In the Studio with Annalisa Avancini

Italian artist Annalisa Avancini predominantly explores figuration and people. Her artistic interests range from architecture and design to painting. We met with Annalisa to tell us more about growing up in Trento, her former job as a stylist, and recent inspirations in her practice.

When did you first begin to see yourself as an artist?

I have never felt like an artist. Generally it is others who have defined me that way; for me it remains a somewhat abstract word. I just feel that I need to convey my thoughts, my feelings, my ideas, through my abilities and materialize them, work constantly to improve and thus always get a little closer to the image or result I want to achieve. It’s something that has been with me all my life. 

Where are you from and what was your upbringing like? How has this impacted your work?

I was born in Trento, a city in northern Italy. I graduated from the Art School of Trento and as soon as I finished my studies I moved to Milan to study Fashion Design. Then I lived and worked in Milan for several years as a fashion designer for well-known companies.

As a child I always drew a lot, I loved copying faces from the magazines I found at home, but not only that, I drew everything. At Art school I honed my skills, at Fashion Design school I outlined my preferences and my personal taste which I then consolidated during my working period as a stylist. It was a crucial experience for me. Despite it being a stimulating and creative job, after a few years it was no longer enough for me and I felt the need to abandon it to express my creativity in a different, more conscious way. The influences of this last period are very present in my works, from them derive certain atmospheres. The great fashion photographers have been an inspiration for me. I still love to paint the fabrics that are often part of the backgrounds or are an integral part of the subject. I pay particular attention to the choice of the link between the patterns of the fabrics and the subject in order to make everything fit into the expression of the body. Compared to my previous work I can now represent my subject without masks, stripped of an image that must always be perfect, a more intimate and truer image.

Paint us a picture of your artistic journey. 

I didn’t quit my job as a stylist employee overnight, it was gradual. Initially I worked as a freelance and then as a teacher. I tried to do a job that would allow me to have more time to paint initially, but I didn’t do it with the aim of selling my work or making it a profession. When people got interested in my work, I realized that something had changed. Before my creativity was behind the brands, at that moment it was just me with my images, so this interest surprised me. Painting has become more and more a part of my daily life. I started participating in some competitions and receiving some feedback and this made me think that I could only continue in this way.

What’s the message of your work?

I try to paint the truth; to represent the human being in his totality so that he can be thoroughly known, externally and internally, in his fragility and in his immense strength.

This historical period is characterized by the anxiety of the search for perfection, with the fear of external and internal decline given by the search for the perfection of living. I believe that the true beauty of man lies precisely in his uniqueness, in his infinite, incomprehensible, mysterious inner world, always different and beautiful for his uncontrollable being.

This search for the inner part to bring out the psychological part leads me to a careful analysis of the details and great observation.

I can define my aesthetic intentions characterized by the contrast of opposite poles together between truth, dream and reality.

Who and what are your greatest influences? 

My art is inspired by everything that surrounds me, from life and all the things I have experienced, the positive and negative ones. From the artists and photographers I love, to a face seen casually, or a stolen expression.

I also take a lot from nature. I live in a place in the middle of nature. I have created a rose garden in recent years, taking care of it is almost a meditation for me that inspires me and helps me in painting. I love to observe the cyclicality of decay and rebirth of the seasons that leads to a renewal that never ends … I think it is one of the most powerful things there is ..

An unexpected source of inspiration?

Sometimes I get inspired by some good movie shots.

Are your works planned? What do you want people to take from your work when they view it?

They are planned because I have the image of the composition quite clear in my head. I imagine it before taking photographs and small videos of the subjects. I work a lot on those when it is not possible to portray the person live. I don’t always make preparatory sketches. I need to see immediately how it looks on the canvas and then I draw directly. I leave it to the people who observe my works to share their personal point of view…based on their experience and their emotions. I don’t think about the public when I create, I think more about the challenge with myself to get the result that satisfies me.

What event in your life have mobilized change in your practice/aesthetic?

I’ve never loved the routine, I’ve always needed to change and so I’ve often moved and changed my life. Each of these moments also influenced my art, but there were two more significant changes. When I moved to the last studio / house where I am finally in close contact with nature, and another when I worked as a teacher in the city of Verona. In my free moments I went to see various exhibitions of artists, including contemporary ones. In those years I also went to see an unforgettable exhibition of Lucian Freud in the city of The Hague – all this stimulated me a lot. At that time I was more attracted to the representation of body movements than to faces, though still always present. I used very large canvases, large brushes with which I made very fast brush strokes, the colors I chose were more vibrant, I was in a hurry to create and I began to understand that painting was just what I wanted to do. As my research has increasingly focused on faces and the psychological aspect, I experiment on bringing out this side of the subject and it is almost a challenge, the more difficult it is, the more I find stimulus to perform the work.

My paintings have become more and more detailed, the signs of the brushstrokes are still present, the patterns of the fabrics have mingled with my flowers and the atmospheres that now surround me.

What are your ideal conditions or catalyst for creating a “good” piece of work?

I have to be in my studio alone, when I start creating an opera I need silence, when the work is well underway, listening to music and more.

Natural light is the best but it’s not always possible.

When I’m under a little pressure for timing I get better results.

Tell us about the inspirations behind one of your pieces?

In the work entitled “thinking” I represented the subject with a slight smile, the head leaning against the wall, everything is united by shades of green, even the skin. Although it may seem upset, my intention was to portray a state of relief. I did it just after a year of serious difficulty for my health, it was all over and I felt free. Even though the initial intention was not to represent me, it is clear to my eyes that I did it through the subject.


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