Giuseppe Percivati, more commonly known as Pepe Gaka, refers to himself as a Madonnaro, and in no artist could that description be more accurate. Originally, a Madonnaro was a person who carried the image of the Madonna in a religious procession of a spiritual ceremony. Speaking figuratively, Pepe Gaka does precisely that because his lifestyle reflects the image of all that the Madonna represents. He will not work for commission, but only for the modest pay he makes from passers-by as he paints, and he donates his art to charitable organizations who can auction off the painting in a fund-raising fashion. In this way, Pepe Gaka has donated tens of thousands of dollars, and makes only enough money otherwise to travel from place to place to paint and give, and to bless others around him. Isn’t this the spirit of carrying the image of the Madonna?
The term, “Madonnaro” also refers to someone who makes or sells images of the Madonna (the Virgin Mary). Pepe Gaka doesn’t sell his paintings, but, while he does explore other topics, many of the paintings he makes are images of the Madonna, the Madonna and Child, or other Christian images and tales. And it makes sense that he would lean toward these biblical topics in his art, as his style suggests what he has said of himself, that he loves the Renaissance, an era that emphasises Christian stories as mixed with ancient Greek and Roman icons and archetypes.
Finally, a Madonnaro is a pavement artist—someone who paints on the streets of a city in order to entertain passers-by with his pigment prowess, and in so doing, eke out a meagre living. Pepe Gaka doesn’t literally paint “on the pavement;” he just paints on the pavement. That is to say, the pavement is not his canvas; he actually lays down canvas on the pavement, which is not typical of modern Madonnari (plural of Madonnaro), but this choice allows him to excel as much in generosity as he does in artistic expression and technique.
While it is true, if not entirely obvious, that he tips his wonted conical hat to the Renaissance masters, Pepe Gaka is not an artist who’s bound to a style. Indeed, though his work reflects Michelangelo’s dramatically, it also smacks a bit of Salvador Dali in its tone. His enormous canvases are organized explosions of vigour, carefully crafted collisions of colour , and his images are bold and exceedingly dynamic in both pose and expression.
One of his images shows a desert caravan under attack by a pair of lions. The top of the image is an intense blue sky that is contrasted by the bottom, which is a bland, tan sand colour. In the centre is a mish-mash of horses, camels, people and lions—all seemingly jumbled together when you first glance at the work. However, with a moment’s study, a brief time to drink it in, absorb and appreciate, each being in the painting stands out, appearing to have been stopped in mid motion during the moment of attack, and the viewer can’t help but be drawn in to the terror of the scene. One who knows his art cannot help but immediately think of the painting, “Horse Attacked by a Lion” by George Stubbs, nor can he ignore the sense of imminent agony as imaged by Dali’s “Dream Cause by the Flight of a Bee around a Pomegranate.”
His own rendition of “Heaven” reminds the viewer instantly of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel back wall painting of “The Judgement of Christ.” Pepe Gaka’s work has the same majesty of Michelangelo’s, the same sweeping mass of motion, and the same sense of Christ’s demonstrated power. It is an image as full to the eye in details as any by Hieronymus Bosch, but as gently pleasing to the eye as any by Mary Cassatt.
Unlike those ardent artists of old, however, Pepe Gaka is young and active today, and it is both possible and inspiring to see him, a master painter, at work. If you are living in Canada between May of 2016 and 2017, you will also have a chance to see him yourself. Imagine for a moment being able to watch da Vinci paint “The Last Supper” or Raphael paint “The School of Athens.” It is possible to experience the same type of awe-inspiring event if you are in Vancouver, Toronto, Quebec City or Montreal in 2016. Pepe Gaka is every bit the artist that those Renaissance masters were, and you have the added benefit of watching him work outdoors while you’re wearing shorts, a T-shirt and sandals. No need to dress in seven heavy layers of linen garments as you would to see Donatello at work.
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Pepe Gaka Vimeo channel : https://vimeo.com/pepegaka
Pepe Gaka Youtube Channel
Watch Pepe Gaka at work.