Venice Mask Festival

The Art of Masquerade in the stunning Veneto capital.

“I always toyed with images of powerful, enigmatic female characters,” British-born artist James Starr says. “I was playing with sketchbook ideas one day, working with masks and colours — and this character appeared with the headdress.”

The idea of the masked beauty is of course perfectly appropriate for Venice, a city whose cultural identity is rooted in the art of the masquerade. And this month will see James’ artwork take pride of place in Generator Venice’s gallery, which is open to non-residents, as well as to people staying at the centrally-located hostel.

The artist’s penchant for powerful female characters isn’t his only obsession — he is in the middle of a long love affair with the capital of the Veneto. “Venice is such an incredibly unique place,” he says. “It’s not only achingly beautiful, but there’s that weight of history here — nearly 2,000 years tied up with the very beginnings of global trade and the powerful Venetian families. The amount of history per square foot in Venice is amazing.”

James first visited Venice a decade ago on a family trip and since then the city has inspired some of his most eye-catching pieces. “I wanted to create paintings that had a bit of mystery about them,” he says. “You can project your own meaning to them. They’re not necessarily dark, just mischievous and enigmatic — a bit like Venice itself.”



There is, it has to be said, something about this city, shot through with canals, suspended in water and infused with the atmosphere of the ages, that can transform simply living into a creative act. “The last time I arrived in the middle of a moonless night,” he says. “We sped across from the airport in a fast motorboat in the pitch darkness, across the Venetian lagoon. We went under some of the bridges before coming round the Grand Canal and then as we chugged down the river, lights lit up the grand palaces. Every moment here is spectacular.”


James Starr’s work can be seen all summer at Generator Venice.

The water taxi from Marco Polo airport to Generator Venice takes 40 minutes. It will cost around €100 one-way from the airport and it can hold up to four people. You can book your ride here.

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