Mazzoleni Presents Virtual Exhibition By Italian Artist Gianfranco Zappettini

BY Ayesha Sohail Shehmir Shaikh / Apr 22 2020 / 10:30 AM

Abstract Italian painter Gianfranco Zappettini shares the inspirations behind his solo exhibition at Mazzoleni London, suggesting that painting is an innate discipline and language to humankind

Mazzoleni Presents Virtual Exhibition By Italian Artist Gianfranco Zappettini

"When I was a child and people asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, my reply was always: 'a painter!' So, let’s say that my path started from there,” says Gianfranco Zappettini, one of the most influential Italian abstract painters and also a prominent figure in the international Analytical Painting movement which spanned Italy, Germany, France and the Netherlands in the seventies.

“As a child, I knew I would be a painter, in the same way I was attracted by Eastern doctrines from a young age.” The artist, now 80 years of age, continues to investigate and discover through his travels and studies, and he deems his research a significant part of his life discipline. “I find them in every action I do, including painting,” he remarks. Painting is more than art to Zappettini; it is a spiritual exercise, a perpetual meditation. “Concentration on daily work becomes both method and purpose.”

Installation view of Gianfranco Zappettini: The Golden Age at Mazzoleni, London; Gianfranco Zappettini; Con-Centro no 28. 2019. Resins, fassadenputz and acrylic on board, 170x170cm.

On view virtually at Mazzoleni London until 30 April is The Golden Age, a solo exhibition by Zappettini spanning a brand new series of paintings which explore the symbolic meaning of gold as a metaphysical sense of spiritual perfection. “Gold is primarily a pure material, with exceptional physical characteristics: gold is the closest entity to material perfection on earth,” says Zappettini. “In the arts, both in the East and the West, it has always been linked to the sacred and the Divine. Just think about the tradition of Italian altarpieces and Russian icons in the Middle Ages: the golden background was a mental surface to symbolise a mystical dimension in which the figures are immersed.”

Aptly named, the title of the exhibition is a nod to an era of ‘perfection’, as the artist says, “that is cyclically offered to humanity. The great sacred texts of the East, for example, the Vedas, say so: to a time of decline, difficulty, materialism, a new positive era must follow, in which mankind will become in harmony with itself and its surroundings. I believe that we are not far from this.”

Installation view of Gianfranco Zappettini: The Golden Age at Mazzoleni, London; Gianfranco Zappettini; Con-Centro no 28. 2019.
Resins, fassadenputz and acrylic on board, 170x170cm.

The works featured, for instance Con-Centro no 103 (2018) and La trama e l’ordito n. 81 - la Luce Prima (2017) are more than just art on walls; they depict a deeper message than just visual beauty. “The Golden Age is more than a hope,” explains the artist. “It is the certainty that a new era will come, when art will teach human beings to raise again their head towards their surroundings, to heaven.”

During his school years, Zappettini was infatuated with figurative art and in the sixties, he nurtured his love for art into a professional career. “I realised that abstraction was the most familiar nuance of this language to me,” he explains. “I was lucky enough to work in the studio of Konrad Wachsmann, a pupil and colleague of Walter Gropius, who initiated me into the harmony and internal structure of artworks, whether the work was architectural or pictorial.”

Installation view of Gianfranco Zappettini: The Golden Age at Mazzoleni, London; Gianfranco Zappettini; Con-Centro no 28. 2019. Resins, fassadenputz and acrylic on board, 170x170cm.

During his many travels, Zappettini crossed paths with prominent influences by the likes of Swiss architect Max Bill, French-Ukrainian artist Sonia Delaunay and Paris-based Italian painter Alberto Magnelli. “My hometown Genoa was also very lively at the time and masters of abstract art were exhibiting in several galleries near my place,” he recalls.

“In the 1970s, I thought that the language of painting should be deconstructed and adapted to a rapidly-changing Western society: this is how Analytical Painting was born, an international movement that brought its protagonists to exhibit at museums and art events such as ‘documenta’ in Kassel, in which I participated in 1977.”

Installation view of Gianfranco Zappettini: The Golden Age at Mazzoleni, London; Gianfranco Zappettini; Con-Centro no 28. 2019.
Resins, fassadenputz and acrylic on board, 170x170cm.

The Golden Age exhibition, curated by Martin Holman, was specially designed for Mazzoleni’s gallery space. The featured works have been created in the last few years including art from the series Trama e l’ordito, the Luce Prima and the most recent series entitled Con-Centro, Petalo d’oro and Codice degli dei. The paintings were made using various mediums such as resins, fassadenputz, acrylic on board and black light. The works allude to ancient splendours recalling a period when art depicted divinity and spirituality.

“I love working simultaneously on multiple lines of research,” expresses Zappettini. But the artist always keeps one goal in mind, as he says, “to continue my journey of inner discovery through painting.” 


Gianfranco Zappettini: The Golden Age exhibition is on view online on Artsy until 30 April 2020.  To view the exhibition, click here.

Image courtesy of Mazzoleni London- Torino and the artist


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From the spring 2020 issue of Harper's BAZAAR Art