Sardella’s Biography

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Gennaro Sardella

Italian artist Gennaro Sardella’s paintings merge philosophy with humanity, as exemplified in “Un animale con gli occhiali ma senza coda” (“An animal with glasses but without tail.”)

The painter and sculptor was born in the shadow of the historic Quartieri Spagnoli (Spanich Quarters) of Naples, Italy, still bearing the ravages of the Second World War. His works swirl with a vast array of symbols, allusions, metaphors that hold the clues to what lies behind the work.

His pictorial ideology calls to mind Pascal’s famous assertion “Man is obviously made to think…his whole duty is to thinkas he ought.” One might find it difficult to associate this concept with a painter but, on the other hand, it becomes completely appropriate and relevant when applied to the works of Sardella. Going beyond hints of color and symbols that from time to time give life to his subjects assuming a role altogether extraneous to their original idea, in the case of Sardella his characters either get lost inside the work itself or inevitably remain on the periphery. Departing from “Mamozio,” (thus titled due to the plurality of roles he covers), one discovers the eternal protester/critic who, in spite of his systematic attacks against society, is forced to dwell within it, continuing to be ignored, betrayed, and exposed to all sorts of violence and theft, even to the detriment of his honest work.
To obtain power, Mamozio changes his gender and face – the only constant is his nose, which Sardella borrows from Pinocchio, symbol of the lie consummately elevated by the System- and easily dons the clothes of one who is willing to be subservient to the strongest. The power he pursues lives and expresses itself through arrogance, privilege and abuse.
One might say that these ideas belong in a sociologist’s toolbox rather than in the hands of an artist. But the inevitable procession of images in which Sardella’s invective lives (aubergines, fish,tongues, spectacles, female breasts that become three and an intricate geometry of wires) brings us back not only to the realm of art, but to a more imaginative and creative means of expression.
Pausing to consider the wires constantly present in the work of Sardella, one senses a perennial and invisible connection to a faith, a hope that remains unconsciously tangled in the “plots” of a society that manipulates everything to the point of nullifying the mind.
These wires bind tightly to a daily life made up of transformations, clonings, problems, ingested and digested like pills, and oppressors who are also themselves victims of a sicksystem.
It is precisely in this transference from idea to image that Sardella’s painting becomes a story, a fairy tale, a myth. And at the story’s end, the initial charge of rebellion becomes diluted, compressed, and ultimately dissolved in the disturbing game of figures, colors, masks.
Mamozio seems to almost keep his disdain in check, a victim resigned to live in a world that no one wants to change.
As we trace the evolution of Sardella and his pictorial journey, we discover a new phase of exploration in drawing and watercolors. Immediately evident in these works is the artist’s idea of daily life in relation to the symbol-figures of his painting. Hence the presence of the protesting character, rendered indignant by shifting alliances and opportunism that spreads from politics to relationships and interactions between all human beings. There are no models, references, anchors that would allow one to not to lose his way.
And so with “Datemi il mio tozzo di pane” (“Give me my piece of bread”) Sardella begins his second pictorial phase. Once again, loyalty to content is out of the question and the means of expression has changed quite significantly with the use of mixed media (oils, acrylics, use of silver and gold flakes, wire, and glazes) that lends itself to a more refined and more incisive subject matter.
The rejection of social ills has become radicalized to the point of now being a constant. One might say that without this subject matter, the painting itself would have difficulty surviving.
And yet, even when the narrative becomes painful and disdainful, the painting retains its magic and charm.  Content never overpowers image, which seems impervious to every pushand every protest. Yet again, the artist’s message is there to be discovered, beyondthe canvas.
The overwhelming power of technology that now scans and dominates every action of man informs the works of Sardella, who has lived and worked for years surrounded by nature on the cliffs of the Sorrentine peninsula.
The artist explores the illusion of eternal youth, the yearning to be appealing thanks to cosmetic surgery or better, thanks to the work of surgeons intent on making everyone the same in a sort of general homogenization, consequently making it increasingly difficult be yourself.
Sardella has created a wealth of images, drawn from his stories that lie somewhere between fairytale and reality. Some are recurrent (and provide a key to understanding the artist’s message), others are born out of the works themselves and are destined to not have an afterlife.
With Gennaro Sardella to survive means to no longer live in world of pasty, soft colors, governed in various tones, but rather to employ an opposing, aggressive, strong palette. In many respects this choice can be traced back to Sardella’s beginnings and his long figurative development, influenced by his association with the master Roberto Carignani and to his consequent mastery of convincing and vivid color With his work entitled “Miamammadiceva sempre disì”(“My Mother Alway s Said Yes”), rife with symbols and vivid colors, two puppets are manipulated by a series of wires. Here, Sardella clearly references modern man, more and more a puppet manipulated by the puppeteer on duty.
Similarly,“E’ arrivato l’idiota”(“The idiot has arrived”) moves along the same lines, presenting a character dressed in a mask that combines the images of Harlequin and Pinocchio. In place of the long nose of the latter, a colorful tongue emerges from his mouth like a serpent. His ear is an aubergine (a recurring symbol that the painter considers as a matrix of humanity), and in order to impress others, he wears a fish in glasses on his hat.
It is a surreal construct that is nevertheless based in our present-day reality. There is no shortage of allusions that draw contrasts between what is and what appears to be so, between what we are and the many masks we don each day as needed to present ourselves to others.
In recent years, Sardella has leaned towards a third artistic dimension. That is, he has surrendered to the temptation of becoming a sculptor and thus drawing upon his studies at the Institute of Giovanni Caselli, School of Ceramics of Capodimonte (Naples).  Holding clay in his hands, Sardella became excited, joyous at the material’s potential to assume any form.
Here, Sardella’s recurrent symbolic characters go up against three symbols of power: the Church, the judiciary system and the people.  All three are depicted through false and ambiguous images.
Recently, Gennaro Sardella has been a bit less conflicted and more relaxed place in his work, and the viewer finds himself in facing a sort of pause in the leitmotif in the artist’s explorations. But given the strong creative impulses and the restlessness of the artist, he will surely continue on through this phase to new discoveries. as child continued through his work and led him to his new breakthrough works in wood and metal “Io sono riciclabile” (I am recyclable”) e“Pollice destro” (“Right Thumb”) set in an uncontaminated world of colors, poetry and themes, all to be molded.
Instead of subjecting himself to a succession of important art expositions (that would be listed in chronological order), Gennaro Sardella’s preferred to let his works stand as his sole testimony, choosing to live and work in a studio invaded by light and sea, on the inspirational coast of Sorrento.
The proof is found in the title “Se mi dai una mano, faccio il caffè”(“If you give me a hand, I’ll make the coffee “). Here, it is evident that the painter creates a less aggressive and turbulent space without betraying his own world made up of protests and hopes.
Another topos that allows him to express additional themes and ideas.
Sardella is unceasing in his explorations and entered into a phase of “Artistic Jewelry”, creating a series of gold and silver pieces: Rings, necklaces, bracelets, pendants, a wide range of accessories to complement a woman’s elegance.
This might seem to be an area of exploration foreign to Sardella, and at first glance incompatible with previous explorations, but here again, Sardella returns to his past protests and denunciations, albeit in miniature; an enterprise far from easy, considering the size of each piece compared to the vastness of subject matter.
In these works, we find all the requisite and fascinating perfection, all the symbols that have populated Sardella’s thematic explorations, from painting to sculpture, to the realization of new mixed media works in wood, metal and paint.
Today, Sardella is present in museums, in the most important international exhibitions, found in famous private collections.  And yet, he is an artist who continues to struggle with himself and with others. He is a visionary, who finds himself every day discovering a world that is different from the one he desires. And he suffers because of this. He gets furious. He reacts, as an artist can, by offering his creations titles that become hymns to lyricism and theatricality, perpetually with the hope that sooner or later something will change.
Carrying memories of his youth in the Spanish Quarter of Naples, a Naples teeming with artisans, artists and people who greatly suffered yet hid their tears behind laughter and songs. The city was poor, but the vibrant environment was nevertheless filled with a dignity and a strong desire to live, to survive.
Sardella packs this essence of life into his works. An existence that he experienced as child and continues in his work and has ultimately led him to his new breakthrough pieces in wood and metal “Io sono riciclabile” (I am recyclable”) e“Pollice destro” (“Right Thumb”) that are set in an uncontaminated world of colors, poetry and themes, all to be molded.
Instead of subjecting himself to a succession of important art expositions (that would be listed in chronological order), Gennaro Sardella’s preferred to let his works stand as his sole testimony, choosing to live and work in a studio invaded by light and sea, on the inspirational coast of Sorrento.