Friday, March 8, 2013

Contemporary Florence: an interview with Lisa Clifford

As an artist and designer one of the most important influences for me are other artists and designers. I believe that having a community of like-minded people who share the same ideas and passions is essential to creativity. Art in its many forms is a language and I am continually fascinated by the message that other artists aim to communicate though their work
The ideas of the Renaissance masters was not to continue repeating the same ideas and methods but rather to continue pushing forward and create the new and unexpected and to challenge the perception of what art is while paying tribute to those that came before them. Contemporary art aims to push the boundaries of these accepted ideas and move away from the past to create the present. With this in mind, I will be conducting a series of interviews here on my blog to highlight the artists, designers and creative minds of present day Florence
In conjunction with our facebook group Creative People in Florence, I will be conducting these interviews with our group members. In the coming months I hope to be able to interview each member who is currently living in Florence as a way of highlighting their wide range of talents. The questions will be exactly the same for each artist/designer and creative person, what is fascinating are the similarities as well as the differences in the answers.

This week I am honored to have Lisa Clifford who was sixteen when she arrived in Florence for the first time, keen to experience life beyond her Australian convent-school and work out what she wanted to do with her future. Falling in love with a local was not part of the plan…(sound familiar?)

She has since authored two wonderful book, The Promise which I personally very much related to.
The Promise is the story of Lisa's long love affair with her Italian boyfriend, and of her love for Florence and the Tuscan mountains. But it is also the story of conflicting passions and cultural differences. Lisa's need for independence and equality made it difficult for her to fit in with the age-old traditions of an Italian family. She was torn between her desire to stay in Italy, and wanting to return home to Australia – to her family, to the way of life she knew and loved, to a career. Should she stay, or should she go?

Written with humour and passion, The Promise is about loss and heart-ache and growing up. Above all, it is a story that proves love does find a way - and that some promises are made to be broken.

And Death in the Mountains which, is the true story of the murder of Artemio Bruni, a peasant farmer in the mountains of Casentino, north-eastern Tuscany. Artemio was killed in 1907 and he was Lisa's husband’s great-grandfather.
"For reasons not understood by my husband’s family, Grandpa Artemio’s death was never investigated. It was not reported to the police, nor did Bruna Bruni, Artemio’s wife, ever demand justice. How could that be possible, I asked my mother-in-law – mafia? ‘No, no, you don’t understand,’ she answered. ‘Things were different in the mountains one hundred years ago. Grandpa and Grandma were poor farmers, no one could have cared less about them. Grandpa was a nobody and life was cheap in Tuscany then.’"

Tell us a little bit about yourself:
I grew up in Sydney, Australia and moved to Italy when I was sixteen years old. I realized after falling in love with my now husband that I had to have a career and couldn’t live my life hanging around his house waiting for him to come back from work. I needed my own job! So I returned to Australia and won a scholarship to the Australian, Film, Television and Radio School and started a career in journalism that includes reporting for 2GB, Mix FM and Channel 10 news (that was my last job there, as associate producer of the Channel 10 Late News). So for eighteen years I traveled back and forth from Australia to Italy to see the love of my life whilst working and corresponding for TV and radio news services, magazines and newspapers. Now I write opinion pieces, guides and lifestyle articles on Italy for a range of Aussie and international publications. I wrote Walking Sydney (Pan Macmillan 1998), The Promise - an Italian Romance (Pan Macmillan 2004) and Death in the Mountains (Pan Macmillan 2008) and won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award that book (YIPPEE, we love awards). My new book, Naples – A Way of Love will be published by Penguin in November this year. I now live permanently in Florence with my hubbie Paolo and our two children, Natalia and Leo. I started The Art of Writing, an annual writers retreat in the second week of June in the mountains of Tuscany and fly international writers over to teach emerging and established writers. I have the best job in the world.

Why did you choose Florence or did Florence choose you?
My husband and I chose each other and he is Florentine. He is one of the few Italians I’ve ever met that does not want to move to Australia.

What is your favorite thing/place/sight in the city or all of the above?
Well, I actually love Casentino, the mountainous area of Tuscany where I have a house (my mother-in-law gave me her old farm house, Bless her!) and hold The Art of Writing retreats. It’s only an hour away but it’s an area that gives me strength. Somehow when I leave Casentino I am refreshed and able to face Florentine life head-on with brio and gusto. It must be the Aussie in me - Casentino is isolated, my house is in the middle of the woods and I need time there to recharge my batteries.

Was there a defining moment when you knew that you wanted to be an artist? If so when and what was it?
Apart from childbirth, no moment will compare with when I was offered my first book deal. The high! The joy! I was like a beetle on its back all squirmy and unable to get off the floor for happiness. That was my defining moment.

What or who is your greatest inspiration and why?
This will sound odd and possibly trite but all my friends on my professional Facebook page. They inspire me. They’re constant encouragement and enthusiasm for my work and for Italy fills me with inspiration. Writing is a very solitary business but they make me feel as though I am not alone in my office. They are in my office with me and they really are a great bunch of people.

What is the best thing about being an artist/creative person? What is the most difficult part?
Working from home and working from home.

What message do you hope to convey with your art/creative process?
My writing tends to lean towards isolated characters. I don’t know why, it’s just something that keeps coming out. Hopefully my readers don’t feel too alone when they are with my books and words.

What is art/design to you? How would you define art?
I had to help my son answer that question with his homework the other day. Expression probably. Self-expression, expression for and of the masses, communicating emotions and expressing those emotions. It always goes back to expression for me.

Do you listen to music when you work? If so who or what?
Complete silence please.

If you could go back in time 10 years knowing everything that you know now what would you change and why? Or what would you tell yourself?
I had a two year old and a four year old ten years ago. I was a lonely mum here. I would tell myself that I would make friends in Florence eventually.

How have your two cultures affected your work?
I feel incredibly fortunate to have been given a window into the lives of Tuscans. I write about Italians and if I went back to Australia to work as a journalist again I’d be like all the other journos, all competing for the same stories. Here I have the opportunity to delve into the Italian historical culture. Till now, the old farmers in my books have had no voice in the English world. It is an honour to translate for them and it is a joy to record their words.

Who is your favorite artist/designer/writer/performer?
I don't really have a favorite because I like so many.

What is your favorite movie?
I don't really have a favorite because I like so many.

What is your favorite book?
I don't really have a favorite because I like so many.

When you’re not being creative what do you do?
Walk Toto the dog, think about work, cook ALOT, read, hang out with my kids (that’s my favorite thing to do).

If you could go anywhere in the world where would it be?
Fes, Morocco.

Is there anything else that you want people to know about you?
I like to encourage people to write. I love to help emerging writers believe in themselves and their stories. It lifts me up to lift others up.

Lisa will be conducting a Creative Writing Course in the Tuscan Mountains this June. You can find more information at The Art of Writing. You can also connect with Lisa on her facebook page to find out what she's up to. Both of Lisa's books are available for purchase here in Florence at The Paperback Exchange 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for your comment! I always look forward to hearing from my reader! It will just take a second and I will get your comment posted!

Don't be Shy! Share!