Art and autobiographical experience intertwine in the existence of Germano Sartelli (Imola, 1925 – 2014) in an indissoluble continuum with no possibility of arrest. Born in the hills of the Imola Apennines, where he grew up in close contact with mother nature, which has been for him an indisputable teacher and inexhaustible source of inspiration, he began his apprenticeship at the age of thirteen in the workshop of the carver Gioacchino Meluzzi. A highly formative experience combined with the observation of some experimental and radical practices already started in Europe by artists such as Pablo Picasso, Pablo Gargallo and Julio Gonzáles. Authors that he studies through «a book opened before Don Meluzzi’s eyes which would change, forever, for him, the course of history» – as carefully identified by Michela Scolaro in one of her critical essays. A study that will serve to forge the artist’s creative vision which will lead to his very personal poetics crossed by an informal in balance between Burri and Dubuffet. Refined critic Maurizio Calvesi had been able to intercept his talent, and presented him in ‘58 at the Circolo della Cultura on the occasion of his first solo show in Bologna, followed by the one held in Rome in ‘62 at the Alibert Gallery, which will be followed in ‘63 by the invitation to the Venice Biennale.
During the 22nd lagoon festival Sartelli exhibited a couple of imposing iron sculptures conceived in the citadel of Imola where a few years earlier he had set up his studio. Actually the first works made with this material were conceived around ‘53 in a former bathroom converted into a studio, assigned to him within an area of the Luigi Lolli psychiatric hospital in Imola where, starting from ’52, Germano had been invited to teach painting to the guests of the structure, in laboratory sessions in which the first experiences of local art therapy were explored in the wake of the French practices. Even the many years of lessons given to the patients, such as to those who were considered different and marginalized by society, constituted a reason for flourishing, putting talent to good use, enhancing what others rejected because it was “non-compliant”. In a certain sense this path was in line with the Art Brut movement, which embraces that naïveté, that innate instinct and that unconventionality extraneous to any logic connected with the institutional system. With precisely the same sensitivity and intuition, Sartelli chose and gave new life to the objets trouvé he manipulated or included in his assemblages: works made with materials borrowed from nature, or artificial, discarded and recycled: flowers, cobwebs, pieces of wood, straw , wicker, legacy of a peasant reality, but also metal sheets, nets, wires, discarded papers, cartons, rags, cans, cigarette butts. «The meaning of the rejected object (…) forgotten, neglected», Calvesi commented in ‘62, «is one with the sense of the hidden and the secret with the entirely private and internal happiness of discovery and silent tasting with a veiled lyrical intimacy».
Eight years after Germano Sartelli’s passing, the Bolognese de’ Foscherari Gallery pays homage to the artist with the solo show “Contrappunti per Germano Sartelli”, divided in two acts. The first one focuses on his more sui generis pictorial production and consists of twenty-one works realized between the end of the 50s and 70s, while the current act presents twenty-three sculptural and non-sculptural works. In the first stage, phytomorphic compositions made with flowers, leaves, twigs, soil, hay are interspersed with still lifes made up of cigarette papers with burnt edges, heaps of butts aligned or broken up generating aniconic and material visions. On the walls: streamlined landscapes formed by cobwebs and mold which, carefully picked and placed in display cases like ancient embroideries, draw gothic and mysterious scenarios, while crumpled gauze creates puffs and decorations. Intimate archives record the traces of objects that have come into contact with the artist’s experience, giving back to the viewer visions full of a lost primitive amazement, free from any superstructure but filtered by a well-defined style, capable of creating unprecedented connections and provoking naïve pure emotions. Sartelli makes use of the ordinary and intercepts its mystery; he becomes the spokesperson for a poetic vision of everyday life, approaching the principles of Arte Povera almost ten years in advance.
The exhibition currently on view embraces a time span that goes from 1958 to 2009 (a date that coincides with Sartelli’s last exhibition held at the de’ Foscherari), and welcomes “untitled” works to ratify the will of the artist to leave the completion of the very same to the viewer, for a freer and more sharing reading. In this exhibition, works that we can consider sculptural predominate, even though there are also some works on the wall that give the illusion of belonging to the territories of painting, but which in reality welcome few interventions properly related to this medium; they are in fact made up of collages of overlapping papers which are then torn and glued or pierced with a cutter. In the window, a large installation encloses a composition of logs, while an abstract metal sculpture welcomes us on the threshold with a structure and dynamic volumes that recall Futurism; Andrea Emiliani’s phrase seems to resonate in it: «They are bodies violently held back in their mad pursuit, forever blocked in a sinister overlap, in an already impetuous animation, even if frozen by now». Leaning against the white walls, tapered wooden sculptures stand out, stained with verdigris and smoke from which metallic flowers and decorations in terracotta and plaster sprout; tapering strange anthropomorphic figures with holes occupy pedestals, born from oxyhydrogen flames that give rise to forms from corrosion. A curved metal net that simulates a trunk together with a large leaf on the wall, also made with iron wires, host tin flowers imprisoned in a curious weaving; then trees, plant forms, shrubs shaped in steel create a small enchanted forest, while a work whose frosted glass brings out the underlying figurative image, shows the shape of a bag over a chair.
«The one by Sartelli is an humble poetry», again Maurizio Calvesi observed in the 70s, «humble like the ragged papers, like the metal debris he uses; properly the poetry of this world».
Germano Sartelli, Contrappunti per Germano Sartelli – II atto
16/12/2022 – 18/02/2023
Galleria de’ Foscherari
Via Castiglione 2B, 40124 Bologna
After classical studies, she enrolled at the Faculty of Letters and Philosophy in Bologna, graduating in History of Cinema (DAMS) and later in Art History. She obtained a Master in Communication for cultural enterprises. Journalist and critic, she collaborates with various print and online magazines specialized in the artistic and cultural sector, including Finestre sull’Arte, Segno, Exibart, Zeta-International magazine of poems and research, Punto e Linea Magazine, Gagarin Orbite Culturali. She loves art in all its forms, preferring modern, contemporary and research.