Time past and time present — the art restorer’s challenges

Time past and time present — the art restorer’s challenges
By Lucy Hyslop, Special to The Sun September 17, 2010

Filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola and the part-time B.C.-based Italian art-restorer
Tonio Creanza.

Photograph by: Vancouver Sun

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 [now Messors.com].