"The first day of the year looks like a white painting put on the stand, waiting to get paint.
Who knows what would turn out if every day I gave fifty brushstrokes to that white painting. How many changes and how many second thoughts. Instead life takes place in moments, and when the moment has passed you cannot change anymore."

(Lia Drei, Diaries, 1st January, 2004)


Lia Drei was born in Rome on the 18th of July, 1922, in the home-studio of his father Ercole Drei, sculptor and painter, between plasters and bronzes, stands and brushes, inside Villa Strohl-Fern, a beautiful home immersed in nature, wanted by the Alsatian patron Von Strohl-Fern on the border of Villa Borghese, to allow artists to express themselves freely.
It was natural for Lia to play and poke in artists' studios, picking up pencils and brushes, and finding out "to being able to draw" and "know how to paint," as he heard from colleagues of his father, the latter esteemed sculptor and painter, was the involuntary first maker of the artistic vocation of his daughter, that he would want she will become Literature teacher. Among the artists of the Villa, the painter Hinna, realizing the innate predisposition of the child, took care her Art teaching, revealing the trade’s secrets.

 Meanwhile, Lia was dedicated to the study, graduating to the Liceo Classico Tasso and subsequently graduating in Literature at the University of Rome, and to sports, swimming at first and then to the dive from the springboard, becoming national champion.

 To perfect his English, he lived five years in New York, where he graduated at the Columbia University, where he taught Italian, and occasionally drawing and painting.
She returned to Rome for his father’s will, and she continued to devote himself to art, she especially portrayed landscapes and began to frequent attend the “Accademia del Nudo dell’Associazione Artistica Internazionale”, where on February of 1958 she met the painter Francesco Guerrieri that she married on 21th July of the same year. She’ll share all her life with Francesco, appreciating him as a man and as an artist:
“There is always something new which opens a new way for tomorrow. Francesco is very demanding and honest with himself and with his work, I like it, he gives me serenity and I forecasts and I admire him and I wonder if who looks at his painting understands the importance of his work (…) that has to be slowly observed, looked and lived so it can passes through the eyes to the heart and finally to the soul.” (Lia Drei, Diaries, 3rd January, 2004.

Between the second half of fifties and late sixties Lia dedicated herself to a kind of lyrical-expressionist. In 1961, she boldly chose, in despite of the period and the father’s figurative art, to devote himself to abstract painting and performed a series of abstract - informal works that exposed on her first solo exhibition, held in Rome on February, 1962. At the end of the same year she began to address himself to gestalt and structuralist research and founded, with Francesco Guerrieri, Lucia Di Luciano and Giovanni Pizzo, the “Gruppo 63”.
On June 1963, the four artists exibited at Galleria Numero of Piazza di Spagna, getting lots of positive reviews by Nello Ponente, Sandra Orienti, Luigi Paolo Finizio, Sigfrido Maovaz. But soon some differences related to the experimentation’s methodology led to the division of “Gruppo 63”.
During the 12th “Convegno Internazionale Artisti Critici e Studiosi d'Arte” held in Verucchio, Rimini and Riccione on September 1963, Lia Drei and Francesco Guerrieri presented the “Sperimentale p.” (Where “p.” stands for “pure”) binomial.
From September 1963, the two artists’ home-studio turned into a veritable experimental studies laboratory of visual researches that investigated the possible relationships between art, science, industrial design and contemporary society.
Lots of critics was interested in their experiments: Giulio Carlo Argan, Rosario Assunto, Filiberto Menna, Giorgio De Marchis, Sandra Orienti, Arturo Bovi, Luigi Paolo Finizio and Corrado Maltese, with whom the two artists performed some researches about the form - color perception for the University of Cagliari.
On the n. 6 / 7 of “Marcatrè” related to May-June 1964, was published the first writing of the Sperimentale p. declaration of poetics, already presented at the Convegno Internazionale di Verucchio.  Instead on “Quaderno 1964” it was published a broader and deeper declaration on occasion of the first exhibition of “Sperimentale p.”, held on April 1964 in the gallery “Il Bilico” on Via Brunetti. On November it was the exhibition at the gallery “Aquilone” of Florence with the catalog publication of the text “Tecnica e Ideologia”, already presented and read at the XIII Convegno Internazionale di Verrucchio.

Between 1964 and 1968 Sperimentale p. exposed with solo exhibitions in Turin, Rome, Belgrade, Cagliari and participated in important National and International reviews (Strutture di visione, Premio Termoli, V Rassegna di Arti Figurative di Roma, with 10 works, ect.) and in itinerant exhibitions and debates Strutture visive and Strutture significanti, conceived and edited by Francesco Guerrieri, in Rome, Florence, Naples, Cosenza, Terni, Livorno, Genoa, Turin. The binomial was also invited to the Museo Sperimentale d'Arte Contemporanea in Turin, the Premio Arte Oggi in Florence and Rome, the Ipotesi linguistiche intersoggettive in 1967 and the Premio Masaccio, the VI Biennale Romana and other exhibitions in 1968.
In the works of this period Lia Drei focused on kinetic and chromatic effects, some paintings were characterized by the accordance or the contrast of fundamental and complementary colors, while others by the presence of structures that were able to intervene on our optical perception, creating concave and convex not actually present on the surface of the painting. After long time, in 2004, the artist will say: "Today I have thought of my rounds paintings in 1963. Why did I come to paint rounds? To make stronger visual attraction. On the round the eye stops more easily , it sees red, green and yellow or sky-blue with all the strength of mind and it get lost in and, even if you do not understand why its color gives an unexpected emotion like the sound of a sudden music. And so I have built painting hearing the special emotion for me, because I’ve never done it before, to invent something new, to build a reality that was not there before and that had to have charm, balance, and the force of life. (...) The wonder of art is this, because in equilibrium expression I strangely feel satisfied with a little thing, just that it’s true. My father was an artist and for me it’s normal to find beauty in everything around me, just looking at him with the charm of the mind and in my heart." (Lia Drei, Diaries, 4th January, 2004).

In 1968 Lia Drei knew avant-garde poet Adriano Spatola and it began an artistic collaboration that led to the ideation of a book made not of words but of forms, the same geometric forms that she used and loved, the round, the square and the triangle, with their many symbolic meanings dating back to the civilization of present and past. Thus it was born the artist book Iperipotenusa, published in 1969 by Geiger of Turin, that with the followings Love's Fragments (1980), Kaleidoscopio (1988) and The Painted Diamond (1991) composed Quadrilogia del Triangolo Rettangolo, acquired by the Library at the MOMA in New York, by the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna, the Galleria Comunale d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea e dalla Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale in Rome. For Iperipotenusa the artist received, in 1979, Premio Libro d'Artista of the University of Urbino. "I don’t know why between the endless geometric variations I chose the triangle as my research in the indefinable field of painting. I could do four artist books, that fascinate and excite me every time I flip through, opening a page after another and watching what happens. Every "written" page is different from the preceding and from those in front. They seem almost the same, but the angles change, the sides’ lengths and their position. It’s as they could talk. They play with colors, they divide and reunite among themselves, they jostle themselves, they fight for the below or above space, they love, they hate, they make fun, they wink themselves, they sing or cry saying: why did you put me next to the yellow, I like red!, why did you put me near the black that takes away the light, and also why white puts on airs? Thus they fight, as humans being do, we adapt ourselves more or less well to the circumstances and we can create the “artist” book-painting of our lives, without knowing it and without imagining that everything depends on an infinite horizontal line, a vertical line, the depth and a sloping line that connects them, playing with them to keep them together. " (Lia Drei, Diaries) 

Between  the late sixties and during the seventies Lia Drei dealt with visual poetry, works -environment and happenings. In particular she translated the colorful geometric shapes on wood in his paintings, creating large modular structures that public could move at will during the events, arranged both outside (Azione in piazza, Rieti, 1968; Mentana, 1969) and in the galleries (Un modo di farsi l'arte insieme all'artista, Roma, l'Uscita; Florence, Centro Techne; Galleria 42, Bologna, 1970).
In contrast to the colors explosion of these events, she also produced very different works, directly created on the walls of museums and galleries, strictly white walls on which were fixed pins that "drew" straight and curves lines that continued even on the surface of white paintings, hung on the walls. In this way, "shadow is the painting of light" (Drei, 1978).
She took the maximum of form’s absence in an exhibition at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome, Artericerca, 1978: in a white room Lia stuck one pin in a wall.
In other cases, sheets of clear plastic configure imaginary flowers, like Concerto floreale, Spazio Alternativo, in Rome, 1978; otherwise the work was created from colored wires, as in Hard and Soft, Galleria Fiumarte, Rome, 1980. In 1978 she exhibited at the Biennale in Venice and in 1981 at the Biennale di Sao Paolo, Brazil.
She also participated in important historical collectives like Linee della ricerca artistica in Italia 1960 - 1980 at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome. On October 1981 the Musei Civici in Macerata presented the big Sperimentale p. exposition in the monumental church of San Paolo. Meanwhile she participated in many projects of Mail Art in Italy and abroad, gaining wide recognitions.
After a period characterized by the total absence of painting, the artist returned powerfully to the color, painting Metapittura works, exhibiting from 1982 to 1986, also signed the Movement’s manifesto.
Then Lia Drei came back to work on geometric shapes and on color, reaching in the works around 2000, a formal synthesis which embraced all her precedent research: in these works, in which the white space predominated, straight lines, entire and dotted, delineated paths in which brightly colorful geometric shapes was settle. In 2004 the vision of an paintings exhibition by Raoul Dufy and the continued research on the triangle are led the artist to create floral and plant structures using compositional forms associated with this geometric figure, whose climax is reached in the exhibition Il Tempo del Sogno: un giardino di triangoli arranged after his death, in Il Triangolo gallery in Cosenza (2005) e Miralli gallery in Viterbo (2006).
"Now I  title  my paintings "Il Tempo del Sogno"  because when you’re painting,  writing or  playing you express the dream that you are in your soul. And so the color becomes a reality, the written thought becomes solid, and the song becomes a poem. This is also a simple thought, as a child, but I needed 80 years of life to get to express it with certainty. I like to think of this reality that is gradually formed, , while you’re writing, you’re painting or you’re playing. " (Lia Drei, Diaries, January 5, 2004). Over the years Lia Drei’s works have been exposed in many solo and group exhibitions, throughout Italy and abroad, and they’re been in important Museums and Libraries around the world. In 2003 the Museo Civico in Taverna, homeland of the great painter Mattia Preti, has dedicated to her a permanent solo room realized by Giuseppe Valentino.
In 2005 the Taverna municipality, a few months after his death, has conferred to her the honorary citizenship to the memory for artistic merit.
On June of the same year, on n. 115 of Terzoocchio magazine, that on n. 112 of October 2004 it already dedicated the cover to her work and a critical essay by Luciano Marziano, it is published the touching Lia Drei addio  by Giorgio Di Genova.
On September 2005 the Museo Civico in Calasetta has presented a big retrospective exhibition.
At the same time it is published by Edizioni Md'A (Modiarte) Lia Drei una monografia with texts written by Teodolinda Coltellaro, which had known the artist the previous year and she had been deeply impressed by his art and from his life in symbiosis with poetry and with nature.
In 2007 in Rome (Galleria Monogramma) and in Viterbo (Palazzo Chigi, Galleria Miralli) Sperimentale P , Lia Drei e Francesco Guerrieri, 1963 – 1968 exhibition arouses great interest.
In the same year an important retrospective exhibition Lia Drei anni sessanta, is presented by Gabriele Simongini in the Museo Civico in Taverna.
From 2008, after a solo exhibition in Vicenza her works are exhibited in ArtVerona in MiArt (Milan) and other exhibitions by Valmore Studio d’Arte of Vicenza.
Among the most important reviews we have to remember the presence of works by Lia Drei in Artistes femmes dans les collections du Centre Pompidou, Musée National d’Art Moderne de Paris; Il libro come opera d’arte (2006) and Palma Bucarelli il museo come avanguardia (2009) at the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna in Rome. Lia Drei was a person and an artist always full of joy for life and love for others, even when the adversities of life and especially the cruel illness have tried to stop her. All who have known her, her husband, friends, relatives, his dogs, Tutù, Joy and the others, have received from her love and gentleness, day after day.
With faith in God, in tomorrow and in a better world has lived as much as possible in contact with his beloved Nature, in the great forest that she has created together with Francesco Guerrieri, on the slopes of Monte Mauro in Brisighella, in Romagna that was the parents and forefathers’ homeland, and which remained tied during all her life. The forest located in a protected natural park, its trees, its animals, its flowers, everything was destroyed by an arson. It was a mortal pain for her. After a long illness the artist has died on 22March, 2005, leaving an indelible memory in the hearts of all those who knew her.

“While I was resting this morning I thought about all the work I did with triangles and I realized that Triangle is the symbol of creation. (…). I thought that the right side is the man, the left side is the woman and the hypotenuse is love that unites them and gives it life, the tip of the triangle is the uterus and increases the space. In my paintings each triangle (although there are 2000) is different measurement even if only ½ mm. And are people equal? ​​Now they want to clone people (...). I wouldn’t want that after me there will be another Lia, she could never live my life another time, in another time. " (Lia Drei, Diaries, January 19, 2004) –

You're right Lia. People are unique and made them what they have in their lives. And like you, also your works cannot be repeated, because they are born from your heart and your intelligence in a unique moment in time and space.

Cinzia FOLCARELLI

This biographical text comes from the reading of Diari di Lia Drei, and from the Francesco Guerrieri’s stories about his lifelong partner.