Barbara De Vivi


“In my artistic practice, I seek to integrate traditional iconographic motifs with personal experiences and contemporary aesthetics. The result is a series of works that reference cultural heritage while remaining open to multiple interpretations”

AT: Where are you from and how/why did you start engaging with art?

BDV: I am from Venice, where I grew up and studied. I have always been attracted to narratives through images and since I was a child, I was passionate about drawing and browsing the art books I found at home. Also, the whole Venetian environment, from the external architecture to the museums and churches I used to visit with my family, has made art part of my everyday life in a very spontaneous way. This led me to choose to attend the art school and then the Academy of Fine Arts. From there it was a natural path.


AT: When did it become serious?

BDV: I started to see myself as an artist around 2017, when I started exhibiting my work and receiving some positive feedback. An important step was to participate in the residency Bevilacqua La Masa, where for the first time I faced other emerging artists and I’ve become more aware of my research  and how to comunicate it.


AT: Are there any person who has been significant in your breakthrough as an artist?

BDV: I haven’t experienced a moment that I can identify as a proper breakthrough, but a constant and gradual transition, which is still ongoing. At the Academy of Venice, I found a challenging and vibrant environment in the painting atelier that had an important role in my education. But the people who have helped me the most to figure things out were my peers. Discussing and chatting with my artist friends about our research always brings new energy to my work.


AT: What is your first approach to the work? How would you describe your practice?

BDV: In my artistic practice, I seek to integrate traditional iconographic motifs with personal experiences and contemporary aesthetics. The result is a series of works that reference cultural heritage while remaining open to multiple interpretations. My research is centered on the evolution and hybridization of images over time, as well as the interaction between analog and digital mediums. I spend most of my days in the studio but my activities vary depending on the work phases. In the design phase, I spend a lot of time reading and researching iconographies. Each step of the research is accompanied by drawings as notes, often of found images. Then, lately, I project a scene in which a model re-enacts in a photographic set with colored lights. After that, I re-elaborate the photos and create a composition through digital collage. And then, of course, I paint a lot.

Golden hour | Installation view at Fondazione Francesco Fabbri | Painting on wallpaper, 300×145 cm, 2021 | Photo credit: Gerda studio

AT: What do you aim to reach with your work?

BDV: The focus of my latest research is adolescence, intended as an age of transition characterized by indeterminacy. I’m working on a series of scenes that triggers feelings between attraction, nostalgia, and uneasiness. In doing that I often resume compositions from the Renaissance visual imagery, both mythological and religious. Is this sacred and suspended atmosphere what I’m trying to evoke in my paintings, alongside the feelings of ambivalence and solitude that characterize adolescence.

AT: What are your favourite tools and materials for working?

BDV: My medium of choice is by far oil painting on canvas. I love the brightness of the oil color and its transparency, which allows me to work by stratifying different layers. I’m also interested in the interaction between analogue and digital mediums. In the past, I utilized digital collages as a preparatory tool for painting, however, in recent works, the digital aspect has taken on a more prominent role, manifesting in printings beneath the paintings, wallpapers, and wall stickers. Other essential tools during my preparatory stage are pencils and sketchbook.


AT: What do you feel while you work? Do you usually think about the final outcome beforehand?

BDV: When I paint, moments of almost meditative concentration alternate with decision-making phases. While working I am in a tense and receptive mood and I always go through many ups and downs emotional phases. Lately, I start to work only after having outlined a detailed project based on drawings, photos, and digital collages, but facing the matter often leads me to have to reconsider my initial plan and be flexible to meet the painting needs.

AT: How do you understand that a work is finished?

BDV: When there isn’t any major obstacle that distracts from the atmosphere I want to render in the painting, I consider it finished.

Installation view Ambivalove, Alte Handelschle, Pilotenkueche residency, Leipzig

AT: Where does the inspiration for the work come from?

BDV: The inspiration could come to me often from books and other artworks, but also from the environment that surrounds me and from my memories. The ideal situation is when I find analogies between these different fields.


AT: Are there any artists who influenced your works? Why?

BDV: The artists that influenced my work in a direct way are the ancient classical painters, between renascence and baroque. Between the contemporary ones, I look at Henry Darger and Balthus for their representation of childhood’s restlessness and for how they re-elaborate collective iconographies. Lately I’m interested in Louisa Gagliardi’s approach to technology and in Jill Mulleady’s light but unsettling narratives.


AT: How important is the role of social media for you?

BDV: I use almost only Instagram. I find it a very helpful tool for getting to know artists and keeping updated with what’s going on. I also use it to promote my work but I’m not interested in creating a self-narration of private aspects of my life. I think social media are a useful instrument as long as you don’t take them too seriously.


AT: What is your opinion about NFTs and their impact on the art world?

BDV: The technology behind NFTs could be fascinating but I think they concern more with the market than the art itself.

Regarding Venice Installation view at galleria Poggiali, Milan, 2021

AT: As an artist, what is your point of view about the contemporary art system?

BDV: Even though I took part in many events I feel like my vision is still partial and I don’t consider myself as part of a unified system. I do cultivate individual relationships with curators and artists with whom I feel affinities.


AT: What do you find to be the most challenging or daunting thing about pursuing art? What is the most rewarding part of working as an artist?

BDV: The most challenging aspect is to have no boundaries or certainty (also financially) and have to choose almost everything about your working path on your own. On the other hand, this independence is what I love the most about being an artist. It allows me to travel and manage my own time. It gives me the chance to spend a lot of time by myself to deepen the topics that fascinate me, but also to meet interesting people and environments. This gives me a sense of freedom.


AT: What do you do besides art?

BDV: Trying not to think about the studio practice.


AT: What are your goals and expectations for the future?

BDV: I have recently moved to Hamburg and right now I’m in the artist residency Pilotenkueche in Leipzig. I want to get to know more about the Hamburg art scene and try to create a network there. In the near future, I would like to do some more projects and collaborations abroad.

Serpenti di bronzo |  Installation view SNAP TRAP, Rome, 2021, Mixed tecnique on canvas, PVC stickers
Barbara De Vivi (Venice, IT, 1992) carries out her studies at the Academy of Fine Arts of Venice where in 2018 she obtained her second-level diploma. She participates in the Erasmus + project by studying at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid (ES). In 2017 she participates in the residency Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa (Venice) and won the Combat Prize. In 2018 she obtained the Euromobil Under 30 Prize. In 2021 her work is selected by Chus Martinez to be part of the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Cuneo Collection. After a one-year experience in Newcastle upon Tyne (UK) she recently moved to Hamburg (DE). She is currently in residency at Pilotenkueche, Leipzig (DE).