Antonio Conti is showing his mosaics in an exhibition running at Chichester’s Oxmarket Centre of Arts from July 19-31.
Of Venetian ancestry, Toni has now retired after sixty years of working life “even though I always found time to dedicate myself to the love of the art.
“From a very young age, a passion for art was living in me. Charcoal and encaustic were the only affordable things in those days. I had problems with my mother because I nicked her paraffin she used to clean the parquet floors. I needed for my encaustic art no having candles. When I asked my Venetian mother to give me the opportunity of an advanced art course preparing myself to enter Academy of Fine Art in Venice, her answer was: ‘Toni Canal did not make a penny!’ She meant Giovanni Antonio Canal (1697-1768), better known as Canaletto.
“In my summer school break my mother got me a job at the Gritti Palace Hotel in Venice. The general manager and art collector signor Masprone came to know of my encaustic art. He said to me go off for three days and bring him one of my encaustic works. He was very happy with my artwork. He gave me 10.000 lira to which I’ve framed. From that time forward I hve done many oil pantings and portraits on canvas. I went to the Swisss L’Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne. Although I spoke three languages, English was paramount so I came to London 65 years ago. From the Midlands I moved to Rye in East Sussex with my restaurant Casa Conti. For most of my 40 years in Rye I attended The Tuesday painter Club exhibiting some of my paintings, oil on canvas when possible.
I did a portrait in charcoal of the great man Spike Milligan. When he saw it, he said ‘I’ll bring you a good photo next time’, which I did in watercolour. In 2013 I came to Portsmouth to be close to my two daughters. I suffer with multiple arthritis and I had to find a remedy to exercise my hands and arms to try to avoid tablets, so doing mosaic was my relief and joy in artwork with seven-hour sections at a time.”
Toni includes among the most memorable moments of his career:
1971 – BBC Pebble Mill studio, making a picture by disassembling old watches, framed on white tiles.
2000 – Oil painting on canvas of then Prime Minister Tony Blair, who was most grateful for my gift.
2000 – Oil painting on canvas of the Holy Father John Paul ll. He expressed gratitude for my gift with very kind words.
2008 – On ITV, I create an art mechanic Christmas display in aid of the Memorial Hospital in Rye.
2014 – I enter a new artistic phase in mosaic. Apart from my own mosaic artwork I wanted to revive the forgotten old Masters in mosaic artwork like: Watts, Courbet, Modigliani, Picasso, Guercino, Chardin, Vermeer. With perseverance any artwork can be done in mosaic.
2015 – a picture of the David Cameron in jade mosaic artwork. I received a personal letter from the Prime Minister and Samantha, privileged to have received my gift.
2016 – Her Majesty the Queen at ninety in jade mosaic. Her Majesty saw my artwork and wishes me continued success.
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