galleries, exhibitions and always spoke of the emotions that came from observation. All he needed was a face, a panorama, a reflection of light to make him imagine a work to create. I often went to visit him in his studio, where you could smell the colors, and everything was fascinating. He was a playful and affectionate grandfather, but also very rigorous and serious when he painted or sculpted. He gave me respect for art and the possibility of transmitting emotions through art. He put brushes and colors in my hands and invited me to draw what I felt in that moment. He used to say that art could convey very strong emotions and that knowledge is the greatest form of freedom.

LZ: I find that, despite the years that have passed, this concept is very current: was this what encouraged you and your family to make its echoes resonate?

MG: Certainly his message was too important to remain unheard. Today his thoughts are still very relevant. He had dealt with social problems that then exploded in the following years such as: the loneliness of the individual, the lack of communication, homosexuality, inequality, the problems of ecology and consumerism.

LZ: Would you like to tell us how the events influenced his path and artistic production? Starting from his beginnings, of which unfortunately not much remains.

MG: Aristide began by drawing with pencil on paper. His first works were destroyed due to the war period, but his strong and decisive mark can be seen from the very few that remain. He drew figures that already had the irony of caricature and the volumes of sculpture. He then created both paintings and sculptures throughout his life. The first pictorial works were impacted by the important influences of the post-war years and the ongoing artistic ferment. He lived through both world wars, the onset of consumerism, the advent of sudden changes that the society of his time was not ready to face. From 1947 to 1994 he produced works whose aim was always to awaken consciences to awaken man from the torpor of uniformity, restoring importance to individual thought and carrying forward a message that invited everyone to have the strength to make bold and courageous choices . Making art was Aristide's way of giving meaning to his own existence by denouncing social ills and encouraging others to improve. Reflections on man's alienation, on the tragedies of war, on incommunicability and discrimination were central themes of his poetics, around which he developed constant research, investigating the human soul and delving into the meanders of a frank and intimate production.

LZ: The attention paid to the colors is very important: what do the author's color choices represent?

MG: The paintings produced by the artist in his long life clearly demonstrate the events that influenced his entire production. The first works of the years 1947-1948 appear marked by the pain and terror of the war, when he was in the prime of his youth and those events broke something inside him that would never be repaired again. Then follow paintings of serene domestic environments, but there is no shortage of returns to red tones and female figures marked by suffering. Even the views of his beloved Cesena are tormented by gray and dark skies with less than reassuring white patches (“Over the city” 1953). The economic “boom” of the 60s significantly influenced his art. He was increasingly intrigued by new things, by the enthusiasm for life and by the desire to leave everything behind. The production of the 70s is affected by the overbearing social changes underway and current themes still appear today, such as that of consumerism in which houses "throw up" superfluous objects where rubbish accumulates outdoors in arid spaces. The panoramas appear more serene, but still represented in conditions of a muffled yellow light, as if from a sort of melancholy (“Savio river” 1975). Another dominant theme in Gattavecchia's art is that of incommunicability. Society has profoundly changed. From life on the street, when "we all knew each other" and helped each other, we moved on to life inside locked houses, where everyone thinks about their own selfishness. And so paintings like "Indifference" and "Enigma" from 1979 are born, in which faces do not communicate, mouths do not speak, eyes do not look. Each character is closed in on himself and avoids any communicative approach. But the event that shocked the artist, after the Second World War, was the Chernobyl nuclear accident. In 1986 he painted “Cernobyl” and “Radioactive effect”, in which women and children are portrayed without hair and without expression. They are as if frozen in time, blocked in word and gesture. The yellow or red color makes them unpleasant to look at. There is neither the joy of youth nor the enthusiasm of life. They were among the last color paintings, later he used almost exclusively black and white, as if life were too painful to represent in colour. In the paintings of the 90s, shapes and people blur and merge. Are the portrayed objects people or bottles? can you know what's inside a dark bottle? can you know what a person hides in their intimate being? These seem to be the questions he asks himself. Finally, the last paintings exclusively portray nocturnal landscapes that reflect desolation and solitude. Taking a quick look at his works, we notice a clear technical and chromatic evolution, even if the themes covered are always the same ones which return forcefully because they are important social themes, still very current.

LZ: Would you like to tell us about your most significant achievements?

MG: Aristide Gattavecchia made existentialism his most peculiar reason for being. An investigation into man, which goes beyond the phenomenological aspects to delve into a deeper knowledge of the subject. A knowledge aimed at its most hidden world, at the very reasons for its existence. For this reason his works fluctuate in a surreal dimension which is nothing other than pure subconscious. Gattavecchia's subjects live in a decontextualized space, they are trembling bodies emptied of any physiognomic characteristic, of any plastic value. What is described seems to be a situation of existential solitude, an impossibility of communication and sharing, a state of being for which Gattavecchia has found an extraordinarily empathetic and eloquent formal guise.

Among the recognitions obtained, the most relevant award was the "Silver Dragon" in 1963, "International Figurative Arts Award". There were numerous awards that followed one another over the years on the occasion of exhibitions or regional events up until the 1980s. Then he retired to his studio, where he worked until his last day, with an enthusiasm for art that left you amazed. He held his last exhibition at the age of 87, a few months before his death. During his last days he was already preparing the works for his "next exhibition", which we then created a few years later.