A show must cause ASTONISHMENT, provoke FEAR, it has to be a MONSTRUM*.
Preparing myself for such an event I initially felt a bit of shame; shame over the lack of unity in what I was painting. So, I felt the need to apologize to whoever saw my utterly inadequate exhibition, to those who contemplated works wholly bereft of roots and unity, aside from their stylistic resemblance.
I certainly realized this as I carried out my work, as my body of work grew.
What I paint is a clear manifestation of the shortcomings of typical contemporary art theory, or rather, of contemporary civilization itself.
I am a contemporary.
For the moment.
What I paint is the shortcoming itself: I do not get around the problem, I simply roll with it.
And I do so with complete awareness.
Theory is an intuition that barely touches the surface of what one sees on the canvas and painting and what one feels from just the tip of the paintbrush.

David Dalla Venezia - MCMLXXXIX

I wrote these words on the occasion of my first personal exhibition in 1989; I had begun painting only two or three years previous and I placed an enormous amount of importance on this event.
They are naïve words, but enthusiastic ones. Reading them again embarrasses me a bit.
I was disconcerted by the disparity between the feeling that pushed me into painting and the result that ended up on the canvas. The pictures I created did not live up to what I had hoped to achieve. I was ashamed to introduce these pictures all at once at a lone venue. Their lack of homogeneity seemed readily apparent and I asked for forgiveness beforehand.
With the benefit of nine years of perspective, I cannot say that I have gotten over this feeling of inadequacy. However, what was once a feeling of shame has been transformed into simple modesty. Perhaps because I have realized that it is just that very inadequacy which has driven me to paint.
Thus, the words which follow this introduction are also inadequate in explaining myself and my paintings, but I no longer believe that there is a reason to apologize.

David Dalla Venezia - MCMXCVIII

*Monstrum means monster in latin. In italian an exhibition is also called mostra that like the verb mostrare (to show) and the word monstrum (monster) comes from the latin monère (to show, to put under ones eyes, to warn). So the allusion is that an exhibition, mostra should be as a monster, monstrum that comes to admonish and shake ones consciousness.



Question: Your work doesn’t seem to value continuity, a relationship between before and after, beginning and end; the extremes seem to get mixed up or cancel each other out, making any attempt to recognize them futile.
In the painting of yours showing a leap, the person depicted moves from an A to a B which are practically identical, almost as if he were running just to stay in the same place, in a state of suspension where nothing is achieved.
Does this perhaps reflect a philosophical belief of yours?
Answer: I think that this feeling doesn’t have much to do with my style of painting, but rather it has to do with painting, and every attempt to make it temporal or to immerse the painting in time is deleterious and bound to fail. The miracle of painting lies in the opportunity and ability to suspend time.
I know full well that a painting, as a material presence in space, is perishable. Nonetheless, it is still one of the rare places in which other dimensions emerge and leave traces on our dimension.
We’re dealing with an existential intuition of a certain feeling of being. Every moment is eternal and not only will it always be so, but it has always been so; the reality of being is a whole full of these moments—time is one of these moments.
The image of the leaping man, of two rock pediments, of the sky are, I believe, a depiction of this intuition. There isn’t a going from one place to another, this way of seeing is dominant, but remains a point of view.


Question: Contemporary art, above all from the time of the Second World War onward, has set itself apart by its progressive abandonment of classical painting techniques in favor of other means and forms of technology considered more suitable for depicting the contemporary world.
When one still seeks to execute paintings it is more of a denial, made up of erasures, tearing apart, of minimal and mechanical references.
Instead, you try to bring back traditional techniques as much as possible, as if you couldn’t express yourself in any other way.
Between anachronism, such as the repetition of traditional patterns, and contemporaneity, such as innovation, which side do you think ought to be taken?
Answer: It is commonplace to accept as a general category, which embraces everything and everybody, the tendency towards abandonment of a certain way of making art that has come to be known as Contemporary Art. However, what we’re actually taking about is a technique, among the great many available, of artistic representation and inquiry.
This tendency has come to be viewed as general and all-encompassing, when instead it’s simply dominant—and it is so for reasons that fall outside of a narrowly artistic context.
It’s a way of making art which belongs to and is an emanation of an elite or elite groups. Such predominance stems from the economic, political and religious power of these elites, who obviously tend to impose what best represents them, what they immediately understand as most useful in setting forth their world view.
The risk is in being forced to accept these methods without their belonging to the external and internal world and, that is, without understanding them, only because there seems to be no alternative.
The same thing’s happened in other eras. The struggle between iconoclasts and idolaters at the time of the Byzantine Empire is one of the most violent examples of a clash between different world views and consequent styles of representation: how to depict the divine world was a matter of life or death. Today these differences of opinion endure, just as violence and lying do, even if we’re only dealing with social and cultural death.
So, we’re not talking about reviving “classical techniques”, a term that is merely a useful simplification of historical analysis. Is Titian’s painting more classical or that of Bellini? 16th-century Venetian painting or Florentine painting? Mannerism or Impressionism?
What stands out is that as many techniques exist as people who’ve used them, and that classicism is the thread which unites all of these individuals, beyond contemporaneity and perhaps even against time, ana-chronos.


Question: You’ve painted large-sized canvases for this exhibition. Moreover, you’ve organized these compositions in geographic patterns, following symmetrical lines, around central points, often imposing a view from the bottom on the observer.
Traditionally, how big a picture was and compositional research were nearly always linked to works celebrating weighty and important ideals and content.
Could it be that you want to latch back on to this tradition and cause the same reaction among people who view your paintings?
Answer: I choose to do large pictures when I know I’ll have the chance to show them in a venue that’s big enough for them, and I’d paint even bigger pictures if I could.
Size alone isn’t sure to make a painting more grandiose and important, but it is clear that big pictures have a very strong impact on those who view them; in part, because it’s hard not to see them, because they impose themselves on the environment in which they’re displayed, and in part for reasons connected to the very nature of realistic painting.
In figurative painting it is essential to have the element of illusion that creates an immediate comprehension of and participation in the image depicted. As a consequence, the closer the size of the painting to human reality, the stronger the effect is.
So, the composition of the image is also important. Depicting people and situations within the frame brings about a unity and orderliness of representation; the subtended presence of squares, circles and pentagons aids in producing the harmony of the painted images, all of which facilitates the contemplation of and intuitive identification with the picture.
Concordance with reality, with all the practical and philosophical problems that this poses, and all the technical devices developed over the centuries that have made it possible, make up the tradition of Western painting, which is fundamental to and the point of comparison of my kind of painting.
The art and painting of this tradition long served as tools for celebrating what was considered to be at the center of human existence, or else what was divine and its emanations in both the religious and secular worlds.
But reality has changed, or better yet it has transformed our way of viewing and experiencing reality. The divine and its temporal emanations have a different importance now and there’s less of a drive to celebrate them than there once had been. Whoever holds power has other ways of celebrating themselves—and quite notably less rousing. These changes have significantly reduced the importance of the arts and, most of all, painting.
My paintings, hearkening back as they do to classical tradition, may give the impression that I wish to bring back certain ideologies or that I lament the lack of a transcendent or earthly authority who I can dedicate my work to. But attention, now, seems to have finally turned to the individual and their relationship with the world they live in, or at least I hope, and it doesn’t strike me that there’s anything more universal than what has to do with the individual. And it is really on this very certainty, that is, on sympathy and compassion, that the likely representation of reality is based. It’s to this primary and magical quality of painting that I’ve latched back on.
Painting, its technical and compositional tricks, and all the knowledge this encompasses, interests me because it’s a practical and intellectual exercise which allows me to focus on my imaginary intuitions, my theories and ideas, and to depict them in a style that makes their comprehension as immediate as possible to whoever views them.
In any case, I leave it to individuals who encounter my pictures to judge for themselves whether they contain powerful ideas or content.


Question: You can identify your paintings with the person who appears repeatedly. Bald, always dressed the same way, able to multiply himself ad infinitum. The eyes, which are so important in understanding a person, are hidden behind his omnipresent glasses with opaque lenses.
Female figures also have characteristics that are always similar, and appear seductive at times and detached at others, in poses as classical goddesses or as wantons.
Books, always red, are insurmountable walls at one moment, and thunderous, crashing waves the next.
Many other elements recur in multiple variations of situations and scenes which are repeated over and over again.
One can’t help but notice a symbolic value in all of this. Do you want to convey some precise ideas?
Answer: People, the objects that inhabit the imaginary world of my paintings are symbols, and the scenes in which they’re placed are symbolic. These symbols are an intuitive response to the questions that I myself ask about my life, the things I encounter and get to know in the world I live in.
Being that I am the evocator of these symbols, it’s natural that I wonder what they mean. I find myself in an apparently privileged position to be able to interpret them and explain them, but actually I can only offer some quite general ideas as to what arouses the emergence of these images in me.
I believe that the language of painting is essentially intuitive. Pictures aren’t enigmatic games nor are they rebuses to solve, and if some parts of pictures are translatable in words, then you’re dealing with nothing more than a passageway that, in any case, leads to the most mysterious part, which is the world of symbols that don’t have solutions.
The symbolic world is the source of new intuitions. The desire to explain the wrinkles, something that belongs to other human faculties, simply runs the risk of exhausting the source.
I prefer, then, to leave to everyone’s intuition the chance to experience and understand the meaning of the imaginary and symbolic world that I evoke—and it’s all already in the pictures.
Often the answer to a question is already contained in the question itself, and I feel that I’m facing statements rather than queries as to meaning. People lay out what they feel and intuit in the same question, and I think that there’s nothing else to find out—it’s already all within them.
I sense in the people who ask me questions a certain disappointment or, at any rate, dissatisfaction over my answers.
I can’t nor would I like to say any more than this: since it is I who paints these pictures, they are all parts of me.
But, what’s more, insofar as they’re parts of a human being, they are a part of every person—I draw from myself what is common to everyone, and I take away what differentiates me from them.