I first met David Dalla Venezia outside the museum that hosted an exhibition of the late pictures of Tiziano Vecellio, who is known simply as “Titian” in America. Considered the most important member of the 16th Century Venetian School, Titian was commonly referred to during life time as “da Cadore,” meaning from the town of his birth: Cadore. Similarly Dalla Venezia’s family name originated from the 18th Century custom to give orphaned children a surname based on the town where they were found.
I was struck by how stoic my new friend seemed. It was as if he was formed of the same stone that lines the canals of his floating city. But soon learned that, like all Venetian exteriors, his was only fortifying a generous heart. We ran into each other again at Odd Nerdrum’s exhibition in France. Upon mentioning my plans to deliver a painting to Düsseldorf in person, he shared contact information for his art dealer, who is based there, and encouraged me to visit, an uncommon altruism between artists.
I took him up on his offer. The Burkhard Eikelmann Gallery, located in the Oberkassel quarter, had the industrial spaciousness of a New York gallery and the rich wood of old Europe. The exhibitions on display were excellent. Looking at the roster and back room, I sensed a figurative focus and a strong selection of American painters including the likes of Andy Warhol, Tom Wesselmann and Mel Ramos.
Recently, Dalla Venezia moved with his growing family from Venice to Trieste, where he has quickly set up shop and is producing a new body of work that debuted in a solo show at Burkhard Eikelmann Gallery in late October, 2014. I recently caught up with the prolific painter, in the throes of the final touches and preparations for this exhibition. —David Molesky
David Molesky: How long have you been exhibiting with Burkhard? How many solo shows with him?
David Molesky: This is my third solo with Burkhard since 2001, the previous was in 2009, when I was just starting some changes that brought me to where I am now with my work. I also took part in some group exhibitions and through him I created the design for a suite in the Arte Luise Kunsthotel in Berlin, where each room is a work by different artists.
Also, you have a lot of paintings that seem to touch on the mythology of being a painter of pictures.
I’m a modern painter –modern in the sense that the intimate latin root of the word modus = measure implies– measuring the present time, modernity, always referring to the model of a very ancient tradition. Using these models, I try to find what is still recognizable of it in present times; ancestral mythological symbols that are still living in contemporary popular culture. From my point of view, greek models, Caravaggio and a pop song can serenely coexist. It’s like a theatrical scene in which different actors from all the times can suddenly appear.
How would you briefly describe your technique and process?
A part the experience in my father’s workshop, I was introduced to painting technique by my brother-in-law, the Chilean painter José Garcia Chibbaro who studied with Ernst Fuchs. It was a refined but laborious technique of superimposition of egg tempera and oil glazes. Then, I elaborated a personal synthesis using synthetic tempera rather than egg tempera to paint shadows and light in grisaille and glazing local colors over it with oil painting. In the last time, as a consequence of meeting Nerdrum and his entourage, I’m trying to simplify, and now I work only with oil and with a very limited palette. All the last paintings are made basically with white, ocher, red and a dark color I prepare myself instead of the black.
Is there anything you have read that has inspired your life as a creative person?
Many authors and books inspired me. I read a lot. I prefer essays in general, from aesthetics to philosophy and scientific themes. When I was a romantic young man, Huysman’s decadent novel À rebours impressed me and during my twenties Nietzsche was crucial. Regarding the question of being a figurative painter in a world dominated by contemporary Art reading Nerdrum’s On Kitsch (and then meeting him of course) was a clarifying experience and a confirmation of common intuitions. More recently the French writer Houellebecq fascinated me for his cynical and visionary perspective on the present and future. Finally, the landmark of these last years is certainly James Hillman’s An Essay on Pan, it really influenced my work and life; the link between mythology and psychology, ancient and present time, personal and social body, gave birth to some of the visions that nurture my last and future works.
What advice do you have to young painters who are beginning to explore figurative narrative painting?
I’m a self-taught painter (I would not have found what I was looking for in the Italian public schools –that is a sad paradox if you consider the incredible Italian heritage in arts), so what I can say is that you need a great willpower, patience and perseverance; aim to the best, a good master of the past or luckily still alive. Read and study theory, history and philosophy, because it’s essential to have something to narrate.
For more information about David Dalla Venezia, visit daviddallavenezia.com