LISA FONTANA: tRame (copper wefts) – ties, breaks, changes

Libri d'artista - Lisa Fontana, canapa, lana, seta_tessitura su telaio manuale a 4,6, 8 licci - 2019. Copyright Fondazione Chierese per il Tessile e per il Museo del Tessile

Italiano (Italian)

di Melanie Zefferino, President Fondazione Chierese per il Tessile e Museo del Tessile

Chieri, Museo del Tessile
May 15 – June 5 2021

At the reopening of Chieri Textiles Museum, whose exhibition path has just been redesigned, Lisa Fontana is showing an anthology her works dating from 2016 to this day. Indeed, her pieces of textile art create a subtle, refined yet ‘biting’ atmosphere in the former chapel of the monastery of St Claire, which houses temporary exhibitions and events promoted by Fondazione Chierese per il Tessile e Museo del Tessile.

Libri d’artista – Lisa Fontana, canapa, lana, seta_tessitura su telaio manuale a 4,6, 8 licci – 2019. Copyright Fondazione Chierese per il Tessile e per il Museo del Tessile

In that historic venue that Fontana is showcasing her Artist’s Books, resulting from an artistic research aimed at studying traditional textile designs and reviving them through contemporary reinterpretations. For such an outstanding endeavour, she has been awarded the Copper Shuttle Award from Chieri Textiles Foundation and Museum. It is by weaving natural fiber yarn and wefts of copper, the most suitable metal to convey energy, that the artist has virtually entwined the threads of the past and present. In doing so, she has given new breath of life to the history of a context vocated to textiles, and yet to a craft that has flourished amidst different civilisations throughout the centuries. According to Fontana, “creativity expressed through weaving devises symbols, forms, and images which, either consciously or unconsciously, are given shape to tell about our experiences and current ways of life. As a result, those textile artworks entertwine our personal existence with different cultural worlds, their histories and materials. Besides, they offer insights into our imagination while foreshadowing the future we are looking for as well as a connection with the unknown. Hence, our strive for space unfolds into constructing and deconstructing woven structures made of natural and primordial material such as copper, the first metal to have been employed by human beings”.

Libri d’artista – Lisa Fontana, canapa, lana, seta_tessitura su telaio manuale a 4,6, 8 licci – 2019. Copyright Fondazione Chierese per il Tessile e per il Museo del Tessile

Of exquisite design and execution are Fontana’s gauzes, resulting from her skillful processing of a humble material such as hemp so as to create light, almost transparent fabrics whose open weave open way to our imagination or memory of laborious life.

Yet, much more than that shows through those artefacts. In Fontana’s view, artistic creation through textiles as a medium also means striving for a space-and-time dimension in which she can express ‘our endless desire of ties, breaks, and change”. That is the sense of A Letter for You (2021), for instance, whereby nettle and bamboo interweaving is in juxtaposition with writing on a conceptual, visual, and material plane.

Una lettera per te – Lisa Fontana – ortica e bambu 66x54cm – Tessitura su telaio manual – 2021. Copyright Fondazione Chierese per il Tessile e per il Museo del Tessile

Particularly intriguing are Fontana’s Mirrors, which shatter our perception of reality and history through an original combination of elements – a reflecting surface, merinos wool, and the Ghiordes knot (a symmetrical knot that brings both tuft ends to the surface together between two warp yarns), used for centuries in the Middle East to make carpets. Libeccio (south-west wind) and Tramontane (north wind) inevitably make us think about the Mediterranean, once Ulysses’ sea and now a waterway for wounded human beings wondering amongst waves and winds where boundaries are liquid borders.

Mirrors 1 – Lisa Fontana, specchio, lana merinos, nodo ghiordes – 43x43cm – 2016. Copyright Fondazione Chierese per il Tessile e per il Museo del Tessile

Mirrors 2 – Lisa Fontana, specchio, lana merinos, nodo ghiordes – 43x43cm – 2016. Copyright Fondazione Chierese per il Tessile e per il Museo del Tessile

Lisa Fontana – Libeccio – nylon, banana  – mascherine chirurgiche 35x31cm, tessitura su telaio manuale a 4 licci – 2018

Lisa Fontana – Libeccio e tramontana – nylon, banana  – dittico, mascherine chirurgiche 35x31cm, tessitura su telaio manuale a 4 licci – 2018

Other works in this exhibition reflect the personality and feelings of Lisa Fontana, a young artist and a mother weaving poetry on the contemporary art scene. Here she stages “opposition of warmth and coldness, softness and stiffness, but also flow, union, chaos, and interweaves. Her threads virtually link us to past and present relations so that we can find out and remember what we are – a wider community, a dispersed mix of fearful human beings adrift, looking for a space for re-cognition, a space where to ask ourselves “who am I?”, “who is the other?”.

Libri d’artista – Lisa Fontana, canapa, lana, seta_tessitura su telaio manuale a 4,6, 8 licci – 2019. Copyright Fondazione Chierese per il Tessile e per il Museo del Tessile

From Florence, where she graduated at the Academy of Fine Arts and specialised at the Lisio Foundation, Fontana settled in Turin, where she lives and works as an artist and educator. Moreover, she is an artist in residence at Chieri Textile Museum, thereby sharing the museum’s aim to engage a wider audience in textile art and is many forms, including crafts, which have too often been deprived of their ‘spiritual’ value. Yet, as Marta Graham remarked, “when weaving a blanket, an Indian woman leaves a flaw in the weaving of that blanket to let the soul out”. Perhaps it is in the flaws of Lisa Fontana’s weaves of wool, silk, hemp, bamboo, nettle, and copper that we may find a space for thoughts and feelings.