My first contact with Antoine Tavaglione (aka TAVA) was through Station16, a print shop in Montreal. The owner of Station16 told me “He’s one to watch”, and when I saw the work, I knew he was right. I’ve since referenced TAVA’s work several times on PMT, most recently in the post Art for the Fashion Lover.
A mix of pop art, political banter and high fashion, TAVA’s work has been showcased across Montreal, in both museums and galleries. You’ve got to love his confidence. When I asked him about his take on appropriation and copyright, he replied “I don’t lose sleep over it!” (Clearly, I got the politically correct version, seeing how his website boasts that the artist “isn’t afraid of being roughed up by Popeye.”) Keep reading to learn more about this Montreal artist:
The artist with Ballon
What is a typical day like?
I wake up, draw, get lighted headed, eat and draw, draw, draw...and then I worry about neglecting my girl in the midst of all that drawing.
What influenced your artistic production?
A little while ago, I was in Italy visiting one of my friend’s relatives. I noticed that above his uncle’s bed hung a large carving of Benito Mussolini, the Italian dictator. I naively said, “So I guess you are a fan of his.” His uncle replied, “quando parla e come il pane,” which translates literally to “when he spoke, it was like bread,” meaning that Mussolini’s words were like poetry. I became fascinated with Mussolini’s influence and how, still today, a minority of Italians really like the man because he apparently did very good things for his country. The first series I ever created was based on Mussolini and other fascists. I presented this series during a solo exhibition in 2011 titled Che VU? Italian for “What do you want?” All my paintings and illustrations were based on dictators. This is the moment I started to take my personal artistic career seriously. I’ve grown tremendously since. It's where the milk idea started.
Why the dripping milk?
I see milk as a symbol for food. Milk is the main source of nourishment that some dictators took away from their people. They would gulp it down and toss the leftovers back to them! The milk became iconic for me. In my art, I began pouring it on cartoon characters to better play up the political mockery. Clients have purchased my paintings of Mussolini without questioning what they were buying. I’m surprised to see that some of my darkest pieces have been purchased to decorate a child’s room. The clients knew that their kids would enjoy them on an aesthetic level. I like that I can cater to such a large demographic.
Why use the pseudonym TAVA?
It's a name that I have been using since I was a kid. My dream was to create all kinds of products and label them Tava: Tava underwear, Tava clothing, the Tava car... Branding as always been a focus of mine, my area of expertise. I have helped several companies build their brand. Why not apply this knowledge to my own art? I’m inspired by artists like Keith Haring, Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons because of how they treated their personal brand.
Like these artists, you’ve worked with both painting and silkscreen. Do you feel that one medium is more representative of your aesthetic than the other?
Silkscreen fulfills my need to create repetition and keep that repetition perfect and constant. It does not, however, replace the rawness of painting and drawing.
Your designs can also be found printed on clothing.
Yes, I am the creator of the Dirty Thoughts t-shirt line. It's something that I always wanted to do. I have always been passionate about and immersed in the fashion industry and I worked a very long time in retail. It was natural jump for me.
Talking about fashion, what is the best purchase you have ever made?
I shop all the time. My best buys are usually shoes, glasses and watches. My style is Shabby Chic!
Out of your entire artistic production, do you have a favourite piece?
I particularly enjoy my Wolf, Only Crooks Make Money for what it represents. The city’s dirtiest little secret isn’t merely a matter of black and white. This sly wolf has been sticking his muzzle into the public’s pockets, and he’s got the green to prove it. Union scandals, backroom deals, bribes. He’ll resort to anything to be leader of the pack in a city that isn’t afraid to bare its teeth.
Crooks, Edition of 16 signed and numbered
What’s next for TAVA?
TORONTO, NEW YORK, LA... It looks like it's going to be a busy year! My work will be showcased in many art fairs across the United States, through an agency that has licensed my kitchen collection and other works. Several labels have approached me to collaborate with rebranding, creating new brands or design consulting. 2012 will also be the continuation of collaborations with En Masse, Cease Art Collective and the silkscreen shop Station16. I plan to work on a show at Fresh Paint Gallery in the near future.
Caffe Latte – Cucina Collection
Antoine Tavaglione’s top three songs:
Cesare Cremonini featuring Jovanotti: Mondo
Jovanotti: Baciami Ancora
Paolo Conte: It's Wonderful