Giancarlo Piccin was born in Toronto, Ontario, May 29, 1959, to Italian immigrants Basilio and Lidia. He is the middle child of three.
Giancarlo’s mother recalls the day in which she discovered that her son had artistic talent. “We had returned to Italy and arrived in a small town close to where I was born. Rather than a conventional taxi, we decided to take a horse and carriage back to my parents’ home; this ride left two and a half year old Giancarlo, in awe.” When the family arrived at their destination, the young man demanded a pen and paper, and immediately drew out in detail the horse, carriage and driver. Upon seeing his grandson’s work, Piccin’s grandfather wept with joy, asking in disbelief how a child, who could barely talk, could have such ability.
“As long as I can remember, I’ve been the centre of attention when it came to art. I was the student asked to design the posters and murals or yearbook covers in school. While the other students would work on Math or English assignments, I would be drawing in my notebook or painting something. For me there was no ‘choice’, it’s a part of me, it’s who I am; more than anything it is a gift that I need to share.”
Giancarlo spent much of his free time with his friends on the streets of Toronto, surrounded by drugs, alcohol, gambling, and calling himself “John” to fit in. During a teachers’ strike, he found work at a Sicilian pool hall, eventually running the place, while fitting in classes whenever possible. Some shady characters frequented the joint, gambling away their businesses and homes in a secret room. “We paid off two cops every month – they would warn us if a bust was coming down from the station; we would use a light switch hidden under the counter to warn the players to clear out.”
Giancarlo sold his first painting: to the VP of The Toronto Dominion Bank. After taking the elevator to the top floor of one of the TD Bank buildings, and being invited into a spacious office with an incredible view, he surprised the VP by insisting, true to his street-wise background, on being paid in cash.
In Grade 12, he was being encouraged to pursue art in post-secondary school. Giancarlo used the excuse of working on his portfolio to skip classes and continue working at the pool hall. Piccin was accepted into Ontario College of Art at the age of eighteen. During his first year, he found himself behind the other students due to his lack of formal training and his, comparatively, young age. But after studying under the likes of Fred Hagan, Peter Mau, Mario Polidori and John Inglis, he soon found his stride.
After graduating in 1981, he was accepted into the Fine Art Program at York University, but he decided to decline the invitation to continue working solely on his art. During this time he had several shows and travelled to Jamaica and Mexico. Giancarlo’s freelance work lead to an exhibition at the Joseph D. Carrier Art Gallery. After extended travels to Mexico, Honduras and Costa Rica, he returned home to take a full-time job as a graphic designer to earn enough money for more travel.
On a trip to Italy to visit family, Piccin wanted to spend some time in Venice: “I planned a trip with a cousin who lived nearby. A local offered to show us around. He claimed that it would be possible to see Venice in “una giornata” – ‘one day’. This resulted in a successful exhibition - “A Day in Venice”, based entirely upon what he saw that day.
“I’ve always had a soft spot for the Italian High Renaissance. It may be the fact that I’m a Canadian of Italian heritage that draws me toward this period or because I find the impeccable craftsmanship and aesthetic quality of their work appealing.”
Piccin’s artistic direction changed following that trip to Italy; his style now reflects a maturity that explores the possibilities of architectural details and man-made objects as subject matter, striving to capture light with paint.
“Ultimately, I investigate the relationship between people and their surroundings. My work usually begins with an abstract painting. I then explore the possibilities of architecture or people as subject matter. By using minimal brush strokes on successive layers, I encourage the viewer to connect the missing links to form a complete image. Occasionally, I include found objects to further explore this relationship.”
Giancarlo believes “The challenge for any contemporary artist is to see the world through new eyes. It is important to me that an artist’s work reflects his time. Whether it is through the use of contemporary themes, techniques and/or mediums. I try to gain a good understanding of the past and present art scene to try and meet this challenge in an effort to represent my generation.”
Piccin, now an internationally collected artist, resides in the beautiful Heart Lake area of Brampton with his wife and son, also named Giancarlo.
My work usually begins with an abstract painting. I then explore the possibilities of architecture and people as subject matter that suits the underpainting. By using colour and successive layers and making conscious efforts to paint loosely, I encourage the viewer to connect the missing links to form a complete image.
With the Toronto series, I investigate the relationship between people and their surroundings.
It was my hope to inspire people to rediscover areas of this great city.
With the ICONS series, I tried to select well known celebrities as subject matter and then pushed my painting far enough that the work became as much about painting as it was about the icon. I also used composition as a deterring factor to deflect focus from the subject.
“The challenge for any contemporary artist is to see the world through new eyes. It is important to me that an artist’s work reflects his time. Whether it is through the use of contemporary themes, techniques and/or mediums. I try to gain a good understanding of the past and present art scene to try and meet this challenge in an effort to represent my generation.”