Mario Martinelli was born in Treviso, Italy. He studied Literature at the University of Padua, where he also completed a PhD in Contemporary Art History under Professor Umbro Apollonio; he later became his assistant. At the same time, Mario Martinelli followed Professor Luigi Tito’s course at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Venice. He has taught Art History for a number of years.
Martinelli's work as a critic and a professor has always gone hand-in hand with his research as a practising artist, starting in 1969 with his first 'unwoven canvas'.
Defeating the surface, which is seen as pure convention, is the unifying and recurring theme of Martinelli' s work, from his 1970s-1980s 'stessuti' (literally ‘unwovens’, a play with the word ‘tessuti’, or ‘woven fabrics’) to the following 'traspareti' (literally ‘transparent walls’, a play with the word ‘trasparenti’, or ‘transparent’), the interplay of light and shadow either on canvass or the city walls.
From the early 1990s onwards, the traspareti have taken on the shape of the shadows that live within them, thus becoming metaphysical pirates, or real entities enjoying the ambiguous status of being both objects and soul twins; they are the shadows-in-the-net.
He exhibited his work at the 1992 Lausanne Biennial Exhibition and at the 467th Venice Biennale in 1995.
Since then, Mario Martinelli has travelled the world from Venice, Milan and Paris to Toronto, Montreal and Tokyo with a spot-light that “blows” the shadows of passer-bys on buildings’ walls, thus emancipating these shadows from the bodies that they belonged to and showing them as ephemeral monuments to the short-lived miracle of human life.
Covered in a wire net that makes them visible, the shadows, like plastic graffiti, surface on the walls of the cities that Martinelli constantly tries to humanise.
Art galleries and public institutions worldwide have taken an interest in Martinelli’s artwork and are showing it through their exhibitions and catalogues. Art critics and historians believe that his is an interesting contribution to the contemporary feeling of the loss of identity and loneliness, as well as a reaction against the indifference of modern-day cities towards men.