Italian artist Antonella Sissa creates artworks from a sacred place of inner healing. Painting on loose, unbound canvases and fabrics, her creativity flows unrestricted, conveying a sense of liberation and evolution. Sissa believes that art should elicit responses from both the creator and the viewer. Exploring themes of memory and loss, healing and transformation, she unfolds a series of colour-washed atmospheres traversed by complex networks of lines and shapes. In these poetic spaces, Sissa presents the viewer with reflective journeys into human existence as she seeks harmony and balance to express her innermost movements of the spirit.
Born and raised in Mantua, Sissa studied piano and classical dance throughout her childhood. As a young adult she studied interior design and pictorial decoration at the Art Institute of Guidizzolo in Mantua and abstract art at the Brera Academy of Fine Arts in Milan. Her career blossomed while learning about abstract art and the process of fresco restoration, an experience the artist likens to a patient and ongoing search for truth. The unexpected pairing of these two disciplines stimulated a kind of synaesthesia in the artist, in which she could feel different color vibrations. This creative breakthrough guided her constant discovery of alternative techniques, eventually leading to her part-time job as an interior designer.
Sissa believes that any medium carries with it a set of restrictions and constraints. As such, she chose to “escape” the rigid confines of a frame, working in a deconstructed format to express notions of individual freedom. Without relying on the confines of a traditional landscape or portrait composition, each of the artist’s pieces becomes an aesthetic, limitless manifestation of her inner journey.
“When I create, I reach a state of pure solitude and embark on an inner journey that allows me to express myself and makes me feel alive and confident, exploring every nook and cranny of my memory. I draw fully from the source of life and in my experience I try to purify painful emotions and instill positive feelings to calm the viewer’s mind,” explains Sissa in an interview with Fine Art Globe.
Fabric is a central medium in Sissa’s work. As an architect of change, the manipulation of textiles allows the artist to materialize concepts of freedom and evolution. Many aspects of the material appeal to Sissa, particularly its free-flowing movements, the myriad colors it can be made in, and its translucent aspects of light and chiaroscuro. As a creator, she has control over the arrangement and can install fabric works as she feels. In this sense, nothing is static or imposed by a higher will, giving her total autonomy.
The artist offers “One is often led to think of evolution by nature’s examples, where changing conditions impose choices, such as survival of the fittest, only advancing those who have been subjected to these selective pressures, leaving behind those who have not fate could adapt to their own grim conditions. As I ponder these Darwinian theories, I want to question the possibility of not passively accepting and not bowing my head to something imposed by a greater power.”
Previously working in a variety of mediums including handmade paper and stretched canvas, Sissa also creates series of rectangular panels reminiscent of the vertical paintings of American conceptual painter David Reed. Blank canvases on the studio floor call out to the artist, begging to be colored and covered. A palette of primary colors is then applied while she works the canvas with her bare hands, laying the groundwork for an intricate forest of characters. Rendered in rich jewel tones such as amethyst and ruby, gestural fields of uneven pigment reveal layers of color and line carved. The characteristic thin whorls and whorls wind up and down the pictorial plane like tendrils, evoking a dual nature of contemporary graffiti and ancient murals. Loose sketches of arms and outstretched hands appear as if they want to reach out from the picture plane and underline the artists’ striving for freedom. Various checkpoints within the composition mark labyrinthine routes and mysterious maps leading to an enlightened path.
Throughout her career, life has brought moments of joy as well as pain to Sissa. Especially the needs of social constraints and life under these conditions. “In my work I always propose a way out and you will find it in the labyrinth of my signs. A thousand paths to generously follow. freedom of thought and action,She explains. Freedom is a fundamental and universal right that can be censored in many ways, such as language or thought. For Sissa, she uses art as a tool for her freedom of expression, with the understanding that it is her dutiful right is to do so.
This complex dialogue is then translated into an inner journey of reflection about human existence and the world. Sissa continues: “In the beginning my works were on paper, which consisted of color studies and great stains. Then the works were enriched with material and signs. Later I worked on canvas and the works became a symptom of the above two periods. Now I free the works from the prison of the loom. I have embarked on this journey, a journey into the unknown… In a life floating on the waves of an uncertain future, I am sailing, following distant stars, to safe havens from a worn-out, unjust world populated by hypocrisy, pride and superficiality ; a world I wish could be inhabited by people worth inhabiting.”
Sissa seeks inspiration from many places, including the art historical canon. Looking to Pollock for his signature action painting style and Lucio Fontana for his shamanic art in and around a canvas, the artist develops her own style through draped canvases intended to cover walls or bodies or to be installed as a 3D work. Her works are not created from a ready-made project, but arise from an instinctive movement in her soul; a soul exposed to the influences of the world in which it lives.
In today’s world, Sissa sees most art as a reflection of a “flat society” that passively accepts political, social, and cultural events. In response, the artist seeks to create work that sparks conversation and moves the needle. Sissa says, “I feel like it’s harder to be seen as a serious artist as a woman than it is as a man. Although a woman can assume multiple roles such as wife or mother, she is first and foremost a human being. Therefore, she should have the same opportunities to express herself through painting, writing and creating as men do.”
Experiencing her work, Sissa hopes viewers will feel momentarily unencumbered as they visually transport themselves into their draped portals of positivity. Viewers can embark on a forward-looking journey by acknowledging that there is a way out of labyrinths of pain. Once this creative cleansing process is complete, they can find positive messages.