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ART EXHIBITIONS
GASTONE CECCONELLO
 


"THE FRIEND OFA WHOLE LIFE"

17 febbraio . 31 marzo 2024
SANTA CHIARA . VERCELLI

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Intending to tell the life of Angelo Gilardino, of the experiences that have most contributed to directing his path, and above all of those that have accompanied him throughout his development, a chapter of great importance must be dedicated to the friendship that since adolescence l 'he linked to the artist Gastone Cecconello.
Angelo and Gastone have shared passion, research, difficulties, dreams, joys and goals with constant and untouchable esteem, affection, closeness, mutual respect.
As a young man, Gastone's studio was for Angelo a place to "holing up" to breathe in the air of those goals and horizons that he would later reach, to study and practice with the instrument, to discuss artistic and cultural, which would have  then represented a precious enrichment for both.
In a more mature age Angelo Gilardino never stopped visiting Gastone Cecconello's studio as well as a friend as an admirer, as an art lover and finally as a collector of his works.


The "Il Legno che Canta" project is building an exhibition of the pictorial works and sculptures of Gastone Cecconello, coordinated with photographic images taken by his son Manuele Cecconello (director and photographer of great sensitivity); the exhibition will be built considering to offer artistic and photographic representations of some themes that inspired Angelo Gilardino to create some of his compositions.
In this way the interaction between music, work of art and photographic shot will be able to offer the visitor all the elements necessary to take him into a world where Angelo's "notes", Gastone's "gestures" and Manuele's "look" they come to meet to give new life to the same "magic".
 



 

Gastone Cecconello was born on March 2, 1942 in Vercelli. His father, Pasquale, was a man of humble origins, he was a laborer and was gifted with great inventiveness: he made his children's clothes himself, cut their hair, fixed shoes, objects and furniture. His mother, Salute Tasso, known as Maria, was a woman with an imposing physique and a marked popular wit; she looked after the family and doing the most disparate jobs, even during the numerous pregnancies. Pasquale and Maria had moved from Veneto to Vercelli in 1927.
Gaston was the fifth of six children. Two years before his birth, the family balance cracked due to the sudden death of his older brother, Gastone Primo, who was hit by a car at the age of fourteen. From the pain, the mother fell into a severe depression and, despite repeated hospitalizations, she found her balance only after the birth of her penultimate child, to whom she would give the same name as the deceased firstborn.

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The small room that Cecconello made from the family home in via Gallardi in the heart of Vercelli at the end of the 1950s, a few steps from the Cathedral, would gradually become a real cultural club open to friends, artists, writers and musicians: "My study became a real university that I myself had created within the walls of my home".
Angelo Gilardino, classical guitarist and today an international musical historian and composer, was his neighbor at the time. Gilardino recalls: “I used to go there [to Cecconello's studio] every night to play and practice while he worked.

We often stayed late into the wee hours without saying a word, caught up like two obsessed with the anxiety of growing up and doing well, isolated in a world that […] didn't give a damn about painting and music. Their respective bustles kept each other awake. [...] There I was introduced by my friend to modern painting, from Cézanne to Jackson Pollock [...] and I introduced him to twentieth-century music, from Debussy to Boulez and, as I could, even a little modern poetry" .

 

“The person who most marked my human and artistic formation was Angelo Gilardino, for me it was like a true university. A deep friendship was born which is still alive after sixty years”, Cecconello commented in his memoir.


In 1961 he visited the Thompson Collection on display at the Galleria d'Arte Moderna in Turin, where for the first time he saw the work of Picasso. 

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Enzo Gazzone. self portrait

In those years marked by the war and by serious economic hardship, in 1947 Gastone also suffered a serious accident which saw him run over by a car in the very place where his brother had lost his life seven years earlier. Gastone suffered serious fractures that forced him to hospital for more than eight months: during that period of infirmity, recycled paper, pieces of coal and pencil stubs came into his hands... and from there an expressive journey began that he would never immediately interruption.
That incident tried him physically and psychologically. For a long time he was accompanied by the fear of not being able to exceed the age of fourteen: “I lived in a state of profound consternation convinced that I would not exceed the years that my brother lived. I was terrified every time I had to cross the street and suffered from panic attacks.

I found serenity taking refuge in the parallel world that I was building: painting. When I turned 14, everything vanished and I returned to a peaceful life. When I wasn't drawing, I went to a wood near my home and built huts with branches and branches where I isolated myself from the world, I carved sticks and invented all sorts of artefacts".
At the age of just twelve he painted a significant portrait of his mother Maria and began to make friends with other local amateur painters, with whom he occasionally went to paint en plein air. But what already distinguished him then was his fast and instinctive way of working, a mastery of gesture and technique which, although embryonic, promised great future developments.
Already at that time Cecconello was constantly looking for new materials: from plaster to wild berries from which to obtain pigments, from charcoal to soot... every type of material exerted an irresistible charm on him. But most of all he looked for bricks, to be able to crush them, dissolve them with water and use them as colors.

The Picasso influence will lead him later to abandon his first artistic models including Antonello da Messina, Mantegna and Raphael, to take a completely new path and become an interpreter of his own era: "The artist is like a seismograph, he must record the tremors of his time” he loved to repeat.

The first to notice Cecconello's artistic talent was Enzo Gazzone, then director of the Vercelli Institute of Fine Arts, who invited him to enroll in the Institute's courses, offering to pay the tuition himself. But his attendance at the first year lessons was sporadic and lasted just two months: the first year programs and exercises included things that Cecconello had by now acquired on his own. Failure to graduate, however, would become a cause for concern over time. Almost all of his classmates had continued their academic studies, some at the Brera, some at the Albertina, and to make up for this lack of training Cecconello would have given way to a restless and frenzied personal research work.
In 1959 the Municipality of Vercelli promoted his first personal exhibition at the Palazzo dei Centori, where the subsequent exhibitions of 1961 and 1962 were also hosted. The exhibition intrigued many, among others also the caricaturist and journalist Francesco Leale, who published in the local newspaper "Amico del Popolo" a seminal article that placed the work of the young artist in a good light.
From that moment on, a mutual acquaintance begins between Leale and Cecconello. Leale invites him to attend the meetings of the "Gruppo Forme", which were held every Thursday evening at the Taverna Tarnuzzer, in Piazza Cavour. The group also included Professor Carlo Bosio, Renzo Roncarolo and Francesco Donati.
Some paintings of those years betray a meditation on Guttuso's work and on the informal, for example the Self-Portrait of 1958 and The Battle of the Cocks (1960).

 

Renzo Roncarolo. self portrait

From 1960 to 1961 he was called up for military service.Even in this period he did not give up on art: he created portraits of his companions and painted canvases inspired by the work of Klee, Kandinsky and Picasso.

Meanwhile, Cecconello's painting aroused the interest of some Vercelli gallery owners, who organized two of his personal exhibitions: in 1962 at the Viotti Art Gallery and in 1966 at the Spa Commissionaria.

From 1964 Cecconello began to gain confidence with a new artistic technique: photography.

It will be a passion that he will cultivate intensely until 1969 and then more and more sporadically for a few more years: "At a certain point I stopped photography: I realized I wanted to paint with a camera".

Francis Loyal
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Cecconello with Mario Pistono and Simon Benetton

In 1978, with the Biella exhibition at the "L'uomo e l'Arte" gallery, he finally achieved the deserved turning point. He exhibited about 60 works there, all of the latest generation, obtaining great interest from the public and collectors, while important critics and gallery owners began to visit his studio in the province of Biella.

It was the beginning of his recognition also abroad: in October 1985 he exhibited at the Hamburg State University, the following year in Rotterdam (first at the State University, then at the Trefcentrum Gallery), in 1987 at the Institute of Cultura Italiana in Vienna and in 1988 at Columbia University in New York. In Italy he often participated in national and international painting competitions, winning the first prize several times, as in the case of the 6th Contemporary Painting Competition in Trivero (in 1986) and the 20th and 26th edition of the Exhibition of Contemporary Painting of Santhià, respectively from 1983 and 1989.
He also dedicated himself to the creation of public works, which in 1980 saw him engaged in the Monument to the Fallen of the Resistance for the 35th anniversary of the Santhià massacre, while in 1984 he created his largest work in terms of dimensions, 5 x 2.5 m , which was placed in the council chamber of the municipality of Gaglianico, the municipality where he resided from 1978 to 1991.

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Mario Pistono, Maurizio Corgnati and Gastone Cecconello.
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In 1983 he won the first prize "Gaudenzio Ferrari" at the XX International Competition of Contemporary Art of Santhià with a painting entitled "Isola". In 1984, the first monograph on the artist was published by Adriano Parise Edizioni. The presentation is entrusted to Mario Pistono, Maurizio Corgnati and Mariano Pieroni. Since 1985, artistic symposia have been organized at the Parise house aimed at the creation of graphic folders: there Cecconello is a regular guest and meets Daniel Spoerri, Hermann Nisch, Aldo Mondino, Sarenco, Eugenio Miccini, Hadorf, Günter, Costa, Margonari, Nagel and many others protagonists of international art.
In 1986, in the wake of the experience with the Tectores Errantes, he had yet another intuition and founded Bond'Arte. The dean of Biellese painters Celso Tempia spent his summers in his ancestral home in Bonda, a hamlet of Mezzana Mortigliengo, in the province of Biella, where Gastone bought a cottage for his holidays. The village was almost uninhabited and very neglected, but soon, in the wake of the enthusiasm of Cecconello and his friend Tempia, the other owners would also begin to show interest in the idea of reevaluating the locality. Within a short time Cecconello calls a group of painter friends to Bonda (including Luciano Pivotto, Giancarlo Cazzaniga, Antonio Carena, Simon Benetton, Carla Crosio, Albino Reggiori and many others), together they give life to a real museum of open-air modern art, with more than 150 frescoes and sculptures, but also a center of cultural ferment enlivened by poets, musicians and composers.
On 5 October 1987 he was awarded the "Città di Todi" prize by the citizen Artistic Center of cultural activity "Nuova Era".
In October 1988, again with the Parise editions, the second monograph was published, exclusively focused on the sculptural work.
In 1989, ten years after the first exhibition, Cecconello returned to exhibiting at the Auditorium of Santa Chiara in Vercelli, with an anthological review that traced the entire itinerary of his production.

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Thanks to the art critic Mario Pistono, in 1972 Cecconello met Adriano Parise, a typographer in Verona, who had come to Piedmont to visit the Santhià National Painting Exhibition - the most important at the time in the Region - and discover new artists. Pistono, a well-rounded man of culture and a profound connoisseur of local history and traditions, was the deux-ex-machina of the Santhià Prize; the friendship with Cecconello dated back to a few years earlier but already had the fraternal character that would always unite the two. Parise's plan was to publish commercial editorial compendiums containing reproductions of contemporary works of art. Cecconello was soon included in the collections, and this experience would have given rise to the huge collection of contemporary art in Parise, which includes many works by Cecconello. A few years later Parise founded his own publishing house, which Gastone has always relied on for his publications.

The works of these years bear the signs of a further development of his art: a powerful criticism of alienation and of the prevailing capitalism expressed starting from 1973 by the Businessmen series, influenced by the stylistic imprint of Francis Bacon.

His love for experimenting with materials leads to the discovery of Ytong, a special cement amalgam, which had been introduced to him by his artist friend Adriano Nosengo. With this light, ductile and very versatile material, Cecconello will create almost all of his works in the following years and will begin to develop his new series of "inboxing", also called "polymateric". Reusing wooden packaging from the food industry, Cecconello created a series of small cells in which he placed half-length figures modeled with Ytong. The parody of the human being, now limited in his freedom and condemned to be identified only through aseptic numerical series, emerges plastically from these serial figurations with an archaic and ritual flavor. The thought of being considered more as a number than as a man throws him into growing anguish that leads him to reflect on the change in society and how human beings have become nothing more than the fruit of an impersonal and standardized coding. Thus the "pigeonings" of the human figure are born, first closed like tabernacles and then opened like the sections of an archive. Between 1976 and 1977 he arrives at the distinctive feature of his work.

In the eighties he approached the fresco. This experience led to the birth of the group entitled "Consorteria dei figuranti", also known as the "Tectores Errantes", formalized by the Manifesto written by Mario Pistono and signed on 8 September 1984 by Gastone (who was also the coordinator of the group), Sergio Alice, Enzo Bellini, Alberto Cropelli, Annibale Follini, Giulio Picelli, Mariano Pieroni, Epifanio Pozzato, Vanni Saltarelli. The project was born following contacts made with Maurizio Corgnati, the television director who lived in Sweater, a small agricultural center in the province of Turin. Corgnati, who greatly appreciated the work of Cecconello, during one of the banquets in Sweater, half-jokingly stigmatized the anonymous monotony of his town. Cecconello, together with Mario Pistono, proposed to the director to intervene on the walls of the peasant houses with frescoes and on-site works. On 20 September 1983, the day of the patronal feast of Sweater, Reggiori, Trolese, Follini, Cropelli, Alice, Saltarelli, Pieroni, Picelli, Bellini and Carena, led by Cecconello, set to work to give life to what over the years later it will become the MACAM, Open-Air Museum of Contemporary Art in Sweater. The success would have been such that for many years many other artists would have created works and installations in the streets of the town.
Cecconello, together with the Consorteria dei Figuranti, continued to create frescoes throughout Piedmont: in 1983 for the municipality of Piane Sesia and at Villa del Bosco; the following year in Pratrivero and in the hamlet of Mazzucco in Trivero; in Santhià in Piazza del Comune in 1989, in Piazza dei Pittori in 1997, at the Bono furniture factory in 2006 and for the Church of S. Agata in 2002; in Chiaverano in 1989; in Acqui Terme in 1990; in Boccioleto in 1994; in Crescentino in 1989 in Caresanablot for the Martinotti Chapel in 1986; in Prarolo for the Trebbie estate in 1990; in Vigliano for the Gardiman factory first in 1989 and then in 2002; in Colognola ai Colli in the Parise house in 1982; in Salussola on the city gate and on the Gold and Stone Museum in 2005, at the Tura house in 2008, at the Kindergarten in 2008, for the Pro Loco banner in 2006, for the rearrangement of the fontanin in 2004; in Bioglio in 1997 and 2000 (where he coordinates the initiative and he himself depicts the encounter of Jesus with his mother); in Romano di Lombardia in 1997; in Muzzano with the Salesians in 2000; in Biella in via Don Minzoni on the facade of the Casa della Carità in 2003; in Vergnasco for the nursery school in 2005, in Sandigliano for the parish house in 2005; in Cerrione for the church of Magnonevolo in 2007; in Salasco for the L'Armistizio restaurant in 2006; in Masserano for the Ria house; in Cavaglia in 2008; in Casale Monferrato for the family home in 2010.

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In 1991 he moved to Salussola, in the province of Biella, in a new house with an adjoining studio and a large warehouse for his works: "I thought this studio would be enough for me until the end of my life, but today after twenty years it is almost unusable". It was an important moment, so much so that the “Moving” exhibition at the Il Quadro gallery in Biella was even dedicated to him (November 22 – December 31, 1991): “The aseptic order – writes Gilardino – which usually reigns in Gastone Cecconello's studio was upset, in recent weeks, by the preparations for the imminent move from Gaglianico to Salussola. Canvases and multi-material materials, released from the case that rigorously stores and protects them, seem to be in a state of war. This is how a gallery owner from Biella took them, who had been planning a personal exhibition of the artist for a long time”, recalls Gilardino in the invitation brochure.

The exhibition had at the center of the exhibition space an accumulation of packed canvases, packed paper and rolls ready to be loaded, while on the walls canvases dripping with material and color".
One of his personal exhibitions at the Palazzo della Regione in Turin also dates back to the 1990s. Numerous oil paintings are exhibited praising the rediscovery of the landscape, transfigured into magmatic high-paste compositions. On that occasion he met the philosopher and poet Guido Ceronetti, who complimented him on the gestures and generosity of his painting.
In 2000 he exhibited at the Man Arte Gallery in Paris where he presented his Untitled Stories: a cycle of works with figures in relief made with mixtures of sand, glue and powders and flat bottoms.
In 2002, at the 39th edition of the Santhià Prize, with the Neverending Story, he won the Giangiacomo Spadari National Prize”.
Four years later, he exhibited a selection of his most important cycles at the Maison de la Mer, in the French town of Cavalaire sur Mer, on the French Riviera.
A year later is another important personal exhibition of his in Gazoldo degli Ippoliti with multi-material works created between 1995 and 1997 and curated by his friend Angelo Gilardino who writes: "in the rigor of his representation, Cecconello multiplies the power of the sphinx insinuating the presence in every object, even the most banal and harmless, which sometimes finds a soul in a (previously unsuspected) "in itself", sometimes acquires it in the relationships established with other objects, equally (previously) insignificant ” .
In recent years, all of his work has focused on the pigeonholing of objects that he steals from reality to close them in boxes with a strong metaphysical flavor.

But, he does not forget painting, which now prefers large expanses of bright color, inhabited by those stylized figures, which he himself has always defined as the parody of man, but now reduced to pure outline. It was the era of the great hybridizations of everything that studded his creative making: figuration, conceptual art, ready-mades, multi-materials, divertissements and large paintings.

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