709. Curaçao’s Trippy Zanolinos

I visited France-born father, Philippe, and Curaçao-born son, Giovani, Zanolino on Doomsday: 12/21/2012. In hindsight, the world did not end. But I do feel like I’ve entered a new era in my existence, a new beginning, a renewed enlightenment, as the website www.december212012.com states.

There was a special force in the air that day — and I felt it the minute I walked into Zanolino’s home-studio-gallery in Banda Bou (Kunuku Abou 18).

Perhaps it was the pungent air near Jan Kok’s salt pans and I wondered: are we more prone to raw impulse when surrounded by salt?!

Perhaps it was un-inhibition created by the mondi’s isolation.

Perhaps it was sensory overload caused by walls covered floor-to-ceiling in colorful canvases, collages and installations.

Not exactly sure where to engage the psychedelic art trip I had inadvertently stepped into,  I decided to try to understand these awesome artists a little bit better.

Philippe (father) and Giovani (son) Zanolino and I at their home-studio-gallery in Banda Bou.

Giovani (son) and Philippe (father) Zanolino and I at their home-studio-gallery in Banda Bou.

“I owe much to Mr. Magritte. [as in René Magritte, the famous Belgian surrealist artist] You put paint. You wash it. You can still see the mark of the sponge [pointing to the upper-right corner of the canvas] Now observe. Trust me, I didn’t spent 500 hours there. Go near the canvas, just to be sure. Nothing is intentional. Now take some distance. You see a body? Soo precise. Keep looking. Mr. Magritte always wore a bow hat. See the bow hat? See his mouth, his nose. He’s blowing love to you,” said Philippe.

Photograph of Rene Magritte, in front of his painting The Pilgrim, as taken by Lothar Wolleh. Source: http://www.masters-of-photography.com/W/wolleh/wolleh_magritte_full.html.

Photograph of Rene Magritte, in front of his painting The Pilgrim, as taken by Lothar Wolleh. Source: hwww.masters-of-photography.com.

Philippe is referring to a haphazard sponge-stroke apparition on his canvas, evidently completely unintentional, yet, indeed, I see a physical representation of René Magritte.

Coincidence or magic? We’ll let you be the judge of that.

'Ode to Magritte' by Philippe Zanolino.

‘Ode to Magritte’ by Philippe Zanolino.

Much like Magritte’s surrealistic work, Zanolino’s work aims to challenge our preconceived perception of reality and compels us to look beyond the image on the canvas. Yet Zanolino differs from Magritte in that anything goes – his images aren’t treacherous – they merely reflect our own reality: he wants us to see what we want to see.

Both father and son Zanolino paint what they want to paint, even, and perhaps especially, when the image doesn’t make sense in our literal world. They simply ‘let go’ of their brush stroke and see where their in-the-moment emotions take the canvas.

“You see, we’re missionaries, we’re not intellectuals. We work with truth. It’s not ‘we’ that work, it’s truth that works. I’ve witnessed thousands of miracles of painting just like that one [Magritte’s bow hat],” said Philippe.

Scratching your head yet?

I certainly was.

Philippe experiences his art in a similar way as the intimacy and vulnerability the rest of us experience in deeply loving relationships. Loving relationships and art both strive for truth, whether ugly or beautiful.  “You have to be pregnant [with truth] to work every day. But you have periods — months even — when you’re not being used. It would be good for husband and wife, to take a break. Then they become hungry again. Otherwise [their relationship] is a lie. We don’t need lies,” said Philippe.

ZZ creatures. By Philippe and Giovani Zanolino.

ZZ creatures. By Philippe and Giovani Zanolino.

Giovani, Philippe’s son, a young collage and graphic design artist in his own right, picked up on the fact that I was a bit confused. “The challenge with what we’re doing is to not control it: give god control. Use your intuition, colors, shades, from there, try to recognize the form (…) YOU [the viewer] are the painting, I don’t want to stipulate what you should see. YOU partake. YOU attribute meaning,” said Giovani.

Needless to say, I had an *awesome* Doomsday.

Check out their website www.zanolino.com for more information!

About 1000awesomethingsaboutcuracao

I'm Carolina Gomes-Casseres, the creator of 1000 Awesome Things About Curaçao. I live in Manhattan but sometimes miss my first awesome island. Thanks for visiting!


  1. Pingback: 691. The Longest Painting… in the World?! | 1000 Awesome Things About Curaçao

  2. Pingback: 614. ‘The Art People’ Spotlight Curaçao Artist Giovani Zanolino | 1000 Awesome Things About Curaçao

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