Karam Sebastiano Cannarella

Painter and sculptor

He was born in 1942 in Portopalo di Capo Passero, a small town in the province of Syracuse.
At a young age, he decided to leave Sicily and in 1964, from the blinding sun and immense blue of his native island, he moved to Milan, where he attended art studies at the Brera Academy of Fine Arts.
Over time, two countries of different cultures, Italy his homeland and Morocco his adopted country, became identified in his art, in a territory without cultural borders.
Lives and works between Italy and Morocco


Karam Sebastiano Cannarella’s pictorial path is marked by a rigorous expressive balance but, at the same time, by a teeming research elaborating different visual themes. With inventiveness and methodological harmony, he has been conducting original artistic experimentation for over fifty years, marked by a refined and elegant stylistic signature, extraordinarily individual and recognisable, investigating reality in its most material exception.
Over the years, the artist has tackled different concepts, letting himself be guided by his instinct, following precise paths and all of them, without exception, have been treated and resolved, without any discrimination, applying the most varied techniques for their elaboration. Over time, through art, he investigates the mystery of the human soul with the artistic freedom that he inserts into each of his works, transforming the notes of the spirit into material universes that communicate with the language of an international and magical art.
In 1973, he staged his ‘first solo exhibition’ in Milan at Galleria Missori Arte.
Described as a “Poet of Art” and a tireless “Traveller of Dreams”, he navigates in a fantasy world, undertaking numerous journeys, driven by an insatiable curiosity to get to know new peoples, an intense desire to visit new lands and different cultures, in a constant search for new forms of visual expression.

He stays in: Zurich, Paris, Munich, Egypt and the Maghreb, places that are different in terms of history and culture, where he works and exhibits, arousing the interest of viewers and the press. In Paris, Karam Sebastiano Cannarella, considered one of the most active artists of the moment, is a promoter and supporter of the development of new expressionist themes undertaken by his predecessors belonging to the “Co.Br.A.”. group. During his stay in the French capital, he attended cultural and artistic circles, set up several one-man shows and actively collaborated with important international exhibitions.

In that period, the artist discriminated against the obsolete classicist conventions in favour of a radical cultural change aimed at sublimating, on an artistic level, direct and immediate creative spontaneity, graphic and gestural automatism, the unconditional outburst of instinct and the free emphasisation of the imaginary, manifesting an “expressive freedom” woven from different artistic expressions with which, over time, he would conceive original ideas developing his personal expressive capacity.
He depicts “a natural and spontaneous art”, manifesting a liberating act of his own unconscious, bringing out on the surface of each canvas mellow layers, paints poured in clumps creating a play of contrasts between black and white from which emerges an image that takes shape from the unconditional gestures of the brush. The personal gestures of painting arise from liberating impulses imbued with rage that the artist externalizes through the act of painting to venture towards what he does not know, to verify the “after” narrated by the grammar of his personal visual language. He stages a provocative art, he depicts spaces and images that claim the right to pleasure, reiterated by the violence dictated by the graphic sign, by the depiction of figures that are not always proportioned, personalized by simple strokes and characteristic of by an impetuous force, exasperated in a fantastic way by strokes of paint and materiality, a set of elements that combine in total and perfect autonomy, creating a pictorial style illuminated by the inner exigency, indulging in emotionality marked by an effect of simplicity and undeniable expressive effectiveness in the making. After his return to Milan in 1976, he experimented with different expressive themes, characteristic of depth of content and compositional wisdom. The artist makes art an expression of life, a condition of truth, and the act of painting feeds an entirely personal need that comes to be identified in the praise of the pictorial work. He represents an art that is nourished and bathed in a personal mysticism and an example of this is his personal exhibition in Terni at the  “Murillo Gallery” (1976).

Karam Sebastiano Cannarella’s “pictorial universe” transpires filled with “Fantasy” and “Poetry” and his works not only express personal explosions dictated by his sensitivity but also have the merit of conveying emotions that combine personal pictorial creativity with “remote origins”.
The artist, a seeker of new expressions intent on sublimating innovative elements onto canvas, retrieves from his memory the memories of those objects represented in a sharp and static manner, going beyond their merely physical-realistic aspect. He therefore uses a new and a-logical language, creating an atmosphere of silent magic, devoid of drama and action, searching for the wonder that emerges in each work. He creates original compositions in which an almost surreal metaphysical component appears, capable of conveying a profound sense of loneliness that the artist places in an unreal background. An artist with eyes educated to the inner rhythm of his being, he arranges ‘mannequins’ on the stage of the canvas, highlighting how the perspective he gives these objects is capable of revealing their soul, their own language and style in constant evolution.

Opere di Karam Cannarella - “Esseri – fantasmi”

He populates his paintings with “monumental and plastic figures”, similar to mannequins that place themselves, within the pictorial composition, in perfect and total autonomy thanks to their solid structuring, evoking the memory of sentinels characterised by volumes and spaces, components that manifest an extreme extension revealing their tones to capture the possessive hint of time. They are enigmatic presences, never able to manifest their inaccessible secret, but able to transcend beyond appearances by dialoguing with mystery. Guarding such skilful thematics, mobile and witnesses of a distant time, the aristocratic figures, particularly refined and gracefully sensual, dissolve in space with natural and rhythmic order, symbolising a remote nature, but at the same time a return to an uncontaminated strength.

In 1977, Karam Sebastiano Cannarella won the competition organised by the municipality of Portopalo di Capo Passero for the design of its coat of arms. He designed a sketch following the terms and rules of heraldic language. It depicts a modern French shield (Samnite), selects the colours of the enamels, identifies the subjects and the number of figures to be inserted in the individual partitions of the fields. The shield divided vertically into two partitions of equal proportions, one of which is divided horizontally, includes on the left the image of the lighthouse erected on a part of the ‘field’ tinted blue, while the upper partition is dominated by yellow, which in heraldic terminology represents wealth, command. The right-hand side of the shield, divided into two fields of equal proportions, houses in the upper part with a white background the sun coat of arms belonging to the patriarchal Tasca d’Almerita family, a lineage that has stamped its presence on the town of Portopalo di Capo Passero as a source of life and wealth. The underside, painted red, a symbol of value, boldness, nobility and dominion according to heraldic terminology, features the figure of three ears of wheat, a symbol of wealth. At the top of the shield is depicted the Crown Turreted in the form of a bastion with towers while the entire shield is contained in an oak branch symbol of strength knotted to a laurel branch emblem of victory.

Opere di Karam Cannarella - stemma del Comune di Portopalo di Capo Passero


The coat of arms currently dominates the main entrance to the ‘Palazzo Municipale’ – Portopalo di Capo Passero. (Syracuse, Sicily)

Every year, for quite some time, the artist returns to enliven the warm summer months of his home town with original solo exhibitions and cultural events, and on the occasion of the cultural event ‘Agosto Portopalese’, he presents a series of canvases in the shape of working clocks.

His personal work stems from childhood memories, from the enchantment of seeing, in the company of his father, a Sicilian cart driving through the streets of Syracuse. The memory of the wheel of the Sicilian cart, which to a child’s gaze appears large, heavy, brightly coloured and with sturdy wood, is transformed, thanks to the artist’s original creativity, into an artistic object capable of punctuating unceasing and unstoppable time.

These splendid watch-frames equipped with high-precision mechanisms of various shapes and sizes and in delicate pastel shades of colour allow us to scan each phase of our lives, and the individual names by which the artist names these works such as Zagara, Conca d’oro, Ricamo, Granada, Astrolabe, Re Sole, Alchimia, Elisir, Algoritmo, Aida, Rosa damascema, Azimut, confirm that the artist has never stopped dreaming and the surfacing of today’s ‘unthought’ will perhaps be tomorrow’s timeless thought.


In this period, the artist closes himself in a long and tormented silence, conducts a search in depth, analyses the soul and the mind, values that belong to a ‘Master’ of art. The cosmicity of the love he perceives nourishes his art with new meanings and the fable of life re-emerges in him through mystery. His pictorial language represents a new theme. Cannarella is a painter-poet of sensations in that he transforms reality into symbols, feelings and metaphors. There is a rituality that envelops the images. The chromatic luminosity presents tactile transparencies, musical vibrations

Returning from a period of quiet industriousness in the early 1980s, he moved on to a new theme, explored new expressions in the tradition of Moroccan culture and created a personal ‘Oriental figure’. Through shapes and colours, traces and signs, drawings and realised subjects, the artist describes Morocco and the Moroccans as if using silent words that pass through the gaze of the observer and extemporarily reach his intellectual sensitivity. Her ‘women from the north of the country’ with their typical costumes are born, ‘the water seller’, that fragrant, spicy, singular water; ‘her dancers’, ‘the men on horses’ taking part in that well-known festival called ‘Fantasia’, the landscapes with their local atmospheres, materialise.

Opere di Karam Cannarella - Opere Marocchine

The 1980s brought about a significant turning point in Cannarella’s artistic production, whose interest was literally catalysed by the aquatic world, creating a series of works in which shoals of fish are portrayed on the surface of the canvas like human beings crowding environments equal to the sea.
These are works created in two different periods from which those feelings that the artist perceives within himself clearly transpire, evoking memories of his childhood, thinking of the colours of the catch, the “paranze” (fishing boats), the “luciare” (fishing boats) that land at the port in the early hours of the morning laden with darting fish.Cannarella brings to the surface of his canvases reflections and states of mind, experimenting with an entirely personal world by laying bare his sensitivity, which becomes an intimate reflection that lands in a world of fluctuating harmonic and sensory balances.

Opere di Karam Cannarella - Arabeschi marini

Cannarella brings to the surface of his canvases reflections and states of mind, experimenting with an entirely personal world by laying bare his sensitivity, which is transformed into an intimate reflection that lands in a world of fluctuating harmonic and sensorial balances. After a decade, these suggestions have re-emerged and come to life again through a series of new works in which the style of the past merges with the experience gained over the years, reconnecting with the Arab world.
Hence the creation of new ‘Sea Arabesques’ paintings in which fish become the unit of measurement of a potentially infinite decoration enriched with calligraphic motifs. The visual result is of pleasing beauty despite the chaotic nature of the superimposed forms.

The painted fish are transformed into stylised forms almost accentuated in their contours characterised by frenetic and joyful chromatic seriality, by a brighter, almost porcelain-like painting as the colours re-emerge on the canvases vividly and brightly, in which the diversified combination of colours illuminates and characterises the shoal of fish.

At the end of the 1980s, an important turning point was reached. Listening to fascinating Arabic musicals, assiduously reading literary works and participating in debates centred on themes belonging to the Eastern world listening to fascinating Arabic musicals, reading literary works and participating in debates centred on themes belonging to the Eastern world, intrigued the artist, who manifested an almost spasmodic passion for everything belonging to Arab and Islamic culture. to Arab and Islamic culture, and his painting activity focused, with the passage of time, on the depiction of the same culture as a source of inspiration that was increasingly akin to himself and his way of being. Without denying his dual belonging to the Western and Eastern worlds, Cannarella’s art thus became a tool at the service of Arab culture with the aim of disseminating its contents and conveying meaningful messages.

Opere Corano Acrilico su Legno - Karam Cannarella

From the end of the 1980s, he undertook an in-depth study of the Koran, and the careful analysis of the ‘scriptures’ increased the need to represent the emotions and impressions perceived from time to time, and for a good eight years, the artist concentrated on the imposing creation of 1,300 panels (acrylics on wood measuring 67×96 cm) depicting the Koran, with the authorisation of the most prestigious Muslim institutions. The artist’s work is a completely original work, undoubtedly unique, as there are no predecessors who have been able to depict the Koran categorically and accurately.
It appears in its majesty to be a completely original work, undoubtedly a unicum, as there are no predecessors who have been able to depict the Holy Text of Islam in a categorical and precise manner. Cannarella does not turn his works into Koranic lessons, but simply produces art, and with the approval and authorisation of the prestigious Egyptian Academy of Islamic Research Al-Azhar Al-Sharif. He transcribes on wooden boards (97×65 cm) each page of the Koran, highlighting with different colours the individual verses translated into images and depicting, with acrylics, glues, tempera colours and bitumen, the subjective emotions and impressions perceived from time to time during the reading of the divine Word.


In the late 1990s, Cannarella resumed his pursuit of the figurative theme by painting self-portraits of the Moroccan royal family. During the time of Hassan II, he produced 37 works in two years: Hassan II, the princes, princesses and nieces.
The artist paints by indulging his imagination, staging an entirely personal visual language, creating a free dance of matter and signs by mixing bright colours and graphic signs with a complex and rich diversity from which the figurative element emerges.
The chromatic elements find a free deposition in the canvas and between them coexist large chromatic spots crossed, in some cases, by dark stripes interpreted in the most abstract way, which in turn accommodate the subject in a pure transposition.
The artist attempts to dissolve the subject and then to make it re-emerge at intervals from a composition of pasty colours applied to the background of the canvas.

Opere di Karam Cannarella - Famiglia Reale

YEARS 2000

In the late 1990s, Cannarella resumed his pursuit of the figurative theme by painting self-portraits of the Moroccan royal family. During the time of Hassan II, he produced 37 works in two years: Hassan II, the princes, princesses and nieces. The artist paints surrendering himself to his imagination and creates a free dance of colours and shapes endowed with a complex and rich diversity. The chromatic elements find a free deposition on the canvas and coexist with each other in large chromatic patches crossed, in some cases, by dark stripes interpreted in the most abstract way, which in turn accommodate the subject in a pure transposition. The artist tries to dissolve the subject and then have it re-emerge in places from a composition of pasty colours applied to the background of the canvas.

Le sculture di Karam Cannarella
He moulds in fibreglass a multitude of tortoiseshell sculptures that symbolise wisdom, inner peace, of different sizes and decorated with geometric and calligraphic motifs, which envelop the entire His strength lies in his ability to collect the cultured heritage of a symbolic lexicon that comes from afar and attracted by the Arab-Muslim culture – that of the sign – Cannarella investigates the intense relationship between visual arts and scripture. In his works he emphasises the richness of language, the arrangement of forms, the interweaving of traces and imaginary indexes, maintaining the quintessence of their dynamic composition and their undeniable cultural dimension. The signs of letters that seem to emerge from nowhere embody the lines of force of apparent beauty in its invisible secrets.
Le sculture di Karam Cannarella

He depicts forms of artistic expression while remaining faithful to his basic assumption, namely to combine the authenticity of tradition with the modernity and post-modernity of contemporary art, giving colour and form to an idea, a thought, a drive that he reconstructs legibly as a declaration of love.

With regard to the themes investigated, in recent years the artist has been tackling social problems, because as the true artist he is, he certainly does not remain impassive to what surrounds him. And by analysing everyday life, he stages performances that see him as a protagonist by virtue of his tireless commitment to dramatic issues, urging the spectator to reflect more deeply on reality.

Cannarella organises numerous performances and pictorial works to make everyone aware of the need to reflect against indifference and social blindness. According to the artist, through creativity it is possible to break out of pre-established patterns and see beyond, planning and dreaming, so that a better present and future can be built than the one we have become accustomed to or resigned to. The artist thus becomes the spokesperson for a collective malaise, and his live performances make us participants in a creative moment that comes to life before our eyes.

Over the years, he undertook research based on the ‘poetics of the sign’, a language founded on expressive capacities that is articulated by sets of chromaticism and the sign-letter relationship. The painting is identified as a field of vital energy, and the sign-letter depicted in the most varied ways, is impulse, is poetry, is an explosion of rhythms. He creates a personal alphabet, which stems from his feeling, his experience, his emotions, which, by evoking them, seek out other feelings. The sign, therefore, always includes something, which sticks uniquely to the artist’s most intimate sphere, but at the same time is capable of transmitting to observers, within the spaces of a kind of narrative that takes the form of an encounter, the private part of the ritual without imposing a detachment between subject and object.

Opere di Karam Cannarella - Calligrafia

‘Red White Black’ Oil on jute – 150×110 cm. – 2008
Venezia. Italian Pavilion of the World Morocco
‘54th International Art Biennale – 2011

In these works, one notices that signs proliferate and develop within a pulsating field of relationships, of visual forces, of vitality, elements dominated by an infinite movement that causes each part to connect to the other parts, in a play of infinite concatenations. In his works, the letters live a new dimension, they are single but become a body; they maintain their identity but take on a new formal reason and a new existence, covering their meaning with a new light and entrusting them with a conceptual statement in the forms of their combination and they acquire a life of their own, protagonists of a new form, in a new combination. Without losing any of their symbolic or representative value, they become the discourse of art, they take on the mystery of their origin in the human intellect; they are the object of formal attraction and the subject of thought, they enter the work as the visual vehicle of an idea, with the same dignity as an image. they are universal signs, the sprouts of a new community of intellect and feeling (un idem sentire), the garment of a new spiritual sensibility.

It is with extreme dedication that the artist decodes a classical language, developing a personal, recognisable compositional iter, thanks to his original technical imprint that allows him to reinterpret in a modern key what belongs to the History of Art. Looking to the great masters of the past such as Caravaggio, Botticelli, Warhol up to the portraiture of famous people taken from the world of entertainment, the artist immerses himself in conceptual modernism, bringing back to life something eternal and immutable from the past, giving new life to something that lends itself to be reinterpreted in its integrity.
Each work represents a unique journey back in time, inside the work, through detail. He starts from a focal point, and enhances the strength, vigour and energy of its essence and content, elements that are reinforced and brought out in the creative act.
He brings the depictions of art history to life in his paintings, reinterprets them and makes them the living substance of his own painting through their integration with the forms of symbols or previously realised works.
These are pictorial works through which the artist realises a contemporaneity that materialises when images of works far removed in time present themselves in his mind to give free interpretation to new works in a modern key. It allows us to celebrate and appreciate the great masters even more, and to grasp and perceive in art even the tiniest and most minute variations, those subtle accents and veins, which are corroborated and made to stand out in the creative act.

Opere di Karam Cannarella - Viaggio nell'arte

Karam Sebastiano Cannarella has long listened in his being an artist to the values belonging to his homeland where he lived until his full youth and from which he has never detached himself. An emotional alchemist with a clear Mediterranean temperament, he turns to the past to rediscover that secret place through the act of creation.

“Singer of the Sicilian landscape, of that ‘land of Sicily’ that has inspired dozens of artists over the centuries, with meticulous and great originality and technical skill in depicting figures and colours he stages a story made up of paintings, delving into his inner depths one by one, emotions, sensations and loves, giving them to those who, pausing in front of his works, look at them with an open mind and sensitive heart. A cultural worker, he depicts the magical beauty of an enchanted land. Persistent in his works is the desire to immortalise memories and rediscover how any glimpse of the countryside, a blue corner of the sea and traditions that have disappeared over time can evoke the never-quenched beauty of his land reproduced in his paintings. His art becomes the voice of a sensitive soul that sings of his land and all that belongs to it. In each of his works, rich in colour nuances and details, a combination of cultural history and memories of the past is depicted, transforming his fertile imagination into works that are real at first sight. A tale illustrated by paintings depicting places and people that evoke the enchantment of a ‘magical’ land, perfectly integrated in the pictorial originality of this new creative dimension.
In the ‘story’ narrated by the artist, punctuation is given by the accurate strokes of the main protagonists and the plot is developed through the colours. Warm and cold colours well matched to each other and to the arternaza of dark lines enveloping the various protagonists “tell” profound visions of the Sicilian reality of the past, embellishing it with poetic ignition, transmitting an authentic charm of an experience that no longer exists today. He enacts a tale that comes to life on the surface of the canvas and returns to us with each work the incipt of the fairy tales of “Once upon a time”. By reading Cannarella’s figurative stories, we enter into an In-sung Realism because the artist knows how to ‘sing’ what seems to have been lost in time, even though it is always present to the heart of those who know how to listen and see with amazed eyes in portraying a magical atmosphere that the artist reproduces as the fruit of his memories.