Giovanni Guida, the young Italian painter who brings art into dialogue with faith

Giovanni Guida, the young Italian painter who brings art into dialogue with faith

At 32, the painter Giovanni Guida is pursuing a quest that is both artistic and spiritual.

“I believe that art allows you to sublimate and elevate your spirituality,” says Giovanni Guida. The Italian artist who has painted since his childhood is today recognized for his paintings using the pictorial technique of scratching and his references to Christian iconography. A source of inspiration towards which he moved spontaneously. “I grew up in a Christian family and served as an altar boy,” he explains. At 32, Giovanni Guida readily admits to being passionate about hagiography, the study of the lives of saints. He is also an expert on the cult of Saint Caesarius of Terracina. In 2016, he gave a performance of this African priest and deacon. His work Caesarius Diaconus is exhibited in museums, cathedrals and basilicas around the world, including Essen Cathedral in Germany, Glastonbury Abbey in England… and the Terra Sancta Museum in Jerusalem.

Giovanni Guida nourishes his reflection on art by reading the texts of Christian thinkers such as Augustine of Hippo, Thomas Aquinas and Bernard of Clairvaux. According to him, painting goes beyond simple visual expression, it is the means of probing the mystery of creation. “Religious teachings guide me in my quest for dialogue with the Absolute.” Each brushstroke is an attempt to give form to the invisible.

Yves Klein and Max Ersnt, two sources of inspiration

When it comes to working on the hard stuff of painting, he summons two masters: the American surrealist painter Max Ernst and the French new realism artist Yves Klein. He borrows his scraping technique from the first. This gesture, which generates an imprint in the layer of paint, has a central place in the work of Giovanni Guida. In his oil on canvas Apotheosis, the artist comes to streak the still fresh paint to reveal the lower layer. This allows him to make figurative landscapes appear as abstract forms. “I need to go into the depth of the image created” reveals Giovanni Guida. “The layers of colors juxtaposed throughout the painting process resurface, the gesture is similar to that of restoration, as if I were restoring them to their former splendor” he continues.

At Yves Klein, it is also color that fascinates him, in particular his use of blue, known as Klein Blue. Giovanni Guida has also found his signature by using a very light shade of blue in his paintings, obtained from the natural stone of lapis lazuli. “This dazzling blue carries a divine force that transcends the human,” explains the painter. The artist is not the first to use lapis lazuli; this noble pigment was used by Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

The discovery of the works of Max Ernst and Yves Klein played a major role in the development of Giovanni Guida's artistic identity. One piece in particular had a profound impact on his mind: the ex-voto dedicated to Saint Rita by Yves Klein. “This work made me realize the power of faith in artistic creation,” he shares, referring to this small box containing a prayer to the patron saint of desperate causes.

Another work shocked him earlier, during his adolescence. In college, during a visit to the National Museum of Capodimonte in Naples, he was captivated by The Crucifixion by Masaccio, an Italian Renaissance painter. “My drawing teacher urged me to kneel down to contemplate the painting from the point of view of the figure of Christ, who has his head completely buried in his shoulders, as if abandoned to death,” he recalls. This founding moment made the young boy aware of the incorruptibility of art. Accompanied by this certainty, Giovanni Guida entered the public art high school of Aversa in the province of Caserta in 2006 before joining the Academy of Fine Arts of Naples in 2011. There he discovered the technique of scratching. Graduated with honors in 2018, he is writing a thesis on his icon Césaire de Terracina.

Today, he passes on his know-how by teaching painting at the Don Jean Bosco high school in Rome, alternating between his classes in the eternal city and his personal workshop in Cesa. This village, nestled in the heart of the wine-growing region of Campania, offers a striking spectacle where vines and century-old poplars coexist. In this context, far from the “contemporary art system” which he considers too stereotypical, Giovanni Guida takes the time to meditate on his works.

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