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

Vancouver Sun - - AT HOME - LUCY HYS­LOP

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).

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