(Excerpt from Soula Mantalvanos Celebrates the Beauty of Venice 17 March, 2023 Print Council of Australia Q&A)

Q: What were some of the foundation ideas for this exhibition project?

A: If I had to use one word, it would be ‘place’. And the relationship with it; what it means when you’re in it, how it impacts you when you’re away from it, what resonates after you’ve visited or lived in it.

Perhaps it’s also respecting a place – I absolutely love Venice. But maybe also, I’m simply doing the artist thing; travelling, documenting, and communicating because that is a beautiful thing to do.

Q: How did the artwork selection take place?

A: As curator of Queenscliff Gallery, I organise the calendar of exhibitions. I have been reluctant to include myself in that calendar, conscious of taking space from the artists the gallery represents until post-pandemic.

Our business model had to be refined. One crucial factor was prioritising my art practice like we do for represented artists. Theo and I realise how important it is for the gallery’s credibility. Our patrons and visitors value that we are more involved in the visual arts scene – it isn’t just business; this is a way of life.

My practice involves many subjects, but once we travelled to Venice and I began drawing there, I knew I had to document the experience more. Although we were overseas for just a few weeks, we never treated Venice as a stepping stone. This is the second time we have made it the destination.

I didn’t make plans other than take journals and my trusty click pencil that never needs sharpening and has just the right point and hardness.

So, it was a wonderful surprise to find myself purchasing linen from the local art shop and chopping it up in manageable sizes so I could sketch all the paintings while I was there. I have never done that before; usually, I come back to the studio and work from sketches and photographs. However, this was far more special as I established a daily routine.

After breakfast, it was about finding ‘that spot’ and sketching it in on the linen while Theo hunted for the best lunch spot (it was really tough!).

Back in the studio and the work matured. I tried some woodblock prints but resorted to my original love, copperplate etching. And I haven’t stopped working since… there will be more work coming out of this most recent visit, and if possible, I will definitely go back to Venice. I briefly visited Verona… the place has stayed on my mind…