I believe that job had a particular impact on his development as a painter. It is impossible not to notice the precision and purity of line and color in his paintings from the second half of the 1960s. The draughtsmanship required in his work as a map designer led him subconsciously to the hyperrealist “chiarista” — or luminous — phase that characterized his latter period. The most surprising thing about my father is the fact that he adhered to academic principles from the very beginning but always tried to develop artistic expression, despite his background as a factory worker, then office employee. He was truly self-taught.
His first important exhibitions date to collective shows in 1964, when he contributed figurative oil paintings. The turning point in his artistic search came in 1968 with his first solo show, at the Semaforo Gallery in Florence, a well-known venue for new talents. Here, Gino Conti entered a phase characterized by geometric representation of reality and a particular use of the chromatic scale, a simple, elemental style in which one can see his preference for a wide range of pastel colors. His debut won the support of art critics, which allowed him to exhibit his work in many Italian cities in the following years.
Another very important year was 1973, when Gino was invited to exhibit his paintings at the Polytechnic of Central London. Here the artist broke away completely from his figurative vision and began a new journey in more abstract themes about the relationship of time and space and experimenting with the use of new materials. In the years following this exhibition, my father increasingly devoted himself to this abstract vein, as well as proving his artistic skills in sculpture – working with marble and pietra serena, a gray sandstone often used in Renaissance Florence architecture – and in designing and fabricating unique pieces of jewelry. Gino continued to exhibit his paintings in numerous shows at home and abroad, including his first appearance at Galerie La Serrure in Paris, which would become his permanent home for new exhibitions in France.
The year 1979 represents the culmination of my father’s art: he abandoned the abstract themes and different materials and returned permanently to figurative painting, now displaying his new Chiarista hyperrealist style. Because of a strong allergy to the solvents used in the preparation of oil colors that he developed in later years, Gino began to re-create the same colors and warmth of his first artistic period with acrylic paints. He reproduced the constant presence of light in his paintings through a meticulous use of glazes, a result normally difficult to achieve with acrylic painting techniques. It was a new way of painting, in which Tuscan landscapes predominated and were represented through rarefied images – objects fading in a light dominated by silence and evanescence.
Today, Gino’s works can be found in museums, private collections and public institutions in Italy, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Saudi Arabia and the United States. My father received prizes, reviews from important publications and attention from major broadcasters like the RAI of Italy, the BBC and others.
Such is the artistic curriculum vitae of my father.
An uncomplicated autodidact who produced much of his artistic output in a small but wonderful rooftop studio in Florence’s Piazzo Duomo, where in the breezy and clear days of May it seemed like Giotto’s bell tower might fall on your head.
He was a true Florentine, a man in love with his city whose life was never easy life but who had as an anchor my mother, who helped him carve out an artistic space. Unfortunately, Maria Vittoria suffered a stroke at an early age, an event that permanently changed the life of my family and, in particular, my father’s as an artist. Indeed, the last twelve years of his life were deeply marked by this tragedy and one can see an enervated quality in his last period.
My father died on May 3,1996, at 67. He left me with a legacy of paintings made of light and silence, through which I can relive our life together so vividly that today I can still smell the scent of the studio of those years gone by.
Daniel J.Wakin e Duccio Conti