Italian artist Antonella Sissa creates artworks from a sacred place of healing from within. Painting on loose, unbound canvases and fabric, her creativity flows without restriction, conveying a sense of liberation and evolution. Sissa believes art should elicit reactions both from the creator and the observer. Investigating themes of memory and loss, healing and transformation, she unfurls a series of color-washed atmospheres that billow with complex networks of line and form. Throughout these poetic spaces, Sissa presents the viewer with journeys of reflection on human existence while searching for harmony and balance to express her innermost motions of the spirit.

Born and raised in Mantua, Sissa studied piano and classical dance throughout childhood. As a young adult she studied interior design and pictorial decoration at the Art Institute of Guidizzolo in Mantua and abstract art 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 continuous search for truth. The unexpected pairing of these two disciplines stimulated a form of synesthesia in the artist in which she could feel different vibrations of color. This creative breakthrough guided her ongoing discovery of alternative techniques and ultimately led to her secondary profession as an interior designer.

Untitled 16, acrylic on fabric, 2019. (Photo: Courtesy of Agora Gallery)

Sissa believes each medium carries within itself a set of impositions and constraints. As such, she chose to ‘escape’ the rigid boundaries of a frame by working in a deconstructed format to express notions of individual liberty. Without relying upon the confines of a traditional landscape or portrait composition, each of the artists’ pieces becomes an aesthetic, boundless manifestation of her inner journey.

When I create, I reach a state of pure solitude, undertaking an inner journey that allows me to express myself and makes me feel alive and confident to explore every nook and cranny of my memory. I draw fully from the well of life, seeking in my experience to cleanse painful emotions and convey positive feelings to soothe the spirit of the observer,” Sissa explains in an interview with Fine Art Globe.

Fabric is a key medium in Sissa’s works. As an architect of change, the manipulation of textiles allows the artist to materialize concepts of freedom and evolution. Many aspects of the material are appealing to Sissa, particularly its free-flowing movement, the countless colors in which it can be made and its diaphanous aspects with light and chiaroscuro. As the creator, she is in control of its arrangement, and can install fabric works according to her feelings. In this sense, nothing is static or imposed by a higher will, which grants her total autonomy.

The artist offers, One is often led to think of evolution from the examples offered by nature, where changing conditions impose selection, such as survival of the fittest, and carry forward only those who have undergone that selective pressure, leaving those who could not adapt to their own grim fate. In thinking about these Darwinian theories, I want to challenge the possibility of not passively accepting something imposed by a stronger power and not bowing one’s head.

Previously working across a variety of media, including handmade paper and stretched canvases, Sissa also generates series of rectangular panels that recall the vertical paintings of American conceptual painter David Reed. Blank canvases on the studio floor call to the artist, asking to be colored and covered. A palate of primary colors is then laid down, as she works the canvas with her bare hands, creating the basis for an intricate forest of signs. Rendered in rich jewel tones like amethyst and ruby, gestural fields of uneven pigment showcase carved layers of color and line. Signature thin coils and swirls wind themselves up and down the picture plane like vines, evoking a dual nature of contemporary graffiti and ancient wall paintings. Loose sketches of arms and outstretched hands appear as if they are trying to reach out of the picture plane, underscoring the artists’ quest for freedom. Various check points within the composition mark labyrinthine routes and mysterious maps which lead to an enlightened path.

Untitled 15, acrylic on canvas, 2016. (Photo: Courtesy of Agora Gallery)

Throughout her career, life has given Sissa moments of joy, but also pain. Particularly the hardships of societal constraints and having to live under those conditions. “In my work, I always propose a way out and you find it in the maze of my signs. A thousand paths to follow liberally. Freedom of thought and action,” she explains. Freedom is a fundamental and universal right that can be censored in many ways such as speech or thought. For Sissa, she uses art as an instrument for her freedom of expression, with the understanding that it is her dutiful right to do so.

This complex dialogue is then translated into an inner journey of reflection upon human existence and the world. Sissa continues, “Initially 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 two periods mentioned above. Now I’m freeing the works from the prison of the loom. I embarked on this journey, a journey into the unknown… In a life that floats upon the waves of an uncertain future, I sail, following distant stars towards safe havens from a world spent, unjust, populated by hypocrisy, pride, and superficiality; a world I wish could be inhabited by people worthy of inhabiting it.”

Sissa seeks inspiration from many places including the art historical canon. Looking to Pollock for his trademark action painting style and Lucio Fontana for his shamanic way in and around a canvas, the artist develops her own style through draped canvases that are meant to cover walls, bodies, or be installed as a 3D work. Her works are not born from a pre-established project, rather they arise from an instinctive movement within her soul; a soul that undergoes the influences of the world in which it lives.

In today’s world, Sissa views most art as a reflection of a ‘flat society’ that passively accepts political, social, and cultural events. As a response, the artist aims to create work that stimulates conversation and moves the needle. Sissa shares, “As a woman, I feel it is more difficult to be considered a serious artist than a man. Although a woman may occupy multiple roles such as wife or mother, she is a human being first. Therefore, she should have equal opportunity to express herself through painting, writing, and creating like men do.”

Upon experiencing her work, Sissa hopes viewers will feel momentarily unburdened as they visually transport themselves into her draped portals of positivity. Viewers may embark upon a forward-looking journey by acknowledging that there is a way out from labyrinths of pain. Once this creative purification process is complete, they are free to find positive messages.

Untitled 10, acrylic on fabric, 2016. (Photo: Courtesy of Agora Gallery)