Interview with Daniela Cavallo

Daniela Cavallo, photo by Diego Camola © Daniela Cavallo

Daniela Cavallo was born in Puglia, but lives and works in Milan. Her works are examples of digital painting strongly rooted in contemporary aesthetics and reveal a quest that ranges from meditation aimed at finding the ultimate meaning of things to the grace of a complete perception of oneself and others.

Francesca Della Ventura (FDV): Dear Daniela, I would like you to tell us how your artistic career has evolved over time. In your opinion, what is necessary today, in an era in which everyone claims to be a photographer, to really be a professional and an artist in this medium?

Daniela Cavallo (DC): Photography is “the writing of the light”, I would start from here. For me, photography and every image that strikes our imagination is connected to something that is unconscious, eternal, and part of us; photography helps us to delude ourselves that we are eternal. It connects to the soul: this is what I am looking for, through art, the soul, perhaps mine or perhaps ‘ours’.Photography…I have always loved it very much, analogue and digital, retouched, in all its forms. However, I do not feel like a ‘photographer’ in the ‘strict’, technical sense. I have met a lot of photographers, they are able to talk to you for an hour straight about lenses and camera brands, “Nikon or Canon?” That’s the dilemma, wonderful technique for sure, but what a bore! Photography is in the hands of men for the most part, very good, very technical and sometimes boring. I am not a photographer, I am an artist, I come from the painting. My teacher at the Brera Academy of Fine Arts, ‘il Bottarelli’, with whom I argued a lot, taught me to experiment, he taught me that from mistakes, from abstract stains, paths can be created and then works. I have never had any problems, once I got to know “the Camera” -the Body-, and the digital Software: -the soul-, I allowed myself the luxury of expressing myself, and pixels that grainy creating a magical pictorial effect, or “burnt” and “wrong” skies that “bring out” a blinding and absolute “white”, are welcome. My favourite artists using this medium? Sarah Moon and Hubert Kaufmann. They are painters more than photographers in my opinion, so I feel close to their research, which is rooted in painting, and in the soul more than in a Canon or a Nikon.

FDV: You have participated in important exhibitions, both in Italy and abroad, including the Venice Biennale and the St. Petersburg Biennale. What did these last two experiences leave you with? Which would you do again? What was it like living the Biennale as a protagonist?

DC: I took part in the St. Petersburg Biennial thanks to Fabrizio Boggiano, a non-conformist and intelligent critic who invited me in 2008. I was very young and it was not possible for me to attend the exhibition. However, it was very exciting to know that my works would be exhibited alongside those of the great masters of contemporary art. I took part in the 2011 Venice Biennial, curated by Sgarbi, who selected artists from all over Italy to represent their region. I was chosen for Lombardy. I was very grateful, I never felt like a protagonist, but I felt, somehow, that I was recognised in my research. And it was fun. What experience would I repeat? The next one I don’t know yet.

“Light 4”, trial proof, 23×23 cm (framed), printing on cotton paper, new edition mini format, 2020 ©Daniela Cavallo
“Lampi”, trial proof, 23×23 cm (framed), printing on cotton paper, new edition mini format, 2020 ©Daniela Cavallo

FDV: You are from Ostuni, but you live in Milan, where you started your artistic career. How has Milan changed in recent years? Is it still a suitable environment for photographers and contemporary artists?

DC: I was born in Ostuni, but when I was two-three years old I moved with my parents to Milan…I carry in my heart the warm, yellow and strong light of my land…the beauty of Puglia made me wish I could own it and take it away with me to Milan, with all its warmth and all my family that I left there with my grandparents, maybe with a photograph I could have done it and I started like that, photographing olive trees and my cousin. I owe a lot to Milan, I love it so much, it has given me so many opportunities, but there are castes, there is “snobbery” and so much more that I don’t want to talk about, I had to detach myself for a while because I was disgusted. But the desire to play with life through art cannot be taken away from me.

FDV: Do you often use the element of water in your latest works, such as those in the gallery? Why this choice? What are the effects of water in your photographs?

DC: We are made of water, about 80%. Relationships are “water” they freeze, they evaporate, they crystallise, they liquefy. How not to investigate it? I photograph it because it is magical, as are we who continue to delude ourselves that we can stop time as in a photograph.

Francesca Della Ventura
Francesca Della Ventura

Francesca Della Ventura is a journalist, curator and contemporary art critic, as well as founder and director of inWomen.Gallery.