Gianmaria Potenza was born on 9th December 1936 and enrolled at the Art Institute in Venice, but like Leonardo da Vinci, nature was his first teacher and greatest source of inspiration. Ever since he was a child, he has always looked at nature in the animal and vegetable sense to then reinterpret it in his compositions.
He reproduced apples, flowers, animals and nature as a whole in order to return it to that primordial world in which the sign, the meaning and the signifier have not yet matured and are therefore still abstract, just as his works are. While still a student, he opened a studio where he still practices various forms of art: from sculpture to engraving, to mosaics. He offered himself to the public for the first time in 1952 in a collective exhibition at Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa in Venice and then, in 1958, gave birth to his first personal exhibition.
We can easily say that he is a regular at the Venice Art Bienniale; we have lost count of the number of his participations, but the 1986 exhibition will remain memorable in the annals when, with a floating sculpture, “Ninfea Armonica”, Harmonic Waterlily, he sowed the seeds of his art by giving himself to the world. With an enormous flower measuring 7 metres in diameter, it radiated 360 degrees to lovers of the art of painting, sculpture, stage design and sound.
A baptism rather than a debut, a plunge into the sea of figurative arts where forms are produced by instinct but placed in space by architectural, rational and scientific powers. The search for three-dimensionality and spatiality has been present since the beginning of his career; the 1980s was his period of bronze and of the expressive and unmistakable picto-sculptures. Another trademark that makes him unique and “revolutionary” is his mosaic technique, in which Potenza conceives an arrangement of the tesserae that is no longer flat but cut. The mosaic leaves its pictorial two-dimensionality to evolve into sculpture. Instinct and reason allow themselves to be guided by the spirit and research that find consensus in the increasing number of requests from Italy and abroad. Mystical works that explore the sacredness of places, traditions and religions.
A spiritual art, in fact, that in almost six decades has found strong appreciation from religious institutions. In particular, in 1967 Pope Paul VI commissioned him to make a series of sacred vestments and he still receives commissions to make the sacred furnishings of numerous churches. He is a protagonist in Istanbul, where, forcing the constraint of time, Potenza becomes a cultural link between the sacred empires of East and West, between Rome and Constantinople, Venice and Byzantium.
The world recognises him, and his works travel to Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates, the United States, Lithuania and Russia. But he did not only conquer the mainland: in the 1990s and 2000s, he also sailed the seas and oceans for major clients such as Holland American Line, Carnival Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Costa Crociere and P&O.
Art is a need, and Gianmaria Potenza’s need is to capture the essence of nature in order to possess it, transform it and, in turn, merge with it.
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Article edit by Prof. Luca Caricato
Leonardo Da Vinci Scholar
Art Historian – Art Expert