Archives and memories have always fascinated Naomi Vona. The Italian artist creates alternative stories and histories around the people in the found photographs she uses as the jumping off points for her artworks.
The link between past and present is prevalent - she likes to think of the images as imaginary portals that take her back to the past with the resulting artwork - created using pens, paper, colored tape and stickers - 'the visual proof' of her time travel.
Vona has exhibited her works in several group and solo shows including Kimball Art Center, Park City, Utah, Eight Gallery, Dublin, Luan Gallery, Athlone, Ireland, SOMArts Cultural Centre, San Francisco and Art Museum MARCA, Catanzaro, Italy.
Her work has been published in Curve Magazine, Gianna Magazine, Kaltblut Magazine and The Commission, amongst others. We asked her to tell us more about it. All of the below works are available on Artspace along with many more pieces by her. You can see all of them here.
How would you describe what you do to someone who hasn’t seen it? My art practice is a mix and a balance between photography, illustration and design. What I basically do is to paint abstract forms over found portraits of all sorts. I bring color to the past, but I also enrich with patterns more contemporary images.
How did you get into collage was it something from art college that really moved you?
I did 'art high school' and then the Academy of Fine Arts in Milan in Italy (Design and then Photography), so my studies were all focused on making creative stuff. In the Academy years I had a lot of creative laboratories that allowed me to experiment using different materials, and to play with different cameras as well. I also started to be fascinated by analog photography during that time.
Archives and memories are topics that always fascinated me. I seriously started to work on this technique around 2002, but these collages were born while I was living in Ireland in 2013. In the past I used to create collages using cutouts from magazines. I also experimented with painting and drawing directly on magazine fashion images as well. This style now has evolved in my current collages. It came naturally to produce these works at the end, because I was always interested in 'parasite' ready-made images.
Who are the people in the vintage photos – are they related to you, if not do you imagine them as related? I mostly use found pictures; this means that I don’t know any of the subjects that I work with. Sometimes you can find some clues behind the photos, with a message or a date of some sort. But this element of mystery adds a lot of fascination to my creative process and allows me to create an alternative story around these people.
I started to look for vintage pictures during my academy years, and to buy them online via eBay. It was the easiest way to get a big lot of images for a good price. Later on, especially when I moved to London, I also explored charity shops and vintage markets, just for the fun of it. However, I continue to do my research of vintage finds mostly online, it’s more convenient to me.
What should we look out for in your collages? Is there something that binds them all together? Every collage that I create is composed of three elements: my life background, my inspirations and subconscious, that is also the glue that puts all together. For the titles, I usually like to quote songs, books, movies and other things that I really love, it’s a personal way to celebrate everything and everyone that inspires me.
The link between the present and the past is particularly prevalent in your work – what is it about that relationship that interests you? I like to imagine that I have an imaginary portal that brings me into the past every time I desire, and my artworks are the visual proof of my time travel adventures. The fascination for the past is the key, the flashing colours are the portal.
What freedom does collage give you, and what are its restraints? It’s a wild and liberating feeling - you don’t have so many restrictions. I feel free, light and super focused as well. It’s very hard to describe the emotions, because you are living the experience of painting as a way to release negativity, and to transform it into something bright and colorful. I feel good, and this is what matters at the end. I think that the only limitation is the fact that you work on an 'existing canvas' that is your found image, so you have to adapt to it.
What’s the idea behind the album artworks, is it the size, the ratio or the album itself that appeals to you? Before I started to work on LP covers I was doing small pieces because my medium was always a found vintage photo. I wanted to expand the size of my works, but keep myself loyal to the concept of 'parasitising' an existing image. I thought that this medium was perfect for this purpose, so I started this series, and I enjoyed it a lot.
Can you control where it takes you once you start on a work? Not really, but this is the best part of the creative process. I try not to think too much of what I am doing and go with the flow.
What are you working on at the moment? I am currently working on different parallel series. One is all about abstract patterns and it’s called 'Portals'. Because I believe that my compositions are space-time portals, I am focusing on this concept and studying new patterns to continue to live my travel fantasy.
On the other hand, I am transforming my classic vintage photo alterations and pushing outside their 'physical' limits. What I am basically doing is to apply the found image onto a bigger canvas and to expand their territories all around, to create an imaginary world where they can float. It’s super exciting and I really enjoy what 's coming out from these new experiments.