Francesco Siclari, Canal Grande – Venezia. Courtesy of the artist.
When we think about the modern landscape we envision cities, suburban towns and natural settings all mixing into one. It’s hard to imagine this not being the case. Just some 150 years ago as the Industrial Revolution altered the traditions of rural life; the old hierarchy of subjects for painting crumbled. Before, painters were typically restricted to didactic painting – heroic, mythological and religious scenes. There was occasional room for domestic scenes, vanity paintings, and still life’s, yet these were considered lesser arts. Soon all of this would change. By the mid 1800’s throughout Europe and North America landscape painting, plein air painting and personal imagery gained a new supremacy. Barbizon painters such as Théodore Rousseau and Charles Daubigny became less concerned with idealized, classical landscapes and focused more on painting out-of-doors directly from nature. Scenes of everyday life, scenes of emotional expression and interiors suddenly became important. By the late 19th century the birth of photography and abstraction would alter the way painters paint forever.
Over the course of the 19th century there were remarkable change in attitudes discoverable in all the arts, especially literature, painting and architecture. It culminated in Romanticism. Combining historical painting traditions with this new attitude, the movement validated strong emotion as an authentic source of aesthetic experience, placing new emphasis on such emotions as excitement, horror and terror, and awe. The artist Francesco Siclari continues these traditions—plein air painting, still life and the nude—creating motifs of powerful sentiment using bold imagery in a unique, original style.
Francesco Siclari, La Poesia del Silenzio. Courtesy of the artist.
Siclari’s technique is ingenious. He takes everyday subjects and transforms them into thin glazes of translucent, shimmering color to evoke moments of sublimity. Siclari has been painting and exhibiting internationally since the 1960s. His work covers a vast range to include—figures, flowers, landscapes, cities, nudes, boats, portraits and even small-scale sculpture. Many of his works beg the viewer to re-envision the world as though never seen before. His work Positano is a tour de force. Positano is a village and commune on the Amalfi Coast in Campania, Italy. The main part of the city sits in an enclave in the hills leading down to the coast. Here Siclari manages to move the viewer deeper into the city, almost telescoping, using soft blues, creamy tans and olive green. There is a misty, atmospheric quality present in this work that is intriguing.
Siclari also captures works of quiet mystery. His piece Quiete ai Murazzi depicts a docked canoe on a bed of grass overlooking a lake. Using soft blues, dark forest greens and deep browns this work is a meditation on nature. In kind, works like La poesia del silenzio are otherworldly, mystifying and peaceful as he introduces a boat brushed on a quiet shore setting in the middle of the late afternoon. The piece, like the title, is silent.
Other works by Siclari are masterful in their use of perspective. Canal Grande -Venezia takes the view of a Gondolier about to set sail. From his view, we see the deep, murky blue waters in front, and the cities’ horizon line in the distance. Siclari often paints in thin veils of glazed oil paint to create lighting techniques that are mesmerizing. Here he employs a geometric border that lightens as it moves toward the center, allowing for a contemplative moment of extraordinary emotional import.
Francesco Siclari, Nudo Nel Blu. Courtesy of the artist.
An older work in Siclari’s repertoire entitled Nudo Nel Blu pictures a woman, sprawled on the bed, grasping pillows to screen her body. The setting is a bluish-pink background hatched in geometric patterns. The subject’s eyes peer longingly away from the viewer at the floor. Her gaze only meets the ground. It is a melancholic depiction, full of pathos and loss. In an effort to know more about his work, I recently interviewed Francesco.
Jill Smith: How do you see your paintings? Are they a reflection of your life?
Francesco Siclari: Since I have always tried to be myself, experiencing emotions intensely, trying to bring them on the canvas, I think my paintings are a reflection of my soul.
JS: What is the message you want your work to convey?
FS: The primary emotion I try to convey in a work, in front of the canvas, in the studio or “en plein air” is the same emotion I feel upon an imminent meeting with a beloved woman. I try to get deep inside the painting to encapsulate that emotion I felt when contemplating a landscape, to filter the light on a still life, in capturing the intensity of a glimpse of a woman’s face. I tell myself that I succeeded if a completed work, manages to convey to the viewer the same emotions I felt when executing it.
JS: What upcoming projects, artwork and exhibits can we look for in the future?
FS: I will be in Las Vegas in May for the presentation of the seventh volume of the “International Contemporary Art Masters” where I am featured on two pages. I will also have a work exhibited at the museum. I will also be giving talks for two solo exhibitions in Rome and Berlin.