Realism, artistic delirium and the image of oneself
We recently went to meet Bordeaux-based artist Victoria Stagni for an exclusive glimpse into her world. From the moment we stepped into her front door, the tone was set! There was nothing left for us to do but listen to her inspired discourse and admire the outlandishly beautiful paintings that decorate her walls. Well-versed in the art of self-portraiture, her admiration for Henri Rousseau and Frida Kahlo seeps through every stitch of her canvases. We’re here to tell you more about this enlightening encounter…
K. Hello Victoria, thank you for having us over! To begin, let’s talk about your desire to become an artist…
As a teenager and young adult, I used to draw a lot but I couldn’t imagine making a career out of it. However, I grew up in an environment with a strong artistic tonality as both of my parents were architects.
It took me several years before I allowed myself to become the person I really wanted to be from the beginning: a creative. But more specifically, a fine art painter.
I felt everything falling into place when I left Paris for Bordeaux, almost eight years ago. I came across a forgotten easel in the cellar and it appeared to be waiting for me, almost like an invitation. There is a very special atmosphere in Bordeaux, it’s an environment that stimulates the imagination and gives you the keys to a creative escape…
K. What was your background before settling in Bordeaux?
After highschool I studied history at the Sorbonne, then went on to study Communication without asking myself too many questions. I then had an apprenticeship in drama at the Cours Florent. This was the first important turning point in my life.
After that, I was an actress for almost 10 years. I thought I had found my way but I gradually realized that I wasn’t satisfied due to the lack of creative freedom.
On that note, I left Paris and came to Bordeaux. I enrolled in Pierre Lafage’s painting course at the Studio of Fine Arts and quickly started carrying out work that was close to my heart. As you can imagine, I had built up a huge desire to express myself on canvas.
K. Are there any artists who have inspired you and still inspire you today?
I love the naive and dreamlike compositions of Henri Rousseau, the way he paints nature and animals in a wonderful arrangement of colors.
As for Frida Kahlo, it is of course for her self-portraits that I love her, especially those in the presence of animals – they are of great beauty. I love it when she wholly assumes the totality of her Mexican identity. She looks you in the eye and is no longer a woman with a cursed fate. She is powerful, she is free.
As for Klimt, he is a man who knows how to represent women. He celebrates their beauty and succeeds in making them desirable while preserving their dignity. It’s a perfect representation of the eternal female in my opinion. Besides, I love his use of the color gold.
Closer to home, I also really appreciate some of David Hockney‘s realistic works for his use of color and the somewhat strange climate around his subjects. I also think of Banksy whose politically-charged works highlight the plagues caused by man. They really touch me.
K. What are the main themes in your work and why?
The notion of dreaming is one of the main themes that runs through almost all my paintings. This is without doubt linked to the magical realism drawn from the Latin American stories of my childhood…
And then there’s the love for nature and animals; all of which I find fabulous and fascinating. I claim my own animality in my self-portraits. I feel a sisterhood that should unite us with the rest of the animal kingdom instead of forever turning us away from it.
Many of my paintings are clearly pleas against pollution, environmental destruction and more generally, advocate for the preservation of nature. Some can even take a more political spin. Of course, I paint almost exclusively women. Feminism is at the heart of my work. The First Peoples or native inhabitants are also an important source of inspiration.
And finally, there is fear. There are often disturbing elements and threats that hover in my paintings. It can obscure a more joyful first reading brought on by the bright colors.
My fear is ever-present. I have inherited a deep sense of insecurity due to my experience as a young girl. At the age of four I had to flee my country at a moment’s notice. There was no explanation. I have since been burdened with my parents’ anguish in the face of a possible imminent death. The Argentinean military dictatorship has had this dark influence on my work.
“I claim my own animality in my self-portraits, the sisterhood that should unite us with the rest of the animal kingdom instead of forever turning away from it.”
Le règne des casoars
Oil painting (80 x 80 cm)
Oil painting (100 x 81 cm)
What KAZoART has to say: Victoria Stagni’s canvases are loaded with symbolism. They all have their own story, so personal yet simultaneously collective. Representing oneself is not an easy exercise, neither technically nor emotionally. What’s more, the colors employed convey the beauty of a world both rich and eclectic.
K. The majority of your paintings are dominated by your presence. Why is that? On what occasions do you paint other people?
With self-portraits there is a lack of accountability to anyone but yourself! On the canvas, your image belongs to you. You can therefore use it as you please. It is also the best way to convey emotion and to put my ideas on the canvas.
I have made several portraits of women who are more or less close to me. But in these cases, however, I was dispossessed by not having the total pictorial freedom I’m used to. I also worried about how they would receive my creations. Furthermore, I have represented my two daughters on several occasions, but here again, I have a responsibility to the model.
Lately, I have only used young female models from the other side of the world for my “Sanctuaries” series. I feel a similar freedom here as I do when painting myself since they are anonymous.
K. Among all your self-portraits (on KAZoART), is there one that represents you more than the others?
I don’t know if there is one self-portrait that best represents me…They capture so many facets of my personality, snapshots of how I feel about the reality that surrounds us. You will probably notice that I often choose to represent myself naked. There’s actually nothing erotic there.
I talked about the dreams and fear that often inhabit my paintings: my nudity is at the junction of these two themes. In our dreams, when we see ourselves naked, it is a moment of great anguish.
We feel extremely vulnerable in a strange context or an unusual environment and are unable to do anything about it. This is perhaps where I recognize myself the most. So, perhaps I would have to say Les Augures or Borneo.
K. Where will we have the pleasure of seeing you soon?
I will first participate in two group exhibitions in Bordeaux. They will take place in the fall.
The first one will be held in the cultural space of the Lerme Market from the 5th to the 18th of October with PUCEART. The second will take place during the Latin American and Caribbean days: I will exhibit with the MACLA collective from October 20th to 26th at the cultural space of the Halle des Chartrons.
At the end of the year, I will also exhibit several paintings in Paris, near Beaubourg. And I already have two exhibitions scheduled in some châteaux near Bordeaux in 2021.
Victoria Stagni’s artwork
La montagne magique
Oil painting (73 x 100 cm)
Oil painting (60 x 92 cm)
Oil painting (54 x 65 cm)