bottega Venanti
venanti wikipedia
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Biographical note

Venanti was born on the 6th November 1930, a Scorpion, sign of an indomitable yet changeable character, capable of getting others to interpret extravagance and rebellion as constancy and faithfulness. Venanti is a case in point, with his three life-long loves: painting, Perugia, and his house on the hill at Fontivegge. He never desired to leave the city, nor move from his house or his workshop, brim full of pop-art bought off scrap dealers as a vaguely metaphysical act of love. Objects from the past -a Liberty-style hat and an army helmet, a parrot's cage and a push-car, a bishop's stole and a pair of courtesan's knickers, a broken doll and a complete jigsaw puzzle -are alI indispensable in exorcising one's daily frustrations, they make him a radical when everyone else is a conservative, and a conservative when all the others become radicals.

It all started at nursery school. His father, who had been a high-class cobbler with a small shop, 4 metres by 4, in Via Bonazzi, used to send him to the park with a young shop assistant. It was here that the young Venanti started to draw using grass, sat on the park bench: he drew those imaginary things that made Picasso once say that childhood was a realm of innocence needed to regenerate art that, like life itself, had completed its cycle of evolution.

At the age of eight he discovered colours. At thirteen he realised that there had been a French Revolution. At fifteen he held his first exhibition in the shops along Corso Vannucci. I watched it, astonished. I didn 't know whether to be proud or ashamed, and just to be on the safe side I didn't own up to being the painter: It was as if I had put my innermost thoughts out for everyone to see, those prohibited thoughts, a little strange, little dirty perhaps, typical of that age of discovery and anxiety .At his father' s workshop everyone was talking about the exhibition. They knew lots of things: there were old socialists who knew all about fascism, anti-clerical radicals who knew everything there was to know about the Gospel. I used to listen to them talk, absorb what they had to say. They were my real schooling, and they also gave me my belief in the importance of rebellion. At that time, being fascist or anti-fascist meant having to pay a certain price. Civil war loomed upon the horizon. Freedom was a deathly word, and yet those were people who fought each other without hating. When I was with them, among them, I started to understand what social injustice really was. There was class conflict at the time. Differences were easy to spot at that time, unlike nowadays: you could tell from people's clothes, as they walked down the main street. There were the rich spinsters with their hats and their veils, the wife of the fascist party official walking towards the shop where she'd say to me: "Undo my shoes, boy", which I refused to do. Then there was the bishop in his purple gown, the war veteran on crutches, the beautif¨l Turkish belly dancer who caused us lads to run to the toilets to relieve ourselves while dreaming of her with her trousers down around the ankles. These are the faces that always come to mind, as clear as the light of day, from amid those obscure memories of an adolescence stolen from me by adults .

At middle school he hated geometrical drawing, he used to urinate into the turpentine the janitor brought in for the art teacher, an excellent water painter who had just one fault; that is, she expected her pupils to do geometrical drawings as well. He passed his middle school exams ("the pupil has exceptional artistic ability"), and was advised to continue his studies at Art School. Instead he went to Gymnasium and then to Secondary School, specialising in classical studies, and it was during this period of his life that Venanti struck up what he defines as being a "vitally important, decisive, unique" friendship with Adalberto Migliorati, "an artist and unique human being". Migliorati had a threesome of vices, however -wine, women and tobacco -with a particular fondness for women. Perhaps he loved women more than he loved painting, although he tended to acquire fame with his artwork, whereas he degraded himself in the company of women. Venanti was to learn a series of techniques for depicting female nudes from Migliorati, who had a number of extremely beautiful models, or so it seemed at the time.

Destroyed by alcohol and womanising, Migliorati's life went out like a candle. Venanti's reaction to this godless death was to re-consider the mysticism inherent in religious art, a violent, polemical form ( mysticism. So it was that he started to paint religious subjects: great crucifixions with peasants and workers at the foot of the cross. Our Lady of Mercy and Our Lady of Sorrows within a modern context Crosses that reminded him of war, his one great obsession.

I followed -Venanti continues -in the steps of the expressionist school; I finally managed to break with neo-classicism and with the splendid but stationary position I had inherited from Migliorati. I exhibited forty paintings of the Germans at Palazzo Cesaroni, and sold every single one of them. After which I cleared out my system by painting flowers. I always conceived of art in terms of a multitude of subjects: of course, each time you take a different direction, a different route: and even if you keep going along the same path there is nothing stopping you from slowing down every now and then to glance down the side lanes to see what there is. If you don 't do this, the risk is boredon even madness.

He was to discover the beautiful, the mysterious, the extravagant and even the painful side of women later on, and in particular during the fýve-year period of hell he went through between the end of his fýrst marriage and a second marriage. The observer can see this in ciphered, metaphysical, symbolic forms in his works from that period.

It's the same thing with politics -Venanti continues -I'm not particularly political myself, but more wild, animal-like. I fail to pre-meditate my actions: according to utilitarian, speculative principles, and yet l'm always talking, about politics. The one thing I really dislike is power: I am annoyed by those who get up on a chair to speak simply because they put themselves up on a pedestal. I have been friends with both followers of Che Guevara and schismatic priests. My time on the Bonazzi cultural circle, which folded in 1974, was an exciting one of protest and challenge. I don 't trust political faith, healers. Sometimes catch myself reminiscing about certain values and beliefs which at one time I thought had to be fought against and destroyed, but which on the contrary perhaps deserved to be preserved. At least those eternal values which protect our individuality, our need for civil liberties. The same thing with women. l've always been greatly attracted towards women, both when I spurned them, missed them and searched for them once again. I believe women to be the most pictorial, as well as picturesque, of creatures; they can transmit a taste for life and mystery to the artist.

Venanti: a poet, philosopher, art critic and teacher, capable of taking paper and canvas and delicately depicting his rebellious spirit, together with his love for the poor and disinherited of this world


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