For the tenth episode of IN STUDIO, we went to visit the artist Dario Maglionico. Born in 1986, of Neapolitan origin, he lives and works in Milan, dedicating himself exclusively to painting. We were impressed by his work exhibited by the Antonio Colombo gallery last spring and decided to get to know him better. In his works, meticulous realism and attention to detail meet the surreal, like in a dream. Actually, his journey is not a dreamlike one, but is instead linked to the theme of memory and the subjective perception of time and space. Let’s start the interview and discover more about his research and his studio.
We are in Milan, in the Cimiano area. An outlying area often chosen by artists. Inside a large building is Dario Maglionico’s studio, which he shares with other artists. A large open space divided by small walls or shelves to create different corners, each with its own personality. There are many artists present, some we already know, like the Press Press guys and the illustrator Beatrice Bellassi, while others we meet for the first time, like Andrea Fiorino, Dario’s neighboring workstation, and great friend, the painter Martina Merlini, the collagist Zeno Peduzzi, and the artist Giacomo Silva. But let’s start with the questions and understand how he got here.
Let’s start from the beginning. How did it all starts?
I started painting at the age of seventeen. I never really studied painting; I graduated in Biomedical Engineering at the Polytechnic University of Milan. My approach to painting began as self-taught. This approach is ambivalent because, on the one hand, it directs you towards what you like, but on the other hand, you tend to close yourself off, so it can be a limit. The academic environment undoubtedly allows you to immediately encounter what you don’t like and, above all, to confront yourself with peers, which I consider fundamental. I found this aspect here, in the form of the shared studio.
Your technique is very precise. Did it take you a long time to refine it?
The precise technique is the result of consistency; I painted every day. Now less, sometimes I take breaks, but before, I painted constantly. Then, with time, it’s inevitable that it becomes a necessity, dictating your way of life. It’s a practice that becomes automatic; you start painting but think totally about something else.
How did you come to this studio?
Together with Andrea Fiorino, we were looking for a space. Fiore found an ad, we came here to see it, and we entered in September 2019. We did a few months, and then there was the pandemic that forced us to temporarily return home, which before then had always been my workplace as well. I must say that coming here changed things. Having a shared space I like. It gives me the opportunity to detach and compare myself with other artists. The experience of the shared studio is new to me, and I can say that I wouldn’t go back. I thought it might be a bit intrusive, but it’s exactly the opposite.
Do you often have visitors here?
Certainly, the Press Press guys are very active; they often come as collaborators and customers who need to print. Occasionally, friends, collectors, or gallery owners come for studio visits, as you are doing now. The beauty of this place is that it is an open space. Visitors come for one artist and meet others.
Let’s talk about your research. In your paintings, there are places and people, are they real or imaginary? Where do your inspirations come from?
Tendentially, the places and people I paint are all familiar to me. They are the houses of friends and acquaintances. Especially at the beginning, it was like that. The first subjects I portrayed were my parents. My work reflects on the perception of time and space and how it is influenced by one’s experience and memories. When we remember something, the image is often fragmented, superimposed. The different perspectives with which we observe anything create a memory that is not univocal but is made up of the sum of several moments that occurred at different times. My intention is not to describe a space experienced by the subject portrayed but also by the one observing it.
When did you start painting in this way? How has your research evolved over time?
I started this series of works, in this way, in 2013. Little by little, with very small and slow steps, there has been an evolution. Over the years, the work evolves and goes in certain directions, maintaining some things and changing others. It always starts from a space or a person that strikes me, so I photograph them to have a basis on which to create a digital draft. In reality, I have two design methods. On the one hand, this more documentaristic method with a strong visual reference, while the other methodology was born during the lockdown. Unable to go anywhere, I started studying Blender, a 3D modeling program through which I could create imaginary places from scratch. From this method, a series of still lifes were born, in which there is a completely acausal association, in the sense that they don’t tell anything, it’s an association of objects without a reason.
So with this program, you can digitally reproduce places and people, always starting from your memories and, possibly, from the photos you take. All this then serves as a starting point when you move to the canvas. How helpful was it to discover this digital tool?
This method opened up new scenarios for me; I had the opportunity to create an infinity of perspectives. Another important aspect in this sense is photogrammetry. In a few words, you take 360-degree photos of the subject and create a model that you can place in space freely. The 3D set also helps me create lights and shadows, in addition to subverting the rules of physics. However, I realized that everything must originate from real places and people, as well as from my memory and perception. I understood this a year ago when I was preparing the works for my solo exhibition at Antonio Colombo’s. At the same time, I was building an ideal house, entirely imaginary. I somewhat abandoned that project when I realized that I need the confrontation with real space. All my imagination is built from my experience. For example, even when taking photographs, I never included all the elements in the model but chose only some, those most impressed in my memory.
Here, the space is limited. Canvases are hung on the wall without frames; is this your usual working method?
My method is always this. I got used to working on the wall initially due to space constraints, but now it’s the mode I prefer. Hanging them on the wall allows me to work on multiple canvases simultaneously. I frame them only when the work is completed.
Let’s move on to our customary questions. What cannot be missing in your studio?
The computer, a wall to hang canvases, and colors. I don’t need anything else.
Would you leave this studio tomorrow?
From the studio, no; from Milan, perhaps yes. I am very attached to this space and the people who inhabit it.
Is the Milan factor no longer necessary for you?
Initially, it was. Living in Legnano, moving to Milan was important to make myself known, to get to know other realities and be present. But now, no, indeed, I would like to explore other realities both in Italy and abroad. Maybe you’ll find me in some residency, who knows, we’ll see.
Ph Credits Andrés Juan Suarez