"In The Studio With:..." is a weekly feature that takes us into the private creative spaces of emerging artists to discuss their work and career.
Donatella Quintavalle has incorporated architecture, fashion design, painting and conceptual art in her more than 40 years as a practicing artist. Art for her seems more about coming to terms with the nature of our universe, and discovering hidden truths, rather than as a means of aesthetic expression.
Anthony Philip Fine Art: Your work touches on metaphysical, spiritual, and even scientific aspects of the universe we experience. How did you come to embrace such a broad view of reality, and how has that manifested itself in your art?
Donatella Quintavalle: My work is a guide to explore the inner worlds. I use the image in order to visualize my feelings [as] a form of discipline that has forced me to follow a difficult path with integrity, to understand myself. I studied Anthroposophy, Buddhism, and esoteric religion. The 'Whole' attracted me, feeling the mighty power of the Divine and yet feeling, in the meantime, the overthrow of a paralyzing a numinous energy; An experience that makes you fearful yet fascinated, awed yet attracted-the powerful, personal feeling of being overwhelmed and inspired.
APFA: You began your career studying architecture and design, and have transformed into a purely conceptual art practice. Why did you feel that pull away from the more practical aspect to the more conceptual?
DQ: My main focus was to understand who I am. Studying architecture and art helped me to understand myself in a way that I could see where I was. An empty space where nothing was there, just trying through perception to follow some waves where I could eventually have some hint of other beliefs. What fascinated me about architecture was mostly the conceptual and the historical part, the secret aspect of the process of building. Vitruvius believed that an architect should focus on three central themes when preparing a design for a building: firmitas (strength), utilitas (functionality), and venustas (beauty).
Between this conflict of those two distinct disciplines, architecture and art, I was trying to understand what the two had in common. It took me a long time to balance my mind in between proportion and free expression. How my brain works, the left and the right, plus I’m left handed and this has created more problems. These intellectual conflicts were important for me for understand in a scientific and spiritual way most of our own reality.
APFA: Would you mind briefly describing your process, from the conception of a work to its completion?
DQ: I always try to explore my inner dimension first, trying to represent this reality the way I see it, discover part of me that are hidden. Meanwhile I love researching techniques that allow myself to express the type of concept I want. I like fabrics and paper. Most of my past works was done using “wet canvas in organic material." This material allowed me to express everything I wanted to say. I used the natural fabric, windows on the infinite whole, that presents to me an endless array of possibilities, treated with various techniques I was able to do sculptures and paintings.
Now I still use the same type of materials ,but in a different way, after having recognized the absolute beauty of the Whole, so I can be more free in a different way.
A quote from William Blake:
“To see a world in a grain of sand
and heaven in a wild flower,
hold infinity in the palm of your hand
and eternity in an hour”
APFA: How has your experience as a world traveller and global citizen affected your artwork?
DQ: I studied architecture in Florence, where life seems to have stopped at the Renaissance, where art, architecture, sculpture and literature are the historical expression of our millennium, where Cosimo de 'Medici still reigns, and perhaps he still there silent, Lord of a museum city. All this has enchanted me. Enlightened masters like Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Brunelleschi and Dante. But I needed to explore after that, something more contemporary, so I decided to come to New York, where the creative energy is very strong and to be part it.