A special thank you to Chris of New York who has just introduced me to Mario Previ, Italian artist.  Mario is from Borgo Val di Taro, in the Taro Valley, in the Province of Parma, Italy.  

A little  geography and history first. The Pilgrim's route from Canterbury to Rome goes through the Taro Valley on the Via Francigena. *Borgo Val di Taro, commonly called Borgotaro, is considered the capital of the Alta Val Taro in the Apennines, located about 60km from the city of Parma.

And it was in the Taro River that Mario Previ's life changed forever following a horrendous accident when he was 18 years old. As a result of the accident he lost the use of his legs and severely restricted the use of his hands.

Inspiration to be an artist came in 1974 when Mario saw the works of the Croatian naive painter *Milo Kovacic. Kovacic was on Italian TV visiting one of his shows in Bedonia. As Mario said:  

I fell in love with their expressiveness, their strength. I started immediately, with so much passion: first with the incisions, then, for too much fatigue, with the painting on glass, on the reverse, engraving left me without strength, completely, painting, even if it leads me to situations of extreme suffering, where sometimes I feel like quitting, I can still do it. The last picture, in order of time, the Via Crucis, has required 800 hours of work, in 18 months.  (Ref:http://parma.repubblica.it/cronaca/2015/09/24/foto/marioprevimagiadellapittura-123553749/1/)

I think the incisions he is referring to would be something like what are called Incised Painting which is a technique used to decorate stone surfaces. A channel is scratched into the material which is usually stone. A thick paint or stucco plaster is laid across the surface. And then the paint is scraped off the surface leaving paint in the incision. This technique was used in decorating The Taj Mahal in India. Maybe Mario was doing this on glass but I’m not sure.

The images I have found of Mario Previ’s paintings would all appear to have been done on glass following the techniques of Reverse glass painting employed by the Croatian Naive Artists. Layers and layers of oil paint are applied to the back of the painting to achieve the end result. And of course you have to execute the image in reverse starting with your signature!

Croatian Naïve Art is known the world over for its intense colors, interesting subject matter and for the fact that it is painted on the back side of a normal pane of glass and viewed through the front! It is often produced by self taught farmer artists, although today there are others painting in a, perhaps, more sophisticated style. Originally this began as a form of “protest” art as the artists were painting scenes showing the repressive government under which they lived. The subject matter has evolved to include almost anything, yet often revolves around everyday life on the farm. (http://www.croatiannaiveart.com/about/the-art)

I’m sure you are waiting expectantly to see the kind of paintings Mario creates. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find images of high quality therefore  I have increased the size of the images from what I normally show so that you can see the detail he achieves and marvel at his ability. Somehow he places the brush in his hand and controls it using arm movements.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find titles but I am sure you will enjoy the subject matter and vibrant colours. And in most cases the narrative is obvious.

The promise of a life together had to be communicated to the respective families, also the date of the future wedding had to be decided. I have represented the evening on which the families meet to get to know each other. To one side, the young couple are experiencing the joys of the moment, however they are constantly checked by the oldest woman of the family who keeps her eyes low to assure the couple do not fall into excessive, effusive gestures. On the left two are talking about family matters, the dowry, the future, and also family financial matters. (The description above was taken from Mario Previ's description of the painting as quoted on the site: http://www.fenaroli.org/pages/previ/painting2courtship.html) And this one is The Wedding Dress.

The idea for this painting came to me when two friends, who had just celebrated their wedding, unexpectedly came to visit me. The brides dress had particularly caught my attention. The bride on that day, was more radiant than ever. What could I paint to capture the memory of that moment? I tried to put myself in the shoes of a young bride of past times. Who knows how many times she dreamed about the dress she was to wear for her "Big Day" and the sleepless nights checking every detail. It is a simple painting, I think. I painted the explosion of light from the candle on to the dress and the face of the young girl and painted it under glass. (The description above was taken from Mario Previ's description of the painting as quoted on the site: http://www.fenaroli.org/pages/previ/painting2courtship.html)

If you would like to see a slide show of more of Mario’s paintings please follow this link.
http://parma.repubblica.it/cronaca/2015/09/24/foto/marioprevimagiadellapittura-123553749/1/#1

I hope you have enjoyed this brief look at the works of Mario Previ. I think his style is wonderful and I’ll endeavour to find out more information about him.

I think we’ll have a look at some Italian gardens before visiting Malta and meeting some artists.