Saturday 24 March 2018

What Lies Beneath: Social Network by Sandro Chia

Social Network
Social Network

Niall MacMonagle

Social Network, by Sandro Chia oil on canvas, 2014, courtesy of Hillsboro Fine Art

Where is information overload taking us? TMI. TMI. TMI. Now, every trite thought is out there and accessible. Cyber bullying has taken nastiness to new and horrible levels. But Hallelujah! It's not all bad. That Singing Priest is delighted with his millions and millions of hits.

Italian painter and sculptor Sandro Chia was a megastar long before the world wide web entangled us. He's had 136 solo exhibitions in dozens of countries and is in every major collection from New York to Japan to Amsterdam but he recently encountered such anonymous hostility online that he closed down his Facebook page.

Right now, in Dublin, 12 new vibrant Sandro Chia canvases are on show. This one, called Social Network, depicts a man in bright clothes, haloed, stalled on a road, against a bright background. It looks a happy and upbeat painting, a typical Chia. But crouching before him, on either side, are two dark, sinister bears. Are these destroying the man's calm state of mind and easy-going nature? Are dark forces invading his space just as social networking can pollute experience? For Chia the title is "a very essential explanation". You decide.

Born in Florence, as a boy Chia played soccer in front of the Santa Maria del Carmine Chapel and after the game used to go into the church to cool down. An artist was born. Sitting before Masaccio frescoes he was so impressed, especially by the Expulsion from the Garden of Eden that "once I even cried". God does work in mysterious ways.

For Sandro Chia "painting is a global language". The road, an age-old image for life's journey features in much of Chia's work as do figures in motion: a homeless angel, a beggar, a father and son, a man and woman kissing.

A Romantic, his work has a playful, cartoonish quality. He'll give a figure jazz hands, he loves when a painting of his inspires a poem.

The main idea of art is "creating the world. Playing God" and "I hope my paintings make people love me first, then love each other". Likeable he is and easy-going. Angst-ridden he ain't.

Dipinti e Acquerelli [Painting and Watercolours] New Work by Sandro Chia continues until May 31 at Hillsboro Fine Art, 49 Parnell Square West, Dublin 1.

A hard-backed catalogue, including an Interview with Sandro Chia by John Daly, is available for €10.

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