Paolo Gubinelli was born in 1945 in Matelica, a fascinating town in the province of Macerata rich in religious architecture. His ethical and moral growth took place within the ancient walls of the churches of the town, whereas his artistic education was within the Art School of Macerata, his love of paper came from the many manufacturers present in the area, and his passion for music blossomed in the community theatre "Giuseppe Piermarini". These four elements formed, and still form today, the foundations of the man-artist Gubinelli.
After graduating in painting from the Art School, Paolo continued his studies in Milan, Rome and Florence (this ultimate where he lives to this day) in the fields of architecture, design and graphics.
In the late 1960s he began to attract the attention of art critics – his investigation of spatial concepts, structure and light belong firmly in the European abstract geometric model of Lucio Fontana, Piero Dorazio and Enrico Castellani, whom Gubinelli considers his role models.
In 1977 Lara Vinca Masini perceived in Paolo's work and his space-light-colour relationships a luminous dynamic of the atmosphere and a tendency towards the "iridescent compenetrations" of Giacomo Balla, while Bruno Corà saw, in the development of cuts in paper card, an "opposing, parallel, transverse dynamic, the achievement of those forms that seem to borrow from the Doric archaism of the motile foundation their intimate raison d'être, their civil, primary interaction, for an image that flaunts only its constructive principles".
Very soon the artist participated in a number of personal and collective exhibitions, in Italy and abroad. His initial works were realised on canvas or with non-traditional materials or methods of execution, but he later developed a fascination for "paper", feeling it to be a more congenial means of artistic expression.
In an auroral phase he works on white card, soft to the touch, with a peculiar receptivity to light, slicing it with a blade, according to geometric structures. Successively he substitutes transparent paper for white card, always incised and folded, in rolls that unfurl like Egyptian papyri on which the very slight incisions at the limits of perception become the signs of a non-verbal poem, or in sheets, which are arranged in articulated progression.
The Circles engraved and coloured on paper by Gubinelli derive from his studies of classical and Renaissance architecture which considers this a perfect and harmonic form because it has no beginning and no end, homogeneous, devoid of divisions and angles, but also coming from its profound spirituality that in the symbolism of the circle depicts the infinite and universal cyclic Time, the fundamental cycle for life on earth, the world distinct from its beginning to its epilogue, comparing the circle and its ever-present Centre to the relationship between God and Creation. Alternatively, in the cosmological meaning the circle is a symbol of Divinity and in the astrological sense the Sun is represented by the circle.
In his recent production, again on transparent paper, our maestro from the Marches abandons the geometric sign from its constructive rigour to create a more self-sufficient expression that translates, through the use of delicately perceptible engravings and pastel colours, the unexpected and unimaginable motion of consciousness into an elegiac and lyrical interpretation. Today the aforementioned language is enriched on the paper with tones and watercolour gestures acquiring a more intimate density of meanings with engraved and embossed signs in a sublime and enchanted space.
Paolo Gubinelli's career is broad and complex but all founded on a consistent fidelity to a few decisive principles that sustained his initial development and are still the foundation of his aesthetic creed.
An artist of profound morality and passionate commitment, Gubinelli, in interacting with paper, seeks answers to the deepest meanings of existence, giving back to the sign and to the colour the possibility of talking about interior universes, in silent and profound listening to the places of memory that resurface suddenly in the alienating confusion of a contemporaneity that creates separation.
The maestro is not a painter who can be locked into a defining formula such as to frame him in a definite artistic wave, his lyricism, underlined many times by respected critics, is strongly tinged with "cultured painting" and "conceptualism", within the research of great communicative power capable of recovering that belonging to the circularity of a timeless time where one can reveal oneself.
To talk about my papers is to claim an emotional-intellectual detachment and a transfer from a language that is more my own (that of the works) to another more extraneous, the verbal one, always with the anxiety and discomfort of distorting the contents and the reasons for my work.
In his various Graffi, made with powder colours on paper, the concept of "structure-space-light" is articulated in the context of an in-depth inspection, in which Paolo tends to increasingly reduce the means and modes of operation in a severe meditation, becoming an opportunity to retrace the miscellany of emotions between the restlessness and harmony of a changing life where shadows alternate with light and night is replaced by day.
Gubinelli's pictorial experience was soon enriched with poetic and literary aspects, creating a profound synergy between "Art and Words", becoming a guiding element in his work. By way of examples, in 2000 the municipality of Recanati staged an exhibition curated by the art critic Marcello Venturoli at the Palazzo Comunale and at the National Centre for Leopardian Studies, with an introduction to the work of the poet Mario Luzi; in 2003 the National Central Library of Florence organized a permanent exhibition of donated works accompanied by unpublished poems of Mario Luzi with a presentation by the critic Claudio Cerritelli; also in 2003 the city of Ascoli Piceno organized an exhibition at the Palazzo dei Capitani presented by the critic Bruno Corà accompanied by unpublished poems by 18 of the greatest poets in Italy. In 2004 the Municipality of San Benedetto del Tronto organized an exhibition presented by the critic Toni Toniato accompanied by 10 unpublished poems by Maria Luisa Spaziani. On the occasion of the International Poetry Festival Gubinelli was invited by the Municipality of Genoa to the Art and Poetry exhibition presenting pictorial works accompanied by unpublished poems by well-known poets, presented by Bruno Corà, at the Palazzo Ducale. In his latest exhibitions, organized by qualified public bodies, he exhibits works accompanied by poems by the most significant Italian poets.
Through his love of poetry and literature, on some occasions the maestro has favoured the display of his paintings in Libraries, places where silence reigns: "A library is first of all a meditative space, there is the scent of poetry, of literature, it is like going to pray in a church. We pray by reading what we have before our eyes". Art meets Poetry was, for example, an exhibition created by "Friends of Poets" at the University Library of Bologna in 2012, while in the Classense Library of Ravenna our "Poet of Painting", in his journey of artistic experimentation with and on paper, in proposing lyrical watercolours of intense and at the same time delicate emotive suggestion, combines his work with the verses of Dante Alighieri in the "September" dedicated to the supreme poet.
It is impossible to list here all the exhibitions by Gubinelli, but we should note those at the Palazzo dei Diamanti in Ferrara, curated by Bruno Munari and Lara Vinca Masini (1987); at the Palazzo dei Consoli in Gubbio, curated by Enrico Crispolti (1989); at the Palazzo dei Priori in Perugia, curated by Vanni Bramati (1990); at the Palazzo Ducale in Camerino, curated by Giulio Carlo Argan and Marcello Venturoli (1990); and in the Loggia of the Palazzo Pretorio di Volterra, curated by Paolo Fossati (1992). Furthermore in 2004 the municipality of Florence, with the collaboration of the municipality of Scandicci and of the Vallecchi Publishing House, organized three exhibitions, one of which was in the Limonaia di Villa Strozzi; in 2011 he participated in the 54th Venice Biennale in the Italian Pavilion at the Arsenale with an installation of 28 cards 102 cm x 72 cm accompanied by an unpublished manuscript by Tonino Guerra.
However, it is churches and sacred spaces that Gubinelli favours above all for exhibiting his works. Already in 1992 the municipality of Civitanova Alta Marche organized an exhibition in the Church of Sant'Agostino presented by the critic Carlo Belloli, but it is in two recent exhibitions staged in the summer of 2020, at the Camaldoli Monastery and at the Monastery of Fonte Avellana where the maestro's works reach the apex of the dreamlike and intimate vision, the widest possible artistic rendering. In the critical text in the catalogue Antonio Paolucci speaks of Gubinelli's art, referring to the concept of enigma with which we try to investigate reality, taking the example of Saint Paul who said "Nunc videmus per speculum et in aenigmate ... For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known". (Paul of Tarsus, 1 Corinthians 13:12).
Within monasteries and churches, Gubinelli's works find ideal environments for display, the relationship between religious architecture and paintings is spontaneous, both can be defined as ecclesiastical cultural objects, both address eternity. The religious and mystical atmospheres are capable of capturing a metaphysical vision that becomes the vehicle of a constantly evolving path that proceeds beyond the threshold of the visible, carrying the signs of the maestro toward the divine and the transcendent. The simplicity and the essentiality that the artist expresses through his choice of "primitive" materials that encapsulate the history of man and that colours cross with delicacy, only by contrast with the pure white of the paper, a natural element that comes from a meeting shaped by cellulose and water, and welcomes the signs at the respectful hand of Paolo Gubinelli who photographs sensations, emotions and reflections of life that tend towards the search for beauty and for the gift received that is rooted in the Truth, that same truth that carries man inside wonder, inside dreams, inside the world of ideas, that everywhere, and in all times, lead towards Eternity.
(Translated from Italian by Derek Barnes)