Here and There

Here and There

Soula Mantalvanos celebrates the beauty of Venice.

17 March, 2023
In Exhibitions,
Printmaking, Q&A

From top:

Soula Mantalvanos:

Grand Canal, Venice, 2023, etching 20 x 30 cm, edition of 10

Piscina S. Moise Venice, 2022, oil on linen, 21 x  30cm

Fondamenta de la Tana, 2022, oil on linen

Fondamenta de la Tana, Venice, 2023, etching 7 x 5 cm, edition of 10

Rio dei Barcaroli⁩ ⁨Venice⁩ ⁨Italy,⁩ 2022, oil on linen 21 x 30 cm


Q: What were some of the foundation ideas for this exhibition project?

A: If I had to use one word, it would be ‘place’. And the relationship with it; what it means when you’re in it, how it impacts you when you’re away from it, what resonates after you’ve visited or lived in it.

Perhaps it’s also respecting a place – I absolutely love Venice. But maybe also, I’m simply doing the artist thing; travelling, documenting, and communicating because that is a beautiful thing to do.

Q: How did the artwork selection take place?

A: As curator of Queenscliff Gallery, I organise the calendar of exhibitions. I have been reluctant to include myself in that calendar, conscious of taking space from the artists the gallery represents until post-pandemic.

Our business model had to be refined. One crucial factor was prioritising my art practice like we do for represented artists. Theo and I realise how important it is for the gallery’s credibility. Our patrons and visitors value that we are more involved in the visual arts scene – it isn’t just business; this is a way of life.

My practice involves many subjects, but once we travelled to Venice and I began drawing there, I knew I had to document the experience more. Although we were overseas for just a few weeks, we never treated Venice as a stepping stone. This is the second time we have made it the destination.

I didn’t make plans other than take journals and my trusty click pencil that never needs sharpening and has just the right point and hardness.

So, it was a wonderful surprise to find myself purchasing linen from the local art shop and chopping it up in manageable sizes so I could sketch all the paintings while I was there. I have never done that before; usually, I come back to the studio and work from sketches and photographs. However, this was far more special as I established a daily routine.

After breakfast, it was about finding ‘that spot’ and sketching it in on the linen while Theo hunted for the best lunch spot (it was really tough!).

Back in the studio and the work matured. I tried some woodblock prints but resorted to my original love, copperplate etching. And I haven’t stopped working since… there will be more work coming out of this most recent visit, and if possible, I will definitely go back to Venice. I briefly visited Verona… the place has stayed on my mind…

Q: How does the exhibition manifest – what do visitors experience?

A: Here and There presents my interaction with Venice. My memories and emotions of the place, my face-to-face contact with it.

The pieces are small, intimate oil paintings. There are 12 paintings, three etchings and a couple of sketches. I think the various mediums help me explore my feelings further. I’ve always enjoyed exploring my subjects with various media. If you see the painting with the clothesline, the meaning will vary with the etching that depicts the clothesline, even if they are the same scene. The etchings are small (7 x 5 cm), almost reflecting a smaller memory – a speck of that experience.

I’m drawing the viewer in, inviting them to get up close.

The paintings are a little rough around the edges, unfinished and raw, and I used a limited colour palette. I believe that’s my way of having scratched past the surface of Venice and not only seeing the shiny, gold bits.

Q: What are some of the key works and what subject matter do they deal with?

A: Two key works for me are my etching, Grand Canal Venice, 2023 (framed) and Piscina S. Moise Venice, 2022 (framed). Both these works bookend the exhibition for me. They both represent the essence of Venice; these two images become like portraits of this place I love so much.

Each time I go, I stand there and feel it was built entirely for me; it’s that satisfying. I can easily move around Venice, the lifestyle inclusive of a restful siesta, the food, and that underlying theatrical stage… I just can’t stop thinking of going back.

Q: What is it about the printmaking experience that you most appreciate?

A: That line… that definite, energetic line that provides so much expression with minimum output. And it’s the danger and that surprise when you pull the first proof.

I love the tangible quality, the slowness, and the tradition. But mostly, it’s the drawing quality.

I’m fortunate to have Theo helping me prepare and edition my prints. Still, I try to do as much as possible on my own – now that I can, which is a great place to finally arrive after a long time of being unable to manage.

So, I guess this exhibition of work defines many great things about place – I have been working towards this moment for a very long time.

Here and There is at Queenscliff Gallery from Mar 16- Apr 9 (link: Queenscliff Gallery now hosts private exhibition Mingles. Invitation info sent to subscribers. Soula Mantalvanos and co-exhibitor Jim Pavlidis will be at Queenscliff Gallery on Sunday 9 April from 1pm.

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