"Portraits: Surf Legends": the art of Vincenzo Ganadu

August 12, 2021 | Surfing
Kelly Slater: one of the paintings by Vincenzo Ganadu | Art: Ganadu

This time, surfing is expressed through wrinkles, eyes, and hair encrusted with salt - the facial expressions, the look, the smile with a wink, or the determined jaw.

Vincenzo Ganadu - artist, surfer, and finally surf artist - returns to the exhibition halls with his new personal show, a colorful, in-depth, and largely introspective project.

It is entitled "Portraits: Surf Legends" and will be presented for the first time thanks to the city of Pietrasanta and the Nimbus Surfing Club.

The exhibition will be held inside the city's prestigious San Leone hall as if to underline the solemnity of the moment and the need to dwell for a while on the history of the champions of a historic sport, which only acquired Olympic status with the Tokyo 2020 edition.

From August 21 to September 5, 2021, this Tuscan city in which Italian surfing first took root over 40 years ago will host the large-scale canvases created by Ganadu.

The Italian was one of the first to paint surf art in the 1990s, which, over time, has become one of his favorite themes.

Born in 1973 and of Sardinian origins, Vincenzo Ganadu can legitimately be considered one of the finest exponents of surf art worldwide.

He has several dozen exhibitions to his credit in cities and places such as Los Angeles, Sao Paulo in Brazil, Brisbane, Biarritz, Lima, and the Hawaiian Islands, to name just a few.

The Pietrasanta exhibition includes over ten almost life-size pieces telling the stories of living legends.

Vincenzo Ganadu: the Italian artist and his Kelly Slater portrait | Photo: Ganadu

Ordinary people, athletes, lifeguards, innovators, entrepreneurs, environmentalists, photographers, directors, and editors; in a word, surfers - who have left their mark, had an impact through their businesses, and above all have spent or spend a lifetime on the waves.

There are the great Hawaiian surfers, in particular, Duke Kahanamoku and Eddie Aikau, whose names won't mean much to the new generations or to those approaching surfing for the first time, but who still represent the founding fathers of surfing.

Then there are the first modern big wave riders, Laird Hamilton, Garret McNamara, and even Kelly Slater - whom many will know - or Jack O'Neill, who built a million-dollar company out of his passion.

There are many names and all of them foreigners, except two: Leonardo Fioravanti and Francisco Porcella.

They're the only Italians who represent the highest expression of daredevilry on the waves and are, therefore, included in this roll call of charismatic and energetic personalities.

"In a certain sense, this project encapsulates the passing of time, and yet it can be viewed all in one go," said Vincenzo Ganadu.

"Each of the 23 works (13 of which are on display at Pietrasanta) contains fear, adrenaline, enthusiasm, passion, tenacity, and awareness. In other words, it sums up the surfer's whole crazy dream."

Longboarding: Vincenzo Ganadu has been making surf art since the 1990s | Art: Ganadu

The Exhibition

The exhibition will be inaugurated at 6:30 pm on Saturday, August 21, in the presence of local authorities, including mayor Alberto Stefano Giovannetti and Giovanni Briganti, the president of the Nimbus Surfing Club.

Pietrasanta is, therefore, the world premiere of "Portraits: Surf Legends," designed to be a mobile experience with the intention in the future of eventually traveling to surfing spots all over the world.

The Versilia stage, however, will also be an opportunity to present a charity project developed by Ganadu together with Riccardo Lapasin, one of Italy's historic surfboard manufacturers.

In recent months, they have worked together to create an eight-foot surfboard - painted by Ganadu and shaped by Lapasin - which will be auctioned with the aim of raising funds to be donated to organizations and associations involved in helping people suffering from cancer.

"The characters portrayed were chosen for their daring achievements and for having spread the pure value of a passion for sport, nature, and friendship while maintaining a genuine and simple human identity," explains Vincenzo Ganadu.

"This has meant that they are examples for everyone as well as being well-liked or remembered."

"If you prefer, it is an alternative exhibition in which the works observe the viewer. An, at a certain point, the question arises: did I make the right choices in my life?"

Vincenzo Ganadu is one of the earliest representatives of surf art both in Italy and the rest of the world.

"I still remember in the early 1990s when his works appeared in specialist magazines, and I was fascinated by the colors and energy they gave off," adds Giovanni Briganti, president of the Nimbus Surfing Club.

"Now, 30 years later, as president of the Nimbus Surf Club, I am honored to be part of the organization of this exhibition, and I am delighted that the works by this great artist are here in the city of Pietrasanta."

"Portraits: Surf Legends" features paintings of Duke Kahanamoku, Greg Noll, Eddie Aikau, Titus Kinimaka, Miki Dora, Jeff Hakman, Jack O'Neill, John Severson, Nat Young, Laird Hamilton /Gerry Lopez, Shaun Tomson, Kelly Slater, Robby Naish, Garret McNamara, Andy Irons, Tom Curren, Rob Machado, John John Florence, Dave Rastovich, Chris Del Moro, Francisco Porcella, and Leonardo Fioravanti.

Garrett McNamara: a colorful portrait by Vincenzo Ganadu | Art: Ganadu

The Biography of Vincenzo Ganadu

Vincenzo Ganadu was born in Sassari, Sardinia, in 1973, where he graduated from the Institute of Art.

He then specialized in Sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna and Sassari, and went on to teach Sculpture Techniques at the Academy of Sassari in 2001-2002.

Ganadu has collaborated with a number of artists, including Pinuccio Sciola, Vittorio Calvi, and Angelo Pilloni, and his works have been exhibited in public and private galleries.

In addition, he has been the subject of numerous exhibitions both in Italy and abroad, along with his commitment to creating murals, which led to him having a central role in the creation of a large-scale work in Lima, Peru.

During the 1990s, he discovered surfing in Sardinia and an artistic current that, over the years, has led him to travel and work all over the world and becoming well known for the colors and dynamism of his paintings.

From Guethary and Biarritz in France, where he held his first surf art exhibitions, his works have created considerable interest as well as good reviews in the leading surf magazines, including Surf News in Italy, Surf Session and Surf Trip in France, The Surfer's Path in England and Australia, and Fluir in Brazil.

Since 2002, his paintings have been exhibited in Los Angeles and later in Hawaii.

The American exposure later led to him being approached by the Warner Bros film company, which had chosen some of his pieces to be used in a number of film sets.

In 2008, his paintings were displayed in Brisbane, Australia, and later at Noosa Head, one of the many surfing homelands.

His surf art has thus enchanted champions, journalists, surfers, and simple ocean enthusiasts.

From 2015 onwards, with the Italian surfing scene in full swing, Ganadu was invited to festivals, presentations, concerts, live paintings, and many other types of events.

Rimini, Verona, Milan, Bologna, Pietrasanta, Levanto, and Savona are just some of the locations which have seen his inspirational talent unleashed.

It was during this period that his artistic research acquired further awareness, especially in terms of environmental issues which are particularly dear to him.

New projects also emerged from these bursts of positive imagination, such as "Portraits: Surf Legends" on show in Pietrasanta, or "Surf Girl," in which Ganadu's work moves on to the figurative.

This dynamism gives way to facial expressions, body balance, and energy that is inevitably transposed onto the canvas.

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