Born at Bacoli on 11 May 1938 Ferdinando Ambrosino began painting in the early fifties, and with some success. As early as 1956 he was dividing his time between pursuing his classical studies and his involvement in both organizing art exhibitions and participating in them, which in that same year culminated in the staging of a large art exhibition in the public gardens of Bacoli. On this particular occasion, when writing for the Unita’ newspaper Paolo Ricci stressed that “young Ferdinando Ambrosino’s ambition is far-reaching,” and furthermore “he has indubitably adopted the wide canvases of the Italian realists as his models, and is aspiring to tackle wide-ranging themes on a large scale.”
In 1957 he received his Classical High School Diploma and the following year he enrolled on the Geological Science Course at the University of Naples, and this interest of his in Geology was to be kept alive for several decades to come. In the meantime his activity as a painter developed, and by the year 1959 had begun to create several large-scale canvases which, collectively, might well be classified under the heading of “cubism”. One of these was awarded a prize by a jury of experts in occasion of his participation in the “First Edition of the National Exhibition for Young Italian Artists,” held in Naples.
After his initial phase there followed the series of large scale “neo-realistic” style canvases, the predominant theme of which is the world of the countryside and labourer characterized by a sense of heaviness and the fatigue of labour.
In 1961 his own individual style began to mature through his various experiences and his continuous visits to the leading Italian museums, while the year closed with his partecipation in the competition for the Avezzano Prize. In 1962 he took part in a joint exhibition with masters of contemporary art working in Naples, amongst whose number figured Emilio Notte, Carlo Striccoli and Paolo Ricci.
In 1965, following a period of deep reflection, he made a firm decision about his future career as an artist, and gave up his university studies to devote himself entirely, and with a deepening sense of commitment, to his art; and it is from this time onwards that his participation in national exhibitions began to increase at an incessant rate. In 1966 he won first prize in the National “Fatigati” Exhibition with a composition of considerable chromatic intensity, and also won first prize in the “Citta’ di Ercolano” National Painting Exhibition. It is in this very year that he furthered his interest in themes and subjects of naturalistic character in which his dialogue “with things” and with his native environment became even more closely felt and personalized; influences from Impressionism and Cubism appeared even more evident in his work.
In 1967 after some years of serious and thoughtful work, Ferdinando Ambrosino arranged for his first one-man exhibition at the UCAI in the Maschio Angioino in Naples. He met critic and writer Piero Girace who immediately became his enthusiastic fan. In the UCAI showroom -Alfredo Schettini wrote in the Naples newspapers Il Mattino- the personal exhibition of Ferdinando Ambrosino, the painter from Bacoli, is now on show for all to see. In introducing this self-taught artist, Attilio Peduto has singled out the real artistic qualities and features that make up the artist’s personality, which has developed in the fabled atmosphere of the Campi Flegrei. Burning landscapes of a dark colour scheme for depicting heroic deeds, brushed on thick layers, at a brisk pace, are seen within his plastic visions of Torregaveta and Punta di Epitaffio, and presented as fairy-tale lands and sleeping landscapes such as dreams are made of in which the overall individuality of the source of inspiration also embraces those technical variations that form part of his poetic fantasy.”
In the same year he took part in the “Cerreto Guidi” National Biennial Exhibition of Art where the jury comprising Armando Nocentini, Gastone Breddo and Giuseppe Migneco awarded his work a gold medal. At the National Art Exhibition of the Tourist Office of Desenzano on Garda Lake, he was acknowledged as the best Italian artist to participate, when not yet thirty years of age.
In 1968 he accepted the invitation to hold a personal one-man exhibition in Venezuela extended to him by a leading art gallery of Caracas, receveing enormous success from both critics and public alike. Leading specialist reviews and newspapers focused their full attention on this exhibition, and the Venezuelan television network devoted exclusive coverage in a special cultural programme. The “Tiuna Film” Company made a short film that was shown in all the cinema houses throughout Venezuela. In the meantime he took part in the premio Suzzara and obtained first prize in the “Smargassi” National Painting Competition at the same time winning high honours from the President of the Italian Republic at the “Proposta Culturale”, a National Exhibition held in Naples. To close the year his presence was felt through several of his canvases at Pescia and at the “Premio delle Arti” in Sulmona.
In 1969 he held two exhibitions of his own works: one at Il Cannocchiale Gallery in Milan where he was presented by Piero Girace, who stressed his gifts as a colour artist and as a true interpreter of the atmosphere of his native soil; the other at the Marconi Gallery in Foggia.
He also took part in the 3rd Bolzano Biennial and the National Exhibition of San Marino. His work tells the story of the objects of everyday life: it is the narration of emotions and feelings experienced by the daily backcloth of the artist’s conscience, the faithful transcription of things and events in the world and in life which the artist comes across in his daily experience. In his paintings he recounts the world’s events, life, human activities, all the things that are nearby and within reach, and everything that surrounds him. It is the triumph of reality, not of an imaginary world, it is the theater of real life and man’s time on earth, not of thoughts and ideas. In these years Ambrosino’s paintings reflects the way in which his conscious awareness looks at, perceives, hears and caresses the things that are seen, touched, heard, smelt and experienced. The fabric of life becomes his painting and painting safeguards and protects what the body touches, looks at, hears, sees, experiences and loves. In short, he perceives and responds to the everyday things of our daily lives.
His one-man shows at the Marcos Castillo Gallery of Caracas in Venezuela and Barcaccia of Naples date back to the year 1970, while his presence in certain prestigious national art exhibition is felt ever more frequently, such as the “Mario Sironi” Prize in Naples, and that of the “Citta’ di Imperia”, of “Riviera del Conero”, and that of “Posillipo”, again in Naples. “There are many different and varied ways of being an artist. Without feelings and without a heart painting is a sterile occupation. Suffice it to see the paintings that Ferdinando Ambrosino has brought together in that exhibition to convince oneself of the truth of this.” These are the words of Ignazio Mormino that preface the introductory text to the personal exhibition that Ambrosino held at Lecco at “Ca’vegia” in 1971, an important exhibition of paintings that opened the rich and prolific year of important engagements.
The art exhibition held in Philadelphia at the “Newmann” Modern Art Gallery, his nomination for the “Vasto” Award, at the Arena d’Oro Gallery in Verona. And in addition the personal exhibition at the Michelangelo Gallery in Bergamo, and at the Marconi Gallery in Foggia. And finally his participation in the “Citta’ di Lesa” Prize crown an important year in the long itinerary of exhibitions in which Ferdinando Ambrosino has exposed his works.
In 1972 he was invited to the great international prize of Viareggio and held three personal exhibitions of a certain relevance in Caracas, at the studio 188 in Trani and at La Vernice in Bari.
He appeared once more in Bari in 1973 at the Martello d’Oro Gallery the following year with a personal exhibition, receiving at the same time an invitation to the “Saint Ambrose” National Award for Painting in Milan. The year 1974 opened with an itinerant exhibition througout Greece, Turkey, Rumania and the former Soviet Union with a collection of some fifthy of his more recent works. For this occasion the Italian television service devoted full coverage to the painter and his works that featured at the exhibition.
Following this success Ferdinando Ambrosino was invited to compete for the “Brunellesco” Prize in Florence, and participate in the “Arte-Sport” Exhibition in Merano, and in the “Aldebaran” Prize held at Sassuolo. Furthermore, at Waterbury in the USA at the Biennial organized by the Culture Art Centre, and for the third edition of the “Giuseppe Bazzoli” Prize in Milan, at the “Citta’ di Soresina” Prize in Cremona, and he also arranged for a one-man exhibition at the Serio Art Centre in Naples.
His constant searching revealed the meaning and presence of man and nature through his painting and subject matter. In his works of this period a certain dramatic force is detected which finds expression in popular epic themes.
In 1975 his presence was strongly felt at Marcos Castillo Gallery in Caracas in Venezuela in which received an enormous ovation from both critics and public, while a subsequent version of the same was held in Naples at the Serio Art Centre. Still in the same year a monograph was published about the artist with special attention devoted to the works produced between the fifteen year period 1960-1975. The volume was edited by the Neapolitan art critic and writer Domenico Rea, who in presenting Ambrosino’s work singled out the specific qualities of his painting, all of which were associated with his Neapolitan origins and with great wealth of culture linked thereto.
In 1976 a one-man exhibition at the Carlo Levi Gallery in Milan became a forerunner of what was going to be the turning point and a moment of a sense of anxiety Ambrosino was living through with regard to change in the year 1977, at a time when he had opted to enjoy a moment for reflection.
In fact it was in this year 1977 that he took up the challenge of a new choice of materials, namely ceramics, which offered him very wide scope for plastic expression and an endless variety of procedures that easily lend themselves to his creative inventiveness. Stimulated by the attractions that this activity could offer him, he created a large series of earthenware wall-plates and numerous sculptures, vases, tiles and panels of various dimensions.
In 1978 he organized a personal exhibition at Nola at the Globo Art Centre and in 1979 he took part in the “79” National Award at Eraclea Mare, and in Caracas at the Centro d’Arte Euro-Americano. The year 1980 opened with two one-man exhibitions of a personal nature at the Serio Art Centre in Naples and at Il Modulo Gallery in Salerno, and the following year his works once more appeared at the Centro d’Arte Euro-Americano in Caracas.
In 1982 under the patronage of Campania Region, the Regional Tourist Office of Ischia organized a large exhibition housing the works of the artist’s 1972-1982 decade. Held in the prestigious Aragonese Castle of Ischia the exhibition led on to a one-man exhibition at Il Cannocchiale Gallery in Milan.
The year 1983 might well be considered the great turning point that marked a great step forward in the painting and life of Ferdinando Ambrosino. The artist’s political commitment for his native town and its artistic and environmental heritage was rewarded by the consensus of the people which was converted into his being elected mayor of Bacoli.
In 1981 he had met the critic and art historian Professor Carmine Benincasa, who was to have a great impact on his artistic life and on the life of territory of the region of Campania. In fact in that very same year Bacoli town-council administration under the prestigious scientific and artistic management of Carmine Benincasa organized the now famous historic exhibition entitled “Sapere-Sapore”, an exhibition of fine arts in Italy ranging from 1958 to 1985, staged in the Aragonese Castle in Baia.
In addition to housing the most famous names in Italian contemporary art, this exhibition marked a permanent focal point in the history of painting and sculpture in Southern Italy of the last few decades. In his preface to the catalogue Carmine Benincasa wrote: “The South does not shed tears over its natural catastrophes, nor claims crumbs for its begging bowl nor asks for the charity of compassion nor the welfare usually handed out to parasites. Rather the South exercise its right to social justice by generating cultural events, and creating challenges for public initiatives, but always running the risk of giving less voice to the fact that it has been violently excluded and outcast from the political plan that has been mapped out for the country’s life and development as whole, to be able to state more forcefully that culture and art count as social problem, and that the substance on which they work is not only obscene social injustice and the iniquitous capacity of a political programme that adapts itself to its history and its social and cultural tradition, but rather it runs the risk of existing as a plan at all.”
In 1984 he arranged for the staging of a personal exhibition at the Serio Art Centre in Naples with a selection of large-scale works created between 1980 and 1984.
The following year may be considered a period of deep reflection but at the same time a decisive year in that it represents a considerable evolution in his constant searching. A new form of expression matured embodying a wider vision of reality. According to what the critic Franco Farina wrote: “Unlike his previous works we now find more autonomous creativity, higher powered feelings that are enriched by complex operational forms that become modulated with an emphasis on vivacious colour of a purely Mediterranean stamp.” Still in the year 1986 he held an exhibition of his own works at the Serio Art Centre and under the patronage of the township of Ferrara a splendid anthological review of his art was organized at the Palazzo dei Diamanti. Introduced through the catalogue prepared by Franco Farina, Carmine Benincasa and Gianni Race emphasis is placed on Ferdinando Ambrosino’s research into the history of Italian art after the Second World War. “This exhibition -wrote Carmine Benincasa in the catalogue- sums up the adventure of a painter, a life time challenge, and a cultural awareness for interpreting the world. In his painting is the self-revealing world and the progression of things.”
In 1987 he held an anthological exhibition at the Serio Art Centre and in 1988 yet another personal exhibition in Venezuela at the Centro d’Arte Euro-Americano in Caracas. The eighties decade closed with high significant anthological-type art review at La Scaletta Gallery in Matera. Until the beginning of the nineties, albeit using a highly personalized form of expression and most courageous colour schemes, and adopting his own original artistic solutions and still poetically autonomous, Ferdinando Ambrosino still belonged to the wide circle of figurative painters.
The great turnabout came in 1989-90 when his painting was eventually liberated and set free. Finally his cry for liberty, his flight from the constrictions of forms and the creations of rainbows that shed a new universe of light and which introduced a new alphabet with no past, the construction of new architectural planning, the violence of his chromatic scale alternated with the changing season of an oriental softness now generated geographical schemes where the main actors that expressed the artist’s way of feeling are reds and blacks, symptoms of a newly-acquired wisdom, a new understanding in his painting, from which there is no turning back. These colours of his are the colours of Greek tragedy, and are deliberately chosen. The area in which the artist lived, that of the Campi Flegrei is an area completely steeped in Greek mythology, it is the Magna Graecia of Antiquity. Here the caves of the Cumaen Sybil are to be found whence the prophetic oracle was once delivered.
The landscapes are no longer those of nature, as in the works of his earlier period, but are now landscapes of the mind. The colours that modulate shades and tones are in tune with poet’s feelings, which are expressed and revealed by melancholy-pervaded gashes of greys, blacks and ochre-grey rays with woodland shades mirrored in the burning fire below the ashes, and reds that tear open and flame but causing havoc, opaque yellows and violet scattered about like lightweight hope-giving stepping-stones and a heaven beach.
In 1990 under the patronage of the Ministry of the Cultural Heritage, of the Region Lazio, of the Region Campania and of the Comune of Rome, under the artistic guidance of Professor Carmine Benincasa the great exhibition is realized in the monumental complex of San Michele a Ripa in Rome, with works spanning a thirty-year period of Ferdinando Ambrosino’s artistic production. For this occasion the volume printed by Spirali was published with text contributed by Carmine Benincasa and Armando Verdiglione. In the same year in the Palazzo degli Alessandri at Viterbo, the Province of Viterbo organized an exhibition with works dating back to the artist’s 1980-1990 decade.
In 1991 he organized a personal exhibition at the Ca’ d’Oro Gallery in Rome. The year 1992 followed with a large exhibition held at the prestigious Paris Art Centre Art Gallery. For this particular occasion a volume on the artist’s work was published with contributions made by Carmine Benincasa, Armando Verdiglione, Fernando Arrabal, Alice Granger, Gabi Glechmann, Roger Dadoun, Dominique Desanti, Toni Brachet, Aleksei Nikolaev, Julius Edlis and Jean-Pierre Faye. In the same year he was invited to exhibit at the Musée du Bastion Saint André in Antibes on the Cote d’Azur.
In 1993 he held two very important one-man exhibitions, one at Caracas at the Centro di Arte Euro-Americano Gallery, and the other in Miami in Florida at the Ambrosino Gallery. In the year that followed, 1994, he organized an exhibition in New York at the Spazio Italia Gallery. In the catalogue written by Letizia Triches and Carmine Benincasa: “This marks a very important step in Ambrosino’s artistic career -in the words of Carmine Benincasa- Ambrosino has been working for several years now, one never ending protracted cycle of paintings all dealing with the ICON theme.” These paintings represent his own private theological reflections, his own personal revolution that knows nothing of ideological movements nor has any theoretical bases to refer to, but is a refection that regards his own painting. And further:”…the Russian icon is the start of his work. In this work in progress the entire visual and historical experience of the artist and the entire knowledge acquired in the course of training his awareness is boiled down to a vague form. But once the final outcome of the painting has been achieved, the freedom becomes total and unconditional.”
1995 is characterized by two one-man exhibitions in two European cities. The first in Geneva at the gallery bookshop La Deuxieme Renaissance, the other in Marbella at El Cataleyo Gallery. In 1996 he set up two one-man exhibitions, one in Ferrara at Il Secondo Rinascimento Gallery, the other in Milan at Il Cannocchiale Gallery, with catalogue contributions by Osvaldo Patani and Vitaliano Corbi. He also took part in Lineart 96 in Ghent, Belgium, and in the autumn of this year he arranged a personal exhibition, on the now predominant theme of icons at the Spazio Italia Gallery in New York.
In 1997 he was invited to exhibit at San Francisco at the Italian Institute of Culture and in the same year exposed his work in Naples at the church of San Francesco delle Monache, the now predominant theme being that of “Icons.” In the catalogue for Il Corvo, the texts were compiled by Aniello Montano, Vitaliano Corbi and Ciro Ruju. The artistic force of the painter is expressed with dark lines, outlines of shapes and objects without any true identity, that are held together and disintegrate, generating on the surface of the picture a continuous movement, an entangled confusion of storm and life, of passion and faith, of involvement and definitive commitment for the rhythm of life.
From 2003 about 200 paintings are in expositions at the Museum of “Villa San Carlo Borromeo”, in Milan, Italy.
In 2004, the exhibitions “L’Icona Mediterranea” (“Mediterranean Icon”) is held at the “Sala Dorica” of the Royal Palace in Naples.
In 2007 the exhibition “Prophecy” is held at the Italian Institute of Culture in New York.
In 2009 the exhibition “The memory of Time” is held at the Chelsea Art Museum in New York.
In 2013 the exhibition “A Journey through Time” is held at the “Reggia Borbonica” of Quisisana, Castellamare di Stabia, Naples, Italy.
In 2014 the exhibition held at “Palazzo Ripamonti”, at the showroom of Tasselli Cashmere, Bevagna, Italy.
In March 2014 the exhibition “From Cumae to Pompeii – A Journey Through Time” – is held at the Italian Institute of Culture in San Francisco.
In June 2014 the exhibition “From Cumae to Pompei – A Journey Through Time” – is held at the Naples Depot Museum, Naples, Florida.
In 2015 the retrospective art exhibition “Magia di Iconee Mediterranee” (“The Magic of Mediterranean Icons”) is held at PAN Museum in Naples, Italy.
In this whirlpool of signs it is still possible to decipher fragments of a reality that has been transformed into the light-bringing rainbow that the artist leaves us behind to enjoy.
Ambrosino has not in fact renounced the reality that remains his starting point; rather he has cut himself loose and has prevented it from becoming iron prison bars, so that in his work the abstract lives alongside the figurative, that is to say his freedom is the expression of his conscience.
His figurative painting of former years has now progressed towards an evocative solution, of suggestions of light in which every form loses its shape, thins out and refers to a somewhere beyond, to “another” universe, towards an immense evocative power of the conscience of imagination.