Interviewer Nikki Sztolc
Photos Elena Téa
A European seaside town. The sunset on a vineyard backdrop. The smell of coffee, apparent in the morning air, and a shady spot by the lake, red wine at the ready. These are some of the images that might come to mind when looking at Elena Téa’s work. Heavily inspired by Italian aesthetics and culture, Elena has spent the last three years exploring her passion for Italy through the art she creates. Elena sat down with Verse to chat about her recent print drop, her desire to pursue ceramics as a medium, and her “golden dreams”.
Thank you for meeting with me today! Please introduce yourself and your artistic practice.
I’m Elena Téa and I’m in my final semester of my final year studying a Bachelor of Contemporary Art. The form my work takes is more of an intuitive practice, but I really like working with tactile mediums that hold a lot of meaning and sentimentality. This year I have focused more on fabric painting and ceramics.
You have your own business, Sogni Dorati. How did this come to be?
Sogni Dorati came about because I’m a Virgo who, one day, decided I needed a new print for my living room. I just wasn’t happy with the state of my living room walls at the time. I started looking online but I couldn’t find anything that fit my style. So I decided I would just create one that embodied everything I love, which is this Italian, summer vibe. I designed it on my iPad that same day, printed it out, stuck it on my wall and when I posted it on Instagram people wanted to buy it, which was exciting!
Although you made the final print digitally, did you have any initial sketches?
Not really – I guess that’s because it was already the same style as a lot of my Uni work. I was looking at vintage Italian posters; old Aperol bottles, Campari advertisements and things like that. I knew I wanted to have something that was kind of a portal to a different time since we can’t travel right now.
Your work takes a lot of influence from European aesthetics, particularly Italian. Was this purposeful or did it kind of just happen?
I think over the last few years I have found a bit more of myself in this aesthetic, especially (and I keep talking about this) since COVID. It’s been nice to get back to this childlike sense of wonder. I used to travel to Italy a lot when I was little, so it’s really comforting to explore this within my style. What I love about this aesthetic and theme is that even if people aren’t Italian, they still relate to it and find something in it that speaks to them. I also think that goes back to Italy as a whole, people love to visit and it’s such a welcoming country and culture – all the food and familial practices – it’s nice to share that and also explore that within myself through my work.
Going back to social media and Instagram, you have quite a big presence on there. Do you find that it has more of a positive or negative impact on your work?
That’s a good question. I think you have to be quite certain of yourself if you are going to have a social media presence. You have to be sure of what your work is and what you want it to be, because you can get a lot of comments from people suggesting that you do things this way or that way, or asking for commissions, and I think that just allows people to take artists and designers for granted. There is this tendency to fall into the trap of taking on too many commissions and you just end up doing what others want you to do instead of what you want to do. So, you just have to stay true to yourself, which is difficult, but ultimately it’s great to be able to share your work with so many people online.
Have you been asked to take on a lot of commissions lately?
I’ve had people say, ‘oh, you do prints of Italy – can you do Greece?’ and I have to say ‘I don’t know how to do that!’
That’s completely fair enough. Is there any medium you haven’t had a chance to try or that you would really like to work with more often?
Ceramics. I want to do so much more with it, but it’s such a time consuming medium and I have zero patience. I do love how much energy a fired and glazed ceramics piece holds though. It can last for years and is just so tactile. I can’t wait to do more – but I’m also kind of scared. There’s so much room for things to go wrong, they can crack, they don’t dry properly…
I saw your ceramics pieces at the end of last year and they were really cool! I can see how it might be a medium you need to work at for a while though. As you’re graduating at the end of this year, do you have any hopes for the next year of your practice?
My main dream is to go back to Italy. I guess everyone wants to travel after the last couple of years. I would just love to go back, get more inspiration, and create more! I get this feeling that there are a lot of opportunities there and inspiration will just flow. If I can’t go back, I would like to keep creating this welcoming space in Adelaide and around Australia. I feel like my practice has acted as a form of solace during this time, for myself and for other people, so I would love to continue that.
For those who don’t know, Sogni Dorati means “golden dreams”, so I would love to know what your dream life looks like. It can be a bit of a daunting question to some, but I feel like it fits the themes of your work and aesthetic quite well.
Oh, you don’t even need to ask, I think about this every day. As a Sagittarius Moon and a Virgo Sun, I have planned out my dream life! No, but honestly, my dream life would be to keep living in Adelaide, in my little house with my two cats. Ideally, I would be travelling to Italy every year for their summers to gain inspiration, do some photoshoots… I would love to work more with brands and develop my own style in that way. Then I would come back to Adelaide and sell my ceramics and art. I am literally content with just that – a nice little life with my cats.
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