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Cammarata -San Giovanni Gemini

Your next destination in Sicily in the Sicani mountains

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1922-1993 his life, his works, his art a  San Giovanni Gemini

Artist Giovanni Philippone San Giovanni Gemini


Giovanni Philippone was born in Sicily, in San Giovanni Gemini (Agrigento), in 1922. First of five children, a merchant father, he enjoyed economic well-being until 1926, when due to an economic measure called "quota ninety" which caused the bankruptcy of the companies that had economic relations with foreign countries, the family found itself in serious difficulty. He attended the gymnasium in the Jesuit boarding school in Pedara, and his interest in artistic subjects matured and the decision to enroll in the artistic high school in Palermo, where he obtained his diploma in 1942. Among his high school mates, who will then also be classmates Academy in Palermo: A. Sanfilippo, C. Accardi, U. Attardi and P. Consagra. These were poor years of economic resources (there was no paper on which to draw, let alone the colors!): Many drawings of those years are made on the back of the ration cards. But these are the years full of enthusiasm, ideas, cultural exchanges with friends and fellow academics. Numerous correspondence remains as evidence of this. The painting of those war years, and more than painting we can speak of graphics, being mainly drawings and sketches, speaks of domestic places, of family scenes, of mothers and sisters intent on what are simple everyday gestures; of peasants and young shepherds caught in moments and breaks at work. All with a simple, decisive, essential line. It was during the war years and following his disasters that the need to unite the religious ideals he had been raised and educated with the political ones of a left that hoped for a world without prevarications arose in him. For all the cowardice it will oscillate between these two poles: on the one hand a religiosity without schemes or dogmas, but lived internally, and on the other The yearning for the construction of a better world where man, architect of his own destiny, finds himself the protagonist and aware of their choices. In 1946 he moved to Milan where he attended the last year of Accodemia and obtained his diploma. It is the year of the diaspora. of the group of friends who for years had shared ideas, love for art, hunger and dreams. In fact, Sanfilippo and Accardi move to Florence, Consagra and Attardi to Rome. And from there the different personal stories and the different artistic paths begin. Also in 1946, he created an enormous fresco representing a rural scene for the town hall of his country, to which he periodically returns. The  The theme of work in the fields will be a constant theme in his painting, which underlines how an artist places himself in relation to social reality. In this regard, during an interview Philippone had to declare: "an artist always remains tied to his land, to his native country, and his country is not only nature, but men with their problems, their anxieties and aspirations and with their sometimes unconscious poetic vision of the world. In 1948, again for his town, he frescoed the apse and painted the canvases on the vault of the church of the Madonna del Carmelo. Still in '48, having returned to the north, he moved for about a year to Mount Olympus  in the house of the Picardo brothers.

Here each component dealt with different forms of art, applied art, artistic crafts, ranging from music to photography, to the creation of comics, to the design of home furnishings, etc ...

In 1950, the desire to be at the center of the cultural debates of the time, a desire that had prompted him to leave the confines of his island, led him to Paris, where he remained for a year attending the Accadémie des Beaux-Arts under the guidance , by Léger. On his return to Italy, he settled permanently in Milan in 1952, a period in which the controversy between "figurative" and "abstract" was raging. Philippone chose the figurative language even if from abstract experience he maintained and preserved some principles such as that of compositional balance. The signed poster, on the occasion of the exhibition at Bergamini together with A. Chighine, A. Garau, G. Paganin, G. Traverso on the principles of a renewal of our painting dates back to 1953. His artistic career did not undergo shocks or changes in trend, but within the figurative discourse the maturation of his language remained faithful to his themes. In this thematic coherence there are experiments with other materials such as glass, ceramics and improvement of the engraving technique by recovering and reworking the ancient methodologies that were of the great masters, updating them and appropriating them. In 1960 he exhibited at the Salon de l'Art libre (Palais des Beaux Arts in Paris). In 1961 he married Dora Damen, daughter of Onorato Damen, founder with A. Bordighera in 1921 of the Communist Party of Italy, after the Livorno split. In 1964 he exhibited at the Burdeke Gallery in Zurich and on that occasion the critic Titta Rosa found analogies in Philippone's painting with the world of Verga and Pirandello. In the same year he held a solo exhibition in the Atelier Monptidi Munich. His rich exhibition activity ends in 1986. Since then he has dedicated himself to the realization of canvases and sketches commissioned from him for churches and chapels in Sicily. The Supper of Emmause the speech of the beatitudes in the Chapel of the SS. Sacramento (mother church of S. Giov.Gemini); The Last Supper and The multiplication of bread and fish (apse of the Church of Santa Lucia in San Giov.Gemini). This was a sort of ideal return to his land and to the themes and memories of his childhood. Biblical figures and saints are in fact represented against the background of familiar landscapes, or in peasant-style interiors; the sacred representation and the everyday come together in a harmonious whole.

In 1989, Giovanni Philippone created, for the chapel of the SS. Sacrament of the Mother Church by SG Gemini, two canvases in which, within typically Sicilian places and environments, it represents two evangelical episodes  The paintings, placed inside the baroque mirrors that decorate the perimeter walls of the chapel, were donated by the painter in memory of his parents Stella and Domenico

The disciples of Emmaus.

The discourse of the bread of life.

The canvases of the vault

After the 1948 restorations, the church was embellished with canvases and frescoes by Giovanni Filippone. In the vault that covers the nave are represented: the ecstasy of St. Teresa; the Madonna del Carmine in the act of delivering the habit to S. Simone Stok, the prophet Elijah in prayer.

Inside spaces defined by moldings and sober decorations, three angels are frescoed: the central one holds the coat of arms of the Carmelite Order while the other two, placed on the sides, play musical instruments.

Apse of the church of Santa Lucia

"I have tried to read in our time and to express it without neglecting my links with the tradition of Italian art which is also Christian ... I have seen two episodes illustrated here not only as events that belong to this short space of time in which Christ and his disciples lived their earthly life, but the Christ of all times, the Christ of our age, in our environment ... And the people who crowd around Christ are the people of today who thirst for justice, of truth, which needs spiritual nourishment ... All the structural elements of the compositions are directed towards a central point to force the observer to lay his gaze towards Christ; the same function had the color which is light. And Christ is light. The language of drawing and color is universal: therefore everyone is given the opportunity to read, to understand: on the sole condition of approaching with humility. From my point of view I want to hope that I have approached the idea I prefixed by fulfilling the double purpose: 1) to invite the spectator to meditate on the great messianic message; 2) at the same time bring it closer to Beauty, also because I am convinced that love for beauty, as Simone Well says, is almost today the only way to allow God to enter into us ". Giovanni Philippone (25 October 1991 from the speech for the blessing of the canvases)

Last Supper

The multiplication of bread and fish

The deposition


The pity


The immaculate


Filippone Chapel Cemetery of San Giovanni Gemini

Guarino Chapel Cemetery of San Giovanni Gemini

Verga Chapel Cemetery of San Giovanni Gemini

discover all the works and even more information on the official website

«Philippone was a storyteller: his own story of landscapes and figures. Landscapes determined by the reddish color of the earth, a fertile, good land, not hostile to men, but always generous; figures, often women, mothers ... A unified, continuous vision of time, never dramatic because the trust in man, love, the kindness of a secular attitude supported by a profound secularism attentive to events, the certainty that every contrast, every daily misery could be faded, overcome by the sensitivity and rationality of thought, of the mind. This attitude was reflected in his painting and made his subjects part of the description of a large happy island, in its full-bodied physicality with references to particular events rendered by the strong, dense color ... and yet becoming an abstract memory of a reality only dreamed of. I add, almost in the margin, that I have lost a companion with Giovanni in the ancient sense of the word, which includes, in addition to friendship, thoughts and dreams imagined in common, even when, later on, they did not travel together at the same time ».

alik knight

Alik Knight

leonardo sciascia

Leonardo Sciascia

​Giovanni Paganin

Giovanni Paganin

"Giovanni Philippone was the cantor of his land of Sicily and of the evils of life that date back to millenary traditions: those of peasants, shepherds, poor families in their interiors with oil lamps, with women who still bake bread in the rustic ovens of the farms, and those cor-posed female nudes, and again the intense olive groves and landscapes of red earth: visions that crown her Mediterranean world ».

«Every year he returns to collect the relics of the peasant world, of a world that was immobile for centuries, until the years of his youth, and then as suddenly, in the sixties, it dissolved. And there remain, in fact, relics: someone who still threshes the grain into a mule's hoof and throws it at the stingy gusts that come from the sea; the women who then pass it to the sieve; the capragirgentanalegata to graze in the stubble. Then there are the faces: of the peasants of the peasant women and, I would say, of the trees: those almond trees with twisted and split trunks that seem to have survived a fire. And the fire is there, and it is that of the summer. Philipponene catches the reverberation also in the interiors, on the bodies of the hard earthly Venuses. Even if San Giovanni Gemini is one of the highest villages in Sicily, the coldest, the most touched by the snow, the fire of summer burns it. And as the snow is preserved in the evening, for the refreshment of summer, so the fire seems to be conserved: and it comes out of the cracks in the earth, from the splitting of the old almond trees ».

Giovanni Philippone

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The monument to the Immaculate Conception in Piazza A. De Gasperi built in 1954 in memory of Nicola Maria Alessi 

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