Antivegetativa – Q&A with Davide D’Elia

On Friday November 29th at 6:30 pm, the opening of the exhibition ANTIVEGETATIVA by Davide D’Elia will be held at the Galleria Ex Elettrofonica.

We are thankful to have had the opportunity to conduct a brief interview with artist Davide D’Elia in order to better understand the inspiration and concepts behind his new show Antivegetativa. Below you will find his personal responses to our Q&A:

Can you tell me about the title of your new show, Antivegetativa?

Antivegetativa is the technical name for a special paint used in shipyards, a very thick one, usually applied as a primer for the hulls of old ships. It is special because it isolates the structure of plant or animal bodies and by the action of time eliminates any possibility of the proliferation of life.

In your last exhibit at Ex elettrofonica you turned the gallery into a habitable environment for mold to grow on the walls. What inspired you to move from the presentation of living, organic matter to its outright refusal by coating objects in antifouling paint?

There is a direct connection between the two shows: Three years ago I used a nutrient solution for the proliferation of mold directly on the gallery walls. On those same walls this time, in an attempt to stop the decay caused by time, I will use antifouling paint.

How did you come to use mold and other atmospheric agents as a medium?

The use of atmospheric agents such as mold, dust or the sun, derives directly from my experience with informal painting.

The paint brush can not manage not to “humanize” when I use it, while these mediums and the control that I exercise on them allows me an objectivity which otherwise is not feasible.

In Antivegetativa, this position is reversed, because in this case the effect of the brush on the objects, made with a wide brush without the use of lines, is manual but leads to a “controlled” result.

What kind of objects will be included in the show, and how were they chosen?

Antivegetativa is composed of paint, a chair, a buoy and nineteen paintings from old wineries, used item markets, antique shops and second-hand dealers.

The paintings depict scenes from the sea, rocky landscapes, retouched photographic portraits, images of “boys” of another era now forgotten. The chair is the ideal place where time stands still, while the buoy is the symbol of the space-the limit not to be exceeded.

What is the relationship between the artworks and the gallery space?

Ex elettrofonica is a characterized and very impactful exhibition space, an environment with its soft almost organic forms that resembles the concept of the classic whitecube .

Three years ago I planted ovals of mold directly on its walls, this time for antivegetativa the space is cut horizontally at a height of about 1.70 cm with a single large flow of paint that covers not only the walls and floor, but also the works hanging on the walls (front and back) and the objects on the floor.

[Interviewed and translated by Abigail Lewis]


The project is a unique installation that takes up the thread of the first exhibition that D’Elia mounted for the gallery in 2010, Ieri distrattamente mi volsi a considerar altrui memorie (dalle quali mi ritrovai rinvigorito). On that occasion the artist had developed a system capable of causing mould to grow directly on prearranged spaces of the gallery. Using chemical agents and controlling the gallery temperature, D’Elia had limited himself to waiting for bona fide fungal proliferations to develop. The gallery, then, presented itself marked by these moulds: they themselves were the work on display. In that first installation D’Elia’s purpose was to show the “invisible”, that is to say the presence everywhere of life and of the passage of time.

This time the artist operates in the opposite direction: he employs the antivegetative; antifouling paint, a kind of paint used above all on ships and boats to stop the growth of algae, coral and mould on the hull. The protagonist of the work is still the gallery itself, transformed into an inhabited space and ideally semi-immersed in the antivegetative: pictures, sculptures and furniture all appear in the grip of antifouling paint, coloured its typical aseptic green, almost as if to block any proliferation of life.

With ANTIVEGETATIVA Davide D’Elia presents a project born out of the opposition between organic and synthetic, living and aseptic, hot and cold, formal and informal.

Curated by the two gallerists, Beatrice Bertini and Benedetta Acciari, the exhibition is rounded off with a critical piece by Giulia Ferracci.

Davide D’Elia was born in 1973 in Cava dei Tirreni in the Province of Salerno. He lives and works between London and Rome. His work has been exhibited at the MAXXI Museum of the 21st Century Arts (Rome May 2013) and at the Venice Biennale (Nell’Acqua capisco [In the Water I Understand], Procuratie Vecchie – Piazza San Marco, 31 May – September 2013). Among his solo and collective shows have been exhibitions in England, Lebanon, Greece and Slovenia. Initially fond of painting in the Art Informal tradition, in the last eight years D’Elia has experimented with the interaction between atmospheric agents and artefacts  as a case study of natural phenomena, which leads him to make works composed of deteriorated materials, made up of shadows and traces of micro-organisms (mould).

Other works by D’Elia are characterized by the contamination between languages, from photography to video, to arrive at complex multi-material installations that reflect on the relationships of constriction that govern the world around us.

Ex elettrofonica – Vicolo di Sant’Onofrio, 10, Rome
Opening 29 November, Friday