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PAOLO SERRA (Italian) (born 1946)



Light and Space”

Egg Tempera on Gesso Panel

5 7/8” x 5 7/8” (150 x 150mm)

From the “Light & Space” series  1972. Bears original label                                                                   IMAGE                                                         





Paolo Serra was born in 1946 in Morciano di Romagna.  His father was a shoe designer.  In 1955 the family moved to England where they settled in Northampton and where they stayed for 27 years.  From a very early age he began to learn about Italian Art, particularly that of the Trecento and he was very interested in the Galleries and Museums.  An exhibition of work by Picasso at the Tate Gallery in 1960 and an exhibition of contemporary European art in Northampton in 1961 made a great impression on him.   In 1962 he had his first solo show at the Century Gallery in Northampton while he was just 15 years old which was a huge success and for which the Guardian newspaper wrote an extensive review.  He later won a number of Arts Council of Great Britain grants and they purchased one of his works.  After exhibiting in several group shows he decided to focus on materials such as Plexiglass producing assemblages and artefacts which he called “constructions”.  Towards the end of the 1960s he became interested again in the Old Master paintings and paid frequent visits to the National Gallery in London.  He then discovered Cennino Cennini’s fundamental treatise, Il libro dell’arte, the art of the Trecento and Quattrocoenta becoming a fixed point of reference for him.  He began to exhibit again in the early 1970s and had one-man shows throughout Europe including London, Amsterdam and Paris where he participated at the Salon Des Realites Nouvelles.  When he was 27 he exhibited a work entitled “Light and Shade” at the English Pavilion of the 12th Sao Paulo Biennial in Brazil.  During this time he was painting mainly in egg tempera producing works with a spatial and perspectival organization of Renaissance derivation which, together with the Nordic abstraction of Mondrian and Malevich, became attuned to the minimalist North American artists who were principally concerned with surface values.  From 1975 to the early 1980s he had a number of solo shows in England and Holland.  In 1976 he produced a 24 square metre fresco for the chapel at All Saints Middle School in Northampton.  Also in 1976 the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam purchased one of his works after he had taken part in a group show they had organized.  Numerous other museums, institutions and foundations also purchased his work including the Nuffield Foundation; the Milton Keynes Development Corporation, the East Midlands Arts Association, the Rembrandt Society, the National Bank of the Netherlands, the Amro Bank in Holland, the National Versicherungen and UBS in Switzerland, the French-German Banquiers Dreyfus & Cie, Sammlung Biedermann and the Museum der Stadt Waiblingen in Germany.  In 1982 he returned to Italy where he settled in the hills near Rimini.  Once back in Italy he then moved in a radical new direction, towards an “essentialism” that aimed to “do away with any spurious accident that might upset the clear-cut geometric tension of forms and their super-smooth surfaces”.  This work attracted the attention of Italian critics and galleries and a number of major European galleries.  He continually received invitations to exhibit at prestigious European art fairs such as the FIAC in Paris, Art Cologne and Arte Basel.  He was invited to the Anni 90 Exhibition in Bologna by Renato  Barilli who later introduced him in the catalogue for a one-man show at the Galerie Pudelko in Bonn.  A show of Serra’s work at the Galerie Triebold in Basel was curated by Francis Naumann in 1994.  He has also had a number of solo shows at galleries in Sweden and Germany.  In October 2007 Ronchini Arte Contemporenea, in collaboration with the Town of Narni and under the patronage of the Province of Terni, presented Paolo Sierra’s personal exhibition  which was held in the Albornoz Fortress in Narni. During the exhibition, an event was organized to present the book “Paolo Serra Opere 1961 – 2007”, published by Gli Ori - Editori Contemporanei, with texts from the art critics Kenneth Baker, Achille Bonito Oliva, Francis Neumann and Alexandra Henze Triebold, which covered the entire works of the artist from the very first to the very last. The publication is illustrated by a large number of photographs of his works and of the art galleries that hosted the artist's many exhibitions. Achille Bonito Oliva, in one of his texts, writes – “in Paolo Serra's work we see a stratification formed by the moral figures of Mondrian, Malevic, Albers, Reinhardt, Newman and Rothko being the ancestors who monitor the evolution of abstract language right through to the beginning of the 21st Century. In his iconography he welcomes the atmosphere of Zen philosophy that can reconcile project and causality, geometry and indetermination, shape and matter.”