Informal, But Not Too Much

Adrienne Drake, Director of Fondazione Giuliani, talks about Elisa Montessori

By La Galleria Nazionale

Camera con vista (1982) by Montessori ElisaLa Galleria Nazionale


During the course of her ongoing production and experimentation, beginning as early as the 1950s, Italian artist Elisa Montessori has remained fiercely independent of specific categorisations of her work, pushing against any easy distinction between abstraction and figuration.

To her, there is no difference, and oftentimes a panoply of more literal images is incorporated into abstract panoramas.

The images are neither still lifes, nor intended to suscitate simple narratives; instead, they are as complex as the visual matter we encounter when moving through past and present.


While the inclusion of these elements may appear ambiguous, they are in fact a visual codex that initiates a concatenation of associations, creating a composition of ideas relating to the relationship between women and nature, the fragmentation of the body, transformation and metamorphosis.

In this literature of images, dichotomies and doublings interpenetrate.


Camera con vista (Room with a View), from 1982 and currently in the permanent collection of the Galleria Nazionale, embodies many of the signature attributes of the artist’s work: it is informal but not entirely, there are shapes that could almost become literal, oblique references to nature, certainly a very non-hierarchical approach to technique.

And there is, as always, a complex ambiguity in the relationship between things.


And does the title of the work, Camera con vista (or Room with a View) imply an allegiance to E. M. Forster’s 1908 novel about a young woman rebelling against the restrained social conventions of Edwardian England?

Or nod towards Virginia Woolf’s 1929 essay A Room of One’s Own, which examines the educational, social and financial disadvantages women have faced throughout history?


Metaphorical, and literary, linkages are at the core of the artist’s work, creating relationships and interconnections that conjoin, shift and transform into something else.

The artist never addresses a single theme in her work and leaves it entirely open to new interpretations by the viewer.

In this way, the work changes according to its translation, and a single thing or idea transforms into something else; and in that transformation, we are in the very making of the moment.

Credits: Story

Voice message by Adrienne Drake, Director and curator of Fondazione Giuliani per l'arte contemporanea di Roma.

Credits: All media
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