Tiziana La Melia, Page of Vapours, 2012, 42 pages, ed. 75. Photocopy with unique ink on parchment covers and risograph insert. Royal Bank of Canada
CANADA— The image of Tiziana La Melia standing beside Holding on to the Part, the oil on panel painting that won her the RBC Canadian Painting Competition National prize in 2014, shows a calm person with internal tranquility. Behind that glowing calmness, however, is a restless soul driven by the passion to excel in all areas of art. From painting to sculpture, photography, ceramics, poetry, writing, and performance art, La Melia has done them all. Evidently, she is one artist possessed by the spirit of art in a way that rekindles the memory of Leonardo Da Vinci, that great Renaissance artist whose practice transcended artistic practice.
Winning the RBC Canadian Painting Competition National prize has brought La Melia into the lime light, allowing a critical analysis of her painting process. Holding on to the Part, the piece that won her the art award, provides an insight into her approach to painting, which is perfomative and open to accidents. This creative method of painting allows for uninhibited freedom to layer ideas and thoughts.
For La Melia, the creative process begins with a simple idea that often ends with complex meanings and interpretations. Holding on to the Part reveals the complex thoughts that go into this creative process. Many of the objects included in the painting are the result of the act of painting, decision making and not preplanning. The foliage, ducks and several other objects surrounding the dominant image of a woman in Holding on to the Part were incorporated through intricate art making process.
La Melia’s creative adventure which allows room for accidents of designs and layering of ideas is also reflected in the figure of the woman which is positioned downwards. While the figure references images from art history as evident in Flying of Marsyas by Titian (c.1488/90-1576), one of the greatest Venetian masters of the Renaissance and Caravaggio’s Crucifixion of St Peter, La Melia’s rendering of the woman downwards was not influenced by art history: it was actualized through a creative process nurtured by a progressive rational mimetic of a story writing process. In story writing, even after a plot has been established, a story is taken through many turns as the writer actualizes his or her thoughts. Characters are modified, settings are relocated and suspense is further heightened to ensure a captivating narrative. There is always room for interjections and new ideas, enabled through self-editing and creative renewals or refreshing. All these elements of story writing combined to make the jury rave about Holding on to the Part during the RBC Canadian Painting Competition.
That La Melia has adopted a story telling approach to painting is not surprising. Language has been very fundamental in sparking her creative impulses. Her first encounters with art came through paintings and mosaics she saw in churches when she was a child in Italy. The paintings and mosaic which are integral part of the Italian culture left an indelible mark that resonated in later years. However, her major source of influence came after she moved to Canada. The transition from one language to another and her parents quest for self-expression as bilinguals inspired the creativity that set her up for an artistic career.
From Holding on to the Part, it is clear that La Melia’s creative painting technique gives credence to a prerogative interaction between object and performer. It allows for uninhibited freedom to layer ideas, fluidity of thoughts, wild imaginations, accidents and revisions. But more importantly, it allows for the infusion of ideas from different disciplines, including dance, sculpture, photography, poetry, writing, and performance. The confluence of all these areas of art and perceptions in La Melia’s painting often leaves room for multiple interpretations.
In Holding on to the Part, La Melia’s infusion of idea from different areas of art ensured an amazing finish that crystallized with the winning of the 2014 RBC Canadian Painting Competition. The piece borrows from dance, theatre, popular culture, ritual performance, personal narratives and cartoon to achieve high aesthetics. The mythological female figure, though an abstraction, combines a Georges Braque cubist approach that explores different geometric shapes to create a whole. The freedom that comes to play in La Melia’s creation process is what makes the piece liberating for the artist.
For La Melia, painting is not an entity that must be viewed alone, but in relation to other areas of art. This is why she continues to borrow from all genre of art. Her recent works shows her inclination to blend all artistic medium. In one of her recent shows at The Apartment, she created an installation in which she combined writings, poetry and painting. Titled Lot, the installation, which emerged from the artist’s research on figures such as Karen Carpenter, Janis Joplin, Emmy Hennings, and Mark Twain’s Aquarium Club, explore the notion of presence and disappearance. The cumulative influence from other areas of art can also been seen in many of her other works, including Writing the Black Fruits, oil on panel, 22″ x 33″, 2014, Silk Clock, silk, dye, steel, magnets, 137” x 93”, 2013 and Case Studies, Performance with Vanessa Disler, 2013 amongst many other.
That La Melia won the RBC Canadian Painting Competition is very insightful. For someone who painting is not a paramount medium of expression, winning the RBC painting award puts her in the realm of geniuses or most creative people. Only very few painters for whom painting is not a dominate mode of expression have attained such feat. For many painters, the preparing for an art competition like the RBC Canadian Painting Competition takes a long process and serious work. What is even more interesting is the fact that the Holding on to the Part belongs in the category of works the artist seldom shows to people.
Born in 1982 in Palermo Italy, Tiziana La Melia moved to Canada when she was about five or six years old and was raised in Winfield, British Columbia. She is a versatile artist, whose practice cuts across several medium, including writing, painting, poetry, photography, sculpture, and performance art. La Melia is a graduate of the Emily Carr University and Design and the University of Guelph’s MFA program. In 2010, she attended the Banff Residency Center in Tunnel Mountain with Silke Otto-Knapp. Her poetry and images have been published in several magazines, including West Coast Line, C Magazine, Pelt, Pyramid Power, Millions and Woo. Her works have also been featured in many exhibitions the most recent which includes Provisions at Xpace in Toronto (2013), The Intellectual of Lady Spider House in Edmonton (2013), Neck of the Thirsty Flower in Vancouver (2012) , and Table of Contents (Accompanying Poem) in Toronto (2011).