Lydia Predominato—Meticulous Innovator
An interview with Gail Spilsbury
Lydia Predominato’s career as a fiber artist began in 1976, not long after the fiber art field made its entrée in the late ’60s. Almost fifty years later, her award-winning, innovative pieces stand among the best work created by Italian fiber artists. Prolific in her ideas and output, Predominato pioneered new directions in the fast-advancing fiber art movement, while at the same time reintroducing the art of weaving to Rome’s fashion design school, L’Accademia Koefia, where she still teaches. Her home studio in Rome’s Garbatella neighborhood showcases the chronology of her artistic explorations. The room also houses a substantial floor loom positioned next to a smaller lever loom—icons to her profession.
GS: Lydia, I have many questions to ask you, but seeing the soft, delicate scarf in production on your lever loom, I wonder how you do it all—the weaving, the teaching, the gallery artwork, and also preparing and curating exhibitions, including writing the brochures in English.
LP: When you do something you love, time means nothing. It was harder in the past when I had jobs and had to work according to a schedule. Now, with almost all of my time to myself, I live in symbiosis with my art and its research—and also with all the other possibilities on the horizon. My professional background as a interpretor and translator has been part of my life and has helped my international collaborations in fiber art.
GS: Could you describe your trajectory as a fiber artist—where you began and where you are now, in terms of your ideas, experiments, and growth, and also how these stages might have been influenced also by the times?
LP: Besides my interpreting degree from the University of Trieste, I studied at Rome’s Accademia di Belle Arti but at the time didn’t really excel in any of the three major areas. Then I took a trip through France and England and got familiar with what was still called “nouvelle tapisserie,” or modern tapestry, but it had begun to come off the loom. The trip was a stroke of fortune for me. I returned to Rome and began working in this field. My first exhibition was in 1976 at the Biennale of Gubbio, organized by Italy's eminent critic Enrico Crispolti.
But my first breakthrough was in 1979, when I presented “televised textiles” at the Città di Castello in Umbria. At this time, my work was based on using technological media, like photography and television. I took that imagery to a new textile dimension. I made the work using copper thread on an antique loom connected to a TV antenna and then weaving the photograph taken from the monitor. These photos were then printed on photosensitive canvas and with further intervention became textile artworks. My work set off a turning point in the fiber art field and is included in the history of Italian fiber art under the name Tessuti Televisivi.
LP: Next I worked with the photocopies. It was the same procedure—produce an image of a woven piece and then work it into a new textile dimension. This work was happening at the time when computers were making their first appearance, and for me they were part of my installation for the Triennale of Łódź, Poland, which caused a bit of difficulty because computers were still quite rare.
|Works originating from photocopies|
LP: At the beginning of the 1980s, I began to work in mixed media, such as tar. Then came my work with words and textiles, sponsored by an office in the Italian Ministry of Telecommunications, which let me use their equipment. I would say a textile word into the microphone, and the computer would record the vibration of my voice. I then printed the sonogram onto photosensitive canvas and reinterpreted it in the fiber art medium.
Suivre le fil (Follow Thread)
at the Museo Nazionale delle
Arti Tradizioni Popolari di Roma, 1993
LP: An important study I made in 1998–2000 was sponsored by the Istituto Nazionale del Restauro, which let me use their thermal-imaging equipment. I made a thermogrpahic image of my body and then printed it on photosensitive canvas under the title, Ricerca tecnologica del sé (Technological Research of the Self).
|Ricerca tecnologica del sé (Technological Research of the Self)|
LP: After this project, my work has been much freer and spontaneous.
GS: With a few examples shown below. You’ve also dedicated time and fabulous creations to the popular genre, Art of the Book. Could you say something about your work in this area?
LP: Yes, the current Art of the Book began in the late ’80s. You find it in every country, and Italy puts on many Art of the Book exhibitions. We are now organizing one for April 2018 at Rome’s Galleria Sinopia (sinopiagalleria.com), which will include Italian and American artists. Here are two of my favorite pieces in the genre:
|Messaggio Prorompente (Overflowing Message), 2016|
GS: The Black Thoughts really speaks to our times in 2017. Was that on your mind when you created it?
LP: I was in a very bad mood both for personal reasons and due to the bad news from all over the world. I made it in one single day since I was strongly charged.
LP: Yes, three pieces I particular like Lunga vita alla fiber art (Long Live Fiber Art), 2015, in the Arte Arte Collection, Como, Dialogo erotico(Erotic Dialogue), 2010, and Via di uscita per un cuore costretto (Way Out for a Constrained Heart), 2014, in the collection of Arte Moderna, Rome.
GS: Your last piece here, Via di uscita per un cuore costretto, reminds me of your wisdom and ironic sense of humor. How do you see this kind of acuity about life playing into your work?
LP: Via di uscita is not a happy piece, it’s rather tragic; however it shows a way to come out of difficulties through the labyrinth’s exit. The labyrinth is a constant presence in my work and signifies the possibility of overcoming difficult moments in life.
For more information about Lydia and a gallery of her work, including videos she has produced, visit lydiapredominato.net.