I met the artist Antoine Tava, whose real name is Antoine Tavaglione, in one of his favorite cafes in Little Italy in Montreal, Caffè San Gennaro, in his neighborhood. Here is a summary of our conversation around art, passion and Italy.
2019: A terrific year for Antoine Tava
So, 2019 started in grand for you, it’s a big year ahead.
Yes, it starts strong, 2018 has been an interesting year and I have continued to make great collaborations with brands that I like, which I believe, and which are similar to me. I discovered China in 2018 too.
It seems like a whole market for your art if I believe your Instagram
Yes, it was my first exhibition with a group that is in fashion and in the arts there. They are present in several cities in China, including Hong Kong, to name only this one. They made me come there as a “Canadian guest artist” to participate in an exhibition with several artists of different nationalities. An exhibition in the world of fine arts in which I produced several originals for them or paintings and serigraphs for the event. It was a great experience all the more since I was on Chinese TV on major channels and it was all the rage. And they wanted to invest in me, since the product matched their market very well.
As your product is a bit playful/“cartoonesque”, it is something that is very popular there with the attraction for the manga and everything.
People appreciate a lot, no matter the age. The Chinese really have a nostalgic sense. And I also started the year 2019 in China. I left on January 3rd for a second exhibition and they told me that they wanted to continue working with me and that they had several exhibitions in sight for me, 2 exhibitions one after the other. So the year is already very busy. These are important exhibitions, and besides the company behind all these exhibitions have the rights of use for Popeye, so we will make Popeye-themed exhibitions. Another interesting thing is that I produce a figurine of my Ludo Fox, which was on the cans of romeo’s gin 1st edition, for China. I have always wanted to make figurines, especially because I grew up in the field of animation 2D and 3D, and it was a dream to do, and now it’s come true. She is currently in production in Shanghai, and unfortunately it is only for the Chinese market, and a limited edition of 200 copies to begin with. These figurines are signed and numbered, it will be easy for them to sell everything. I will have some copies for the Canadian market, but they will remain in my collection.
I imagine that Nicolas (Duvernois) will ask you for one 😉
Everyone asks me!
It’s really a beautiful project!
Yes, it’s cool, the fox, I retouched a little bit. It’s always him, but I added drops, and the arms are interchangeable, you can remove them and cross them. It still looks a lot like the classic. He will have a black suit and boxing gloves. It will be orange pastel color.
It must be special to see his art transformed like that into something tangible.
Yes, to see it in 3D, it’s great fun and especially the Chinese market.
There is a cartoon culture in Asia that is much stronger than it is here?
Yes, they love it! When you go to the different offices, all employees have decorations with figurines. Stuff from collections of full artists or others. They really like everything that is cartoon, comic. They eat it.
You have also done a collaboration in Montreal with Adidas more recently.
Yes, it was for the launch of the new shoe ultraboost 19 and they asked me to make vinyl for the launch of the advertising campaign as part of a collaboration with the Foot Locker. It’s interesting, because it makes several contracts that I do with them and they leave me a freedom of creation. I’m still an artist, I’m not a graphic designer, in the advertising business, so if they call me, it’s really to put my art forward and they give me carte blanche, and they have really liked this newer project.
Gettin the recognition in it’s own city.
It must be rewarding to be recognized here in your own city.
Yes, I am always humble for that. People who pass by and send me photos, it’s always pleasant. I do not tan, but at the same time, it bothers me a little.
But at the same time, it must be rewarding to know that people recognize your art, no?
In Montreal, people who are in the creative and artistic field recognize a lot what I do and I took my place in a short time. I really started in 2010 to make art and the first 2–3 years were really difficult. There were a lot of challenges on the financial side and people were asking me if I was sure I wanted to continue on that path. I just bowed my head, I went down and gave everything. And it worked. I regret nothing. I live my best life.
Speaking of Montreal, the Société de Développement Commercial (SDC) of Little-Italy and Jean-Talon Market (SDC) engaged you with Lndmark (link in french)to beautify the empty premises, could you tell us a little about it?
Neighborhood life, I really like it. My environment is really important. My friends, my family. I am a routine person and I am really involved in my neighborhood. If I can give my opinion by how we could change the neighborhood, not only by design, I will do it. I’m really honored to do that. Even in autumn, I made a piano for the SDC Little Italy.
We were talking earlier about 2D/3D animation, what is your path? What made you do art?
I studied at Concordia in 2D animation and I worked then several years in the field to then do my own things. But it’s always been in me, I was 3 years old and I drew Bunny Bugs. It’s really something innate for me, and I’ve always loved it. I do not do cartoons because it’s cool, but because I’ve always liked that. It was a natural process. I always admired the artists, but I did not understand the process of how to make money, I was a very Cartesian person in his work process. At first, I did not see myself as an artist and I decided to make canvases for fun. It was very graphic. Not too much in the style I’m doing now, but a start. I presented my project to a gallery that refused it. I saw that I had aimed too high. So, I went to Italy to relax and I made a first collection on the serious theme of politics, but with a cartoon. I did my first exhibition, I rented a place, I made the flyers, bought the wine, invited my friends, family, etc., and it had some success, and I liked very much the side the details of the sale, and talk about me since it was not very expensive at the time and I wanted my art to enter the house of people. And so on, I did a second 6 months after. And then, I started doing events, live paintings and everything.
Antoine Tava and the romeo’s gin adventure
It’s still interesting that you talk about retail and now you find yourself in SAQ with romeo’s cans gin + tonic. How do you think your art is on a consumer product?
Even me, it impresses me and I see thousands of cans with my works. I was a little disappointed that we did not make Ludo evolve, but I’m still happy to see a new work on cans and they believed in me.
It’s a risk, but it’s consistent and it shows love. I did the work “Bursting of Love” when I lived in Barcelona with my girlfriend. The work was inspired by love, travel and the environment.
They have kept my colors and it is a team that believes in art, it’s really fun to work with them. And it’s really interesting that art is accessible to all.
Is it important for you that your art is accessible to all?
Yes, I love making money with my projects, it allows me to travel, to buy me beautiful things, but I still like a person who is happy to have something that I do and who is proud of it. If a person saves money to buy my works, I’m sure I’ll give him some things in return, give him a gift, an extra, just to thank him. It’s a bit like Italian cafes, very often, if you go every day in the same cafe, they will thank you by giving you little things, etc. that’s how I see my art, thank my customers. And I am a person who loves to give to the foundations, in the limit of the possible course.
And it’s good to live this experience with you at being in an Italian cafe, San Gennaro.
In fact, I make two coffees in Little Italy, San Gennaro and San Simeon. Because there is the sense of community, there are not, or almost no, people on their laptops, people talk to each other, talk, and so on. I love the social and European side. I have to talk about Italy every day, I’m proud of my culture, my heritage.
Do you let it show in your art, this Italian heritage?
In my firsts years yes, now a little less, it’s a shame. But when I work with the SDC or other Italian organizations, I go deeply. And it’s fun to see that I can integrate it into art.
And your favorite comics, which one?
Garfield, really that was my biggest inspiration.
We could say that it’s a little inspiration for Ludo Fox with his orange.
Yes, a little, it’s a bit of a loop.
Let’s finish with our RDPMAG questionnaire.
Your favorite city in the world?
Rome, because the city gives me some energy. I can sit in a cafe for 3 hours.
Your favorite restaurant?
At Enzo in Rome for a carbonara macaroni.
And if we go on the cocktail scene, what is your favorite bar?
I could not say that I have a favorite bar, I’m really more into eating than drinking.
And until our next question, your favorite car?
I would see myself in a small vintage Porsche. If it was a Ferrari, an old white Testarossa.
What is your favorite airline?
I loved Canadian Airlines because my mother was a stewardess for them, and it was really the best company. The service was impeccable, the people nice.
Favorite place to travel.
Italy is my number 1 destination. I loved Barcelona where I lived for a winter.
Your favorite place to shop?
New York. For shoe shopping.
Preferred place to disconnect
In a cafe, I see my friends, it’s very social, we talk about everything and nothing.
Something you could not live without.
In a word, what come to your mind when I say
Refined—> Sophia Loren, elegance.
Distinguished—> A wise old man. Who dresses well.
Passionate—> Art and projects.
Thank you very much Antoine! And see you soon!
See Antoine Tava website here .
See Antoine Tava’s Art at Galerie Le Royer.
Originally published in Spring 2019 Magazine