CUCO Comestible Culture
28 May 2016
Page 12
An enchanted garden in the heart of Florence

By Serena Cenni

Listening to Emy Sgalambro’s attractive presentation at the Historic Archives of Fruits and Flowers entitled The Painted Garden of Borgo Pinti, one sensed that Gianfranco Mello’s paintings had fascinated her through the years, but it was the successive visit to the ‘Le Colonne’ art studio in the Bellini delle Stelle palace that gave form and substance to those words hinting at the existence of a fascinating garden shielded by the ancient walls of a Florentine residence. There, before the visitor’s astonished eyes, an unusual and unexpected space was revealed. A collection of immense canvases in a great variety of shapes (rectangular, octagonal, lunette, round and so forth) were arranged in what had been Giambologna’s workshop during the sixteenth century, piled between the columns and along the walls, but also on the floor and the ancient furniture, creating a scenography of a great variety of flowers, captured ‘en plein air’ in the blossom and full bloom. It was truly a painted garden that subtracted nothing from the beauty and vitality of Nature; to the contrary, it was an exalted celebration that captured the splendour before transformation or wilting.
Mello’s paintings offer a fascinating itinerary, knowledgeably commented by a female voice that mentions their still life composition, their settings and the moments of revelation in the Tuscan landscape. Although somewhat alienating, the itinerary is even more attractive because the seasons do not follow one another in the natural sequence but are mingled and confused in a sort of fantasy palette, where summer fields of sunflowers alternate with winter cyclamens, bunches of dahlias, hawthorn and pear flowers, rose bushes and peonies and lilac…
The presence of humans and architecture is attenuated in these paintings although a female nude seems to cross the scene in silence; a self-portrait of the artist, the dome of the cathedral in Florence and the cloister of Santa Croce rise to the surface like powerful presences on the canvas. The observer always perceives a fusion between the plastic forms and the forms of nature that the iridescent or intensely delicate colours wrap in sensuality.
The paintings by Gianfranco Mello (Venetian by birth, Florentine by choice), who began his career at a very young age, thus tell the story of a life that has developed – and fortunately continues to develop – in the intent and the dedication to explore the organicistic and poetic aspects of beauty that only plants can embody. At the same time, they also narrate the story of a great passion for the vitalistic moments of blooming that, captured forever, are spared the deterioration of time granting the visitor the spell of an inextinguishable presence.