The solo exhibit UNDRESSED, presented in 2012 at the Complesso del Vittoriano in Rome, was not only an arrival but also a starting point to Sannino, who launched a new stage of artistic experimentation.
The first step of this new research was small but substantial. It is no coincidence that the works created after the exhibition in Rome had the same title (Undressed). In fact, his new paintings did not portray new objects, because Sannino did not quit turning his look towards urban landscapes (especially those of the streets of New York), but they were made with a different technique. His “urbanscapes” were not oil painted directly on the canvas anymore but on paper applied on the canvas.
Sannino wants to describe precisely the kind of paper chosen for his paintings: it is Fabriano 300gr. It is worth explaining because the weight and quality of the paper are important features to achieve the final result of the work. In fact, this paper is glued and applied on the canvas, and then it goes through a long and laborious process – which is an integral part of the painting process – in order to be ready to be painted. Sannino’s approach to painting – rather than being functional to define the artistic genre, between abstract and figurative – is to be searched in the process itself to get to the pictorial act.
The construction of the image is determined by the response of the medium after applying the colour: it is a kind of dialogue that Sannino establishes with the surface. The paper-covered canvas is not merely an inactive support which receives the colour and where the idea of the artist is reproduced, but it gives back a drive to perform the successive actions. The paper gives Sannino the possibility to obtain what he defines as “fragmentation” or “cracking” of the drawing, that precedes the construction of the visible image, in order to achieve a brand new and personal view of the reality.
By observing the artist at work, the result of fragmentation shows already in the first gestures: the structure of the painting seems uneven, fragmented, drawn and then destroyed; and the final image becomes more and more recognizable after a number of strokes applied in a few hours with brushes, spatulas or with fingers on the paper which absorbs the fat portion (oil) of the colour, and leaving only the pigment on the surface.
“This gives me”, Sannino maintains, “the possibility to retouch most of the work, apparently still wet, with further colour without risking that colours get mixed”.
This process of image construction clarifies and confirms the artist’s choice for the object to be portrayed. If previously the choice of urban landscapes was functional to the image of the reality that Sannino aimed at highlighting, in this new cycle the choice itself becomes functional to the very process of image construction that now belongs to an actual “alternate reality”. If, with the first stage of UNDRESSED, Sannino had turned his attention to those places where the nature clashes constantly with artificial elements – where the polluted atmosphere, the wind thick with artificial smoke and the large flat surfaces covered with bitumen were subjects to be portrayed and reproduced to the sight and touch – in this new stage of UNDRESSED, the urban landscape becomes an agglomeration of lines and perspectives, that the artist can add and remove endlessly thanks to this new technique. The final image is therefore a urban view that does not represent a real place but its double: the effect of the painting artifice (a kind of “Sannino filter”) over the architectural artifice exercised on the nature. The painting process becomes a kind of “active meditation”, expression of the relationship between visible and invisible realities that the artist creates on the surface.
Although Sannino has portrayed many other cities – in particular Naples, London, Istanbul, recently – he always prefers New York, for Midtown Manhattan, because thanks to the prevalence of tall geometrical buildings, it offers such a variety of linear elements that are an endless source of combinations between sharp strokes and interruptions, between adding and removing, the seen and the unseen… the finished and the unfinished. This combination is the source for his inspiration.
Thanks to this renewed interest in urban landscapes, which determined a new target for his paintings, Sannino was able to move forward in his research, that is a complete revolution in his technique: from a pictorial method “by adding” to a method “by taking away” (Leon Battista Alberti).
As a matter of fact, the artist has started to use a brand new medium, an aluminium foil – attached to a wooden frame that guarantees solidity and elegance – which is prepared by sanding it with sandpaper in various grits in order to receive and absorb the colour. On this foil, the colour is first applied and then removed, so that it turns from solid pigment into a hint of colour, highlighting the metallic shine of the support. This is how the new works of the SHINING series were born, aiming at exploring how the tinfoil influences oil painting and vice versa: the method to apply and remove the paint emphasizes the nature and shininess of the foil by completing it with the brightness of oil painting on metal.
If paper has given Sannino the possibility to communicate with the surface, which responds to and inspires his gesture by absorbing the oily part of the pigment, and therefore turning his action into a reaction, by using aluminium this dialogue has been improved and completed, by giving a response also in terms of brightness. The surface responds to the artist’s gesture by giving back a colour which is enriched by an iridescent light component. Every single paint stroke and the whole work, thanks to the aluminium reflectivity, change according to the light and the observation point of the viewer and the composition – which is not static anymore – gets a shimmering shade. The variable of the viewer’s motion is introduced into the subtle game of adding and removing lines and paint strokes carried out by Sannino with “his” surface, playing his part in the game between “finished and unfinished” and turns it into “never finished” or… “endless mutation”.
The layering of materials and colours typical of Sannino’s previous paintings, which made them nice to the touch, left room to a thin and delicate, almost transparent, surface. The gesture of the artist which previously was fixed into the structure itself of the painting, just like this was a sculpture, a low relief, is now fixed differently into the new delicate surface: his gesture is “vitrified” by a final layer of epoxy resin, which gives a glazed – thick and shiny – aspect to the work, and also depth to the creation.
With Shining, the process of “undressing” the pictorial genre – started with the first Undressed works, and to which this title alludes symbolically – which led Sannino to the conception of “landscape equivalent”, as changing as the reality that now he does not represent anymore but to which he alludes,
What the informal has never stopped its contiguity with the figuration is now also shown by the series of landscapes by Antonio Sannino. The material, the pictorial drawing are unequivocal and allude to the informal language. But there’s the nostalgia of those colors that form wherever it appears as a field of flowers, landscape at sunset, shadows on the hills, fjords rippling sea, in an irreducible sentiment of nature. Not by chance Francesco Arcangeli called “his” recent informal naturalists. Almost half a century this vision Sannino appears exhausted. Neither proves by exhausted elegance and well recognized, Anselm Kiefer, and between the Italians Silvio La Casella. It may be that these experiences have given Sannino, but it is certain that his instinct is primary and that he considers his original experience. A pure color, warm, without the doubt’s torment. Chromatic ecstasy, diving into the landscape seem to be a prerogative of a search is not compromised, guided by an instinct of painting. Happy the sign, happy the color. It ‘s head of euphoria, rational, which takes away the instinct. It’s ‘freedom’ and order of the vision, to test the resistance of the paint that is not available to be consumed in a journey to the end of the night.
Strip the city of objects and people to restore value to the urban space in all its fantastic light: Sannino’s what he wanted to represent in the exposure of the Vittoriano Rome. That nature has given way to roads, streets, buildings or bridges is only a transposition of colors, materials and artistic gestures. Not surprisingly, the magnificent presence of water dominates the eye and balances the imaginary hustle and bustle. It’s true that the artist’s intention, successful, the complaint is not harsh and alarming, but the attempt to restore the beauty and make it come right into our lives. The works in a large size helps the course of the exhibition and welcomes the viewer to discover full and empty enchanted. A broader vision of phagocyte forms of popular architectures, such as the Empire State Building in New York, the obelisk of the Piazza del Popolo in Rome or the portal of Palazzo Carafa in Naples, leaving more and see the layout of the main roads, to overcome the discomfort of large cities and individual possession of his enjoying the living space. In the plot of pictorial Sannino is the magic of time through art. Art goes where it wants to go, but he always feels his soul.
For years the Vittoriano in Rome is engaged to the promotion of artistic talents of our country and in this current is included the work of Antonio Sannino. The views of the three cities has chosen as subject: New York, Rome and Naples, surging to the metaphors of existence in which everyone has fallen almost without realizing it. Fast strokes, darting lines of color, build up urban landscapes devoid of human presence, “UNDRESSED” infact, naked, in their universal everyday life, stripped off by cars, pedestrians, objects, bus, to rise to an absolute global dimension, in which the structure of the work is minimal and becomes “essential”. Is a solar and shady art at the same time soaked at times the smell of the sea, sometimes the smell of the city. Just the artist exclaim, “I paint what I breathe, I start with a dream-like vision of the element of nature that I would like to represent, the color is suggested me by a visual excitement. ” A persistent and constant feeling of nature pervades each canvas. The look of Sannino caress the air, earth, water, fire and his brush extrapolates the natural elements enriched them in a dream vision. The artist likes to fix portions of waters that caress the stones or sinking in the depths, where the horizon is entirely intimate, almost spiritual. Transparencies that itself Sannino writes, gives to the work a sense of purity extremely vital, leaving in the spectator’s eyeses a mirror of life untouched, almost a tribute to the mediterranean roots of the artist.