Time past and time present — the art restorer’s challenges
‘ We don’t need to do it all on the first day,’ Italian Tonio Creanza tells conservation enthusiasts who participate in restoration projects
Italian art-restorer Tonio Creanza – whose projects have ranged from ancient frescoes to work on the home of venerated director Francis Ford Coppola – will be lecturing on his two decades in the business.
Married to local artist Jennifer Bell, Creanza splits his time between B. C. and Puglia, Italy, where he has taught some 600 students from across the globe the techniques of restoration and the ancient notion of sustainability.
Working on these 6,000-year-old frescoes is a way of ensuring that memories are not lost, insists Creanza, whose event will take place on Sept. 24 at the Vancouver Planetarium.
“ People thought me a little crazy when I started,” says the director of Sinergie Co-op, the group running the restoration programs. “ But it is so important that buildings are connected to the environment.”
Creanza’s programs – and in part, this lecture/ slide show presentation on the decorative and ancient traditions called Global Conservation of Art Heritage – are “ not a shy approach to conservation,” he says.
People can touch the limestone they often work with, he continues, and most definitely use the pickaxes on the restoration projects. “ They are very much part of it,” he adds.
However, the first thing he has to teach people on those excursions is to slow down, Creanza says. Seeing a parallel between Italy’s well-established slow-food movement and North America’s frequently rushed, fast-food approach, he says the key to restoration is taking the time to think about the frescoes. “ The energy is often so high [ when the students arrive] that I have to ask them to stop their work on the first day,” he says, adding rather poetically: “ I always explain that we don’t need to do it all on the first day and that time is a good tool to understanding.”
The coming event, which marks Creanza’s first lecture in Canada, is sponsored by one of his students who stayed at the masseria ( or farmhouse) of local 91-year-old Don Gaicinto Lorusso, also home to his group’s “ restoration labs”. Edward McKeever, a New Yorker who runs Strong River non-toxic paints and now lives in Vancouver where his wife’s band, ESL, is based, explains: “ I had been hitting a wall about trying to find a sustainable solution [ in terms of paints] — and then I met this legend of restoration.”
Tickets are $ 10 for the lecture, which runs from 7 p. m. to 9 p. m. on Sept. 24, at the planetarium at 1100 Chestnut, Vancouver. Buy tickets at the door or contact McKeever at Strong River Painting and Design ( strongriver.net; 778-317 2994). For more information on future restoration projects, log on to sinergos.net.
Local chairs, N. Y. auction
A set of 10 limited-edition chairs — designed by a Vancouver-based architect/ designer and endorsed and signed by actor Claire Danes – are to be auctioned in New York City this month for a charity working in Afghanistan.
Babs Alink’s custom-made creations boast hand-carved walnut legs and Afghan saffron cast in methacrylate, which gives the transparent chairs a deep orange glow.
Built to raise money for literacy through Afghan Hands ( Alink is friends with the foundation’s founder and well-known makeup artist Matin Maulawizada, whom she met in Afghanistan), Alink hopes the signature line sale will launch a wider fundraising effort through the mass manufacture of the chairs. The Sept. 30 event at the Longchamp store in SoHo will also feature Sex and the City’s Cynthia Nixon as host.
Alink has spent more than three years in the country after first visiting in 2002 as head of a housing reconstruction project. “ The people are exceptionally loyal, gentle and hospitable,” she says. “ When literacy improves [ an estimated 80 per cent have low literacy] it has an immediate impact on the quality of lives. Health and hygiene improves, mortality rates go down, and it enables people to build their livelihoods more effectively and be independent of aid.”
So how did “ chair” and “ charity” connect? It started when Alink suffered a bad back in 1997 after graduating as an interior architect with a restoration and woodwork background in the Netherlands, her original home. “ I designed this chair to be perfect for me; it forces you to sit with a healthy posture, angles and height, and it gave my back muscles relief,” she says of the wooden original that now sits in her Vancouver home. “ Over the years, however, I have had many comments from people who said it looks like a book, so that was the association for making it a symbol of literacy, and getting literati and other celebrities to endorse it.”
Alink hopes people will think of the chair as a functional piece of art or “ a poignant iconic image that’s funky.” The Vancouver-manufactured chair is named EVAlink ( riffing off her own mission to raise money for Afghanistan, called Entrepreneurial Vision for Able minds, and her own name), and Vancouverites will be able to see it on display at Sitka Books & Art, the new independent bookstore in Vancouver, from later this month.
Alink recently worked with Colico furniture designers in Milan to develop the prototype ( pictured) for the limited-edition chairs and negotiate the production for European sales. “ The ‘ basic’ chairs that people can order are in mono colour methacrylate [ price to be determined] with bamboo legs [ that] will, if all goes well, be manufactured in Vancouver,” Alink adds.
For further details, visit SITKA Books & Art, 2025 West Fourth Avenue, or log on to EVAlink. com
Babs Alink prototype of the EVAlink chair ( above), which has been endorsed and signed by actor Claire Danes. Proceeds of the sale of the chairs will benefit an Afghan charity. Italian art restorer Tonio Creanza ( below), who worked on the home of famous filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, has taught hundreds of students about restoring ancient treasures such as frescoes in Puglia, Italy ( left).