Biography (full)

Origins and ethical-aesthetic-metaphysical approach to the sacred

Born in Castel d’Azzano (VR) on the 13th October 1945, Marcello Silvestri has found in the hills of Tarquinia a congenial habitat in which he can create using the many materials and colours of the Maremma. Painter and sculptor, Marcello is an artist of our time, yet never constrained by it. He loves life and the mystery woven within it. A product of the 1968 way of thinking, and with a background in philosophy, theology and communication, he has always intertwined his work with a strong social commitment – shared by his wife Margherita – starting with their experience in the 1960s and 1970s at the Children’s Republic of Civitavecchia (la Repubblica dei ragazzi di Civitavecchia).

The universal and multimedia language of his contemplative art meditates on the human condition and the anxieties of the globalised world, drawing inspiration from the spirituality and symbolism of the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Production: themes and techniques

The 70s saw him experimenting with iron, glass-blowing and large oil murals that represented nature and the seasons of the Maremma, intimate family scenes, crucifixions and contemporary issues such as the death penalty, torture and abortion. With Art as Hope, his pathway through the 80s was lit by sunny shades through the exploration of catacomb and sacramental symbols, the liturgical times, the Parables of Jesus, and various texts by Saint Francis; these include sanguine drawings, watercolour lithographs, original grafostrakon sculptures in clay, glazed ceramics and sculptures in bronze, gold and silver. Silvestri's palette becomes increasingly flamboyant in the 1990s with the pictorial cycles on the days of Creation (Genesis 1), the Psalms, the Prophets, the Canticle of the Creatures, the Beatitudes, the Magnificat and the Theophanies. In the prolific period between the 80s and 90s Marcello also ventured into audio-visual meditations (see publications) of which he is the creator, director and author of the filmed works. He created these in collaboration with well-known musicians, actors, singers and media experts including Maestro Renato Serio, Michele Paulicelli, Roberto Anselmi, Donatella Moretti, Francesco Ceriotti, Giulio Neroni and Carlo Cibien. Many of the more recent audio-visual collaborations are with singer-songwriter Giosy Cento.

A solitary mystic, with the courage to face adventure and an awareness of the uncertainty of the unforeseeable, Marcello crossed the borders of Europe and the World with his figurative art, even before Schengen. After years of exhibitions from Paris (Salon d'Automne, Senate) to New York, from Madrid to Osaka, Rome, Milan, London, Liverpool and Brussels – where he repeatedly collaborated with the choreographer Maurice Béjart, for Thalassa Mare Nostrum and Le Martyre de Saint Sebastien – he decided, in the early 2000s, to dedicate his art to a meditation of nature and the sacred through a new abstract grammar. Thus, were born the pictorial cycles Child’s Play (Giochi di Bimbo), the works on the Apocalypse, St. Paul, the Torah and the prophetic and sapiential texts of the Bible, all of which then evolved into the pictorial cycle, Ancient Wisdom Contemporary Art - Sapienza Antica Arte Contemporanea, and a book of the same title, published in 2023 in Italian with Claudiana and in Spanish with San Pablo Editorial.

‘Ecology Within’

Marcello feels a visceral contact with the cosmos, the rhythms of the earth and rural environments, with both the flats of the Po Valley of his origins as with the shores of the Mediterranean where he lives. After experimenting with different techniques and materials for his creations, which include oil murals, gouache paintings, engravings, mosaics, sculptures in bronze, iron, gold, silver, clay, stone and even jewellery and stained glass, from around 2019 he started to focus on found materials to carry out a series of works, Ecology Within, dedicated to the environment, the safeguarding of creation, sustainable development, peace and conflict. This was very well received by art critics such as Philippe Daverio and Gianluca Marziani (curator of the catalogue and of the 2021 The Gift of Nature exhibition).

Dissemination and reception of an art that speaks of the sacred, but does not want to be called 'sacred art'

Marcello's iconographies with a religious theme are a ‘Bible in colour' developed from reflections on faith and through dialogues with experts in theology, scripture and communication. These creations inspired by the sacred - but which Marcello is careful not to define as 'sacred art' - have generated notable publications and events with Inter Alia, Edizioni Claudiana, San Paolo e Paoline, Gregorian University, Franciscan Friars, Comboni Missionaries, the CEI, UCAI , UCEBI, Institut Catholique (Paris), Chapel for Europe (Brussels), the periodical Riforma, the Universal Biblical Alliance, the Ecumenical Activities Secretariat, the Laudato Si movement, the Scuola di Alta Formazione in Arte e Teologia of the Pontifical Faculty of Southern Italy (Advanced School in Art and Theology, PFTIM) and the Religion Today Film Festival 2023, the Cittadella Laudato Si in Assisi.

Marcello's audio-visual originals, which interpret sacred texts and current issues through his works, have made him a requested speaker in specialisation schools, conferences, meetings with young people, and a guest on RAI1 television programs, such as I Segni dei Tempi (Signs of the Times) and Le Ragioni della Speranza (Reasons for Hope). Italian national TV RAI2 used his paintings as part of the Via Crucis – the Easter procession – for the Easter liturgy 2021, which was broadcast on the pan-European channel, Eurovision.

Particularly appreciated by an international and multicultural public, Silvestri's works can be found in various public and private collections in Italy and abroad, as furnishings in hospitality structures in Tuscany and Veneto, and in churches (some are reviewed here) and religious institutions in Rome, Milan, Naples, Assisi, and elsewhere. His adopted city, Tarquinia, boasts stained-glass windows with ears of corn and fish in the Maria Santissima Stella del Mare church, the Seagulls (Gabbiani) sculpture - inspired by the poem of the same name by Cardarelli - in the Palazzo Comunale (Town Hall), and the sculpture on the Procession of the Risen Christ in Piazza Trento and Trieste (photo at the foot of the page).

Panorama of Tarquinia as seen from Marcello's house and various photos of the artist at work in his studio and garden.

"Seagulls" sculpture, by Silvestri in bronze produced in the 1980s; installed on the staircase of the main entrance of the Town Hall of Tarquinia and inspired by the poem of the same name by the Tarquinian poet Vincenzo Cardarelli.

Stained glass windows by Silvestri depicting wheat, corn and fish for the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament at the Maria Santissima Stella del Mare church, Tarquinia Lido.

Sculpture by Silvestri on the theme of the traditional "Easter Procession of the Risen Christ" in Tarquinia, in Piazza Trento e Trieste. Made of travertine, in collaboration with the Todini brothers.