Michele D’Avenia Painter / Sculptor

What was the point in time when you knew that you wanted to be an artist?

Ever since I was a child, I have always been attracted to drawing. I continuously drew and coloured, trying to reproduce everything I saw, especially the images and covers of the “Micky Mouse” magazines that I grew up reading. Although I had this confirmation as a teenager, it seems incredible but one day after leaving school while I was returning home, feeling stressed thinking about my uncertain future, I heard a voice in my head repeating to me “you are an artist, you are an artist, you are an artist.”

As the Sun Fades 50 x 70 cms , Oil on canvas

Who are two people who have helped you to achieve this goal?

My father., Painter, decorator and art enthusiast, he introduced me to the wonderful world of colour and drawing since I was a child, giving me the first lessons on drawing and colour techniques.  But all this didn’t help me achieve a goal, it was just a way to do what I felt and be myself.

Subsequently, in the path of my life, I have always been very lucky to surround myself with people who have always seen and believed in my talent, stimulating and making me notice that what was normal for me was actually special.

Take ‘Abundance’ and discuss the importance of light and colour in this work.

Abundance, 40 x 50 cms, Oil on canvas

“Abundance” is a medium sized oil on canvas still life painting.  It is a painting of great emotional impact which manages to attract the attention of the observer.  All this is not occasional, but strongly desired.  The painting, with a pyramidal composition, was executed on a canvas prepared with a dark background primer (ivory black). This made it easier for me to carry out a highly contrasted work, creating a wonderful contrast between light and shadow which gives the work a great perspective.  The colour, applied in glazes until saturation, enhances the objects represented at maximum chromatic power.  They are rich in delicate nuances and at the same time with a three-dimensional plasticity that makes the composition emerge from the darkness, giving great atmosphere and depth to the painting.

Tell us a bit about your restoration work?

It all started when I was in the academy of fine arts.  I had a great desire to learn but the academy I attended didn’t give me what I was looking for. I wanted to know more, I wanted to understand and learn ancient painting techniques.  One day I had a great intuition: “I would like to see how ancient paintings are made and structured”  In a city not far from Messina I found a restorer who gave me the opportunity to attend his laboratory for the restoration of ancient paintings and sculptures. Shortly thereafter he took me in to work in his shop.  This was a great training experience for me, acquiring all those workshop techniques and secrets, which are still part of my professional background today. Oil painting as it was done in ancient times, preparing the supports with the right plaster and painting with glazes until the desired effect is achieved.  Since that moment I have never abandoned the wonderful world of restoration which continues to keep me linked between the past and present. Ancient technique representation of today – contemporary.

Comment on the way your still life work is often avoided of anything but the single object. 

In the composition of my paintings, nothing is given to chance, each object is placed in the right place, in a so-called “invisible scaffolding” to create an elegant and harmonious compositional balance.  Subsequently, to bring out the composition as much as possible and have an immediate reading of the painting, I concentrate as much as possible on the objects in the foreground, synthesizing the background a lot.   In this way the background creates the wonderful atmosphere that envelops the entire painting. The synthesis of the background is so exaggerated that it makes the work atemporal.

In Full Bloom, 100 x 90cm, Oil on canvas

 Compared to this, you also do still life paintings with many objects discuss.

The objects that I include in the compositions are always well studied, both for the shapes and for the chromatic aspect they must have. Furthermore, they have a very specific task, they are there, not to demonstrate their beauty but to symbolize or renew the plot of a story. Like in a still image from a film, where there is a before and an after.

Primi Luci 40 x 60 cms, Oil on canvas

What historical artists do you hold in high esteem and why?

As I have already mentioned, I have always been fascinated and in love with all the art of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries with all its immense artists who contributed to making the history of art.  Although among all these artists there is one in particular who has been a constant point of reference for me and that is Michelangelo Merisi known as Caravaggio.  He is an artist with a powerful and direct language. With his strongly marked ‘chiaroscuro’ he manages to give importance to subjects and human figures, making them three-dimensional, creating a completely new spatiality. But what is even more fascinating is that the technique of this sixteenth-century master is modern and contemporary even today.

On the Edge 100 cms. Oil on canvas

‘Zucchini Flowers’ you are using your humor and stretching the viewer as to is it not usually cut as a flower for a vase.

Yes, it’s true, in “Zucchini Flowers” there is a bit of irony that distances you from the usual conventional representations.

Fiori di Zucca, 50 x 40 cms, Oil on canvas

But there is also a great point of truth… my own perspective.  I’m driven by the constant and exasperated search for beauty and aware that beauty is everywhere.  As in this case, where a simple and poor object still has great objective beauty, it’s all about knowing how to grasp it.

Discuss the positioning of your model in ‘Summer Bliss’

“Summer bliss” has a rigorously balanced composition, where the female figure, with a soft and seductive chromatism, is immersed in a sparkling setting of clear and transparent water, aiming to evoke a moment of pure relaxation.

Summer Bliss, 100 x 100 cms, Oil on canvas

The nice thing is that in a discreet and non-intrusive way, I am present in the scene. At the bottom right you can see my shadow immortalizing the scene.

Tell us why ‘Art of the Goat’ was painted and given this title?

“The Art of the G.O.A.T” was a commission.

Art of the G.O.A.T 100 x 300 cms, Oil on Canvas

The client asked me to create a large painting depicting our nations favourite sport, football.  As a non-fan and non-enthusiast, I really didn’t know where to start. Through the many researches I did I was struck by the action of this footballer, Cristiano Ronaldo known as “The Greatest of all time”   I decided that I wanted to create a painting that immortalized him with a new Caravaggesque painting depicting the image of him emerging from the darkness while performing the spectacular bicycle kick. By painting him with a strong plasticity I wanted to highlight the athlete’s fantastic performance.

You give, a lot of thought, to all your titles, discuss.

I believe that the title of a painting has great importance, because it helps the viewer to understand better or faster what you want to tell them.  Usually the title comes first, when I have the inspiration of what I want to create. A few, rare times when the work is finished. In that case it is the painting itself that suggests the title to me.

If this is not enough, you also sculpt.  Discuss the techniques used in ‘The Ballet Shoes’ in the casting process.

Yes, sculptures have always fascinated me and are truly fantastic.  It is a different language that is closer to real than paintings, because while a painting is a deception of the eye because it creates three-dimensionality on a superfine flat two-dimensional.

L’altra Faccia del Peccato, Bronze

The sculpture is real, wonderfully three-dimensional, you can see and touch it from every side. Furthermore, it is exciting to give the sensation of softness to a hard material, such as marble, stone, bronze.

“The Ballet Shoes” is a sculpture that had a fairly long process.

Le Scarpette, Bronze

The initial plan was to make it in Carrara marble, but during the final phase a blow from the chisel was fatal, bang! and the marble broke. In order not to lose the work, I glued the sculpture and made a silicone mould to reproduce it in plaster and be able to continue the work. When the model was finished, I produced the bronze casting with the subsequent patina (the thin film on the bronze of the sculpture).

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on some painting commissions that depict still life works with dark backgrounds with objects emerging from the darkness, placed in precarious situations with a strong emotional impact.  When I have completed these works, my commitment is to dedicate myself to new production for the American market which has ‘water’ as its main theme.

Does your environment give you inspiration and do you want to transport the viewer?

Yes,  I am lucky enough to live in a wonderful place full of stimulation and inspiration for my work.

The Fruit of Life, 100 x 150 cms, Oil on canvas

Although I believe the important thing is not the place you are in but on the contrary, the more you travel, the more you know and experience new places and things and the more you are stimulated because your predisposition to inspiration is within you.  But the ability to see beauty is fundamental and is the exciting part of things. I am like a sponge, I absorb everything around me. I assimilate every emotion, I hold it and I try to pour it into my works both paintings and sculptures.

Discuss light and shadows in both your paintings and sculpture.

As you now know, since I was a child I have been fascinated by Caravaggio’s revolutionary way of painting.  I immediately understood the great importance of light in both painting and sculpture, so that it became the essential characteristic in my art.  As in sculpture it enhances the all-round plasticity, also in paint things and people emerge from the darkness, thanks to a revealing light that falls only on the parts I prefer, enhancing their beauty and plasticity.  The shadows are shrouded in darkness, taking away from the viewer everything that I don’t think is appropriate.

Waiting for Freedom, 129 x 94.5 cms, Oil on canvas

It is a strong and delicate balancing act at the same time.

All this gives the work I create a fascinating perspective and the possibility of leading the viewer to the emotions I wish to communicate.

Moments, 90 x 50 cms, Oil on canvas


Michele D’Avenia

Michele D’Avenia Art Gallery


Email: micheledavenia@hotmail.com 

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, July 2024

Images on these pages are all rights reserved by Michele D’Avenia