Italian artists Grounded in Galway

Interview with Elena Dova on new exhibition in Town Hall

Elena Dova. Photo:- Mike Shaughnessy

Elena Dova. Photo:- Mike Shaughnessy

A BEGUILING exhibition featuring three Italian artists has opened in the Town Hall Theatre bar. Entitled Grounded, it features paintings and prints by Elena Dova, Gaia Biscardi and Gregorio Vecchione, all of whom have made their homes in Galway over the past couple of years.

Their work tells of their journeys here, and how they have settled and grounded themselves in Galway. Elena’s work is mixed media painting on the theme of trees; Gaia’s is a work in progress of her voyage to Ireland, and onwards; while Gregorio’s photographs are about the earth and land around Galway. Walking around the exhibition evokes the serenity of a stroll in the woods.

A native of Turin, Elena Dpreviously worked as a film sound designer in Rome with the post-production studio Technicolor. Two years she suddenly ‘upped sticks’ and relocated to Galway despite not knowing anyone here at that time. She tells me how this momentous life change came about.

“Due to the recession in Italy Technicolor closed and I lost my job," she says. "I had lived in Rome for 13 years at that stage and had become tired of Italy. I decided to change my life. Eight years ago I had visited Galway with my family for a holiday and I thought it was beautiful so when I had this big moment deciding what to do with my life I decided to move here and Galway has given me everything, it gave me the opportunity to work and I am very happy now.

“Even though I knew no one in Galway before coming I found a website, Worldaway, where people let you stay in their house and in return you help them for a few hours a day. Through the website I found a man in Athenry who had a B&B and I stayed there and helped him out. He also helped me to find a job, I am also a chef and I got work in Da Robertas in Salthill and everything started from there.”

Grounded is Elena’s first art exhibition, the majority of works on show are hers, and she also provided the show’s title. “I went to art school in Italy and after leaving there I decided to be a sound designer because I loved cinema and sound,” she tells me. “I did some painting in Italy but this is my first exhibition,” she tells me. “Margaret Nolan, who curates the show, suggested to me I do an exhibition. At first I was not really sure about doing it but she believed in me so I said ‘ok’ and decided I wanted to try something different, I have always liked trying new experiences. It was really good, I was under pressure but at the end I enjoyed doing it.”

The 12 pieces Elena has chosen to exhibit in Grounded have as their main theme the concept of trees. “Margaret initially suggested I do 24 pieces for the show but I knew I would not be able to do that so I ended up doing 12,” she explains. “My first thought was to find a theme and I was thinking of trees because I love them, trees are part of my story. For a long time before leaving Italy I felt somewhat like a naked tree, a bit sad. All the trees in the exhibition are also naked but they are full of life as well. They are the result of that big life change I went through, they are symbols of me landing and becoming grounded in this new place. In working on the exhibition I just wanted to be myself and try to convey how I feel now here, this was my focus.”

Elena first met Grounded curator Margaret Nolan just a week after arriving in Galway. “We met in Neachtain’s – the office!” she says with a laugh. Earlier this year, Nolan invited her to contribute to the Cúirt International Literature Festival’s art trail and, co-incidentally, the piece Elena put in was also tree-themed, an illustration inspired by Italo Calvino’s book, The Baron In The Trees. Since settling here, Elena has also got back into working in sound design, contributing to both the recent CarnEvil show and Fregoli Theatre Company’s acclaimed play, Pleasure Ground.

The opening of Grounded last Friday was a resounding success. “We had great feedback at the opening, seven of the pieces sold in just an hour and a half,” Elena enthuses. “A big part of this exhibition happening is because Galway is a town that gave me and Gaiai and Gregorio the opportunity. Lots of people, like Margaret, believe in you and give you new opportunity - something I did not get anymore in Turin or Rome. This is why I am here, I can be part of something, part of a town, a community. The best compliment I got at the exhibition opening was when I said ‘Thank you for coming’ a man said 'Thank you for being part of the community.' That was the best for me, in that moment I really felt something.

Grounded continues at the Town Hall until Thursday December 15.

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