January 2014 – Nineteen canditates selected for the first edition of the Prize for the young international artistic scene
Last January, HYam (Hydra for Artists of the Mediterranean) and the Fondation Jean-Luc Lagardère set up the first Young Mediterranean Artistic Scene Award aimed at rewarding an artist’s work (sculpture, painting, performance, installation, video), which has to do with interactions between different cultures. This original award of 10.000 euros is designed to support artists with their art production and further promote them across the world.
For the first edition, this original award is dedicated to young Greek and Cypriot artists under 36 years old.
Nineteen candidates were selected based on the quality and the interest of their work :
Bill Balaskas (1983), studied Economics before becoming an artist and this significant background has deeply influenced his aesthetic concerns. The depth of the economic crisis and the accentuation of a symbol of socioeconomic failure didn’t lead him to a lapse; on the contrary, it helped him shift his vision from the purely economic aspect of the crisis to its cultural origins and study the deep connections that it bears with the turbulent events that are affecting the whole of the Mediterranean. Bill Balaskas lives in London and is represented by Kalfayan Galleries, Athens – Thessaloniki.
The work of Rania Bellou (1982) searches the limits between reality and illusion. Based on the Proustian model of subjective memory, the artist reinvents the past, not only as a thorough recreation of past situations, but also as a ‘free’ journey among blurred and vague images with its intentional forgetfulness. Her works imply ways of perceiving the world outside of time and clocks. Rania Bellou captures those objects or artifacts whose identities are long lost and can also be found in websites like eBay. She is the one to decode the associations in order to create new notions, new meanings and recreate images where only her personal idea of duration is taken into consideration. Rania Bellou lives in London. She is represented by Kalfayan Galleries, Athens – Thessaloniki.
The work of Marianna Christofides (1980) has to do with the images she finds and reconstructs. These images talk about stories and places forgotten from one moment to the other; about stories and places abandoned from time or distorted in such a way that leave an openness marking a new narration. The artist changes, transforms, shifts, translates and creates interference via different media and ways of production. In this way, she is compressing the three dimensions and their visual representations with the accuracy of an entomologist. Marianna Christofides lives in Köln.
Petros Efstathiadis (1980) chose to present The Camp, his late undergoing project. The camp is a series of photographs related to stories about all these confused places -border walls, war zones and immigrant camps- where the social rules are distorted. With the financial bankruptcy in the background, the photographer sheds light in raw constructions, abandoned from human presence, with no functionality and obvious purpose. Everything in these places is sad and the social reason no longer exists. To build these constructions, Petros Efstathiadis gathers objects from warehouses, illegal rubbish dumps and village houses. The particular aspect of his work relies on the fact that once the scene is set and the photograph taken, sculptures and installations are destroyed and the objects go back to where they belong. The photograph remains as the only document. Petros Efstathiadis lives in Greece. He won the photo prize in the Hyeres fashion and photography festival in 2013.
Eirene Efstathiou (1980) sheds light in different forms of incompatibility that exist between the official documents or archives and the traces left in the urban landscape: a two-tier work in two frameworks in space andtime. The artist chooses to work from images that somehow express ruin, deadlock, conflict, oppression, but also resistance, resilience and hope. The particularity of Eirene Efstathiou’s work lies in the use of traditional media (painting, drawing, printmaking and photography), as well as in the scale and form of her installations that remain a part of the private sphere. In one of her most recent works, the artist redefines the economic crisis and enlightens the big gaps created between a certain image used and promoted by the government and the Media and a different view that the Greeks experience in their everyday life. Eirene Efstathiou lives and works in Athens and is represented by the Eleni Koroneou Gallery.
Zoi Gaitanidou (1981) is currently using embroidery as her main form of expression. The artist knits her elaborate tapestries stitch after stitch, where she combines figures and abstract patterns with an intensity that recalls tribal art, with a parallel contemporary take on the tropical vision of Douanier Rousseau. Her embroidered forms and the knitting of the threads recall the vivacity of the brushstrokes and the pencil traces of some neo-expressionist artists, whereas the circular cut outs edged in stitching vibrate from the lightened areas of a stained-glass window – a chaotic yet wild-made artwork. We need to come closer and « tame » the details in order to regain peace. Zoi Gaitanidou lives in Berlin and Athens and is represented by the gallery The Breeder, Athens.
In the works of Dionisis Kavallieratos (1979), there is always a game of turnover: a point of reversal of meaning that forces the viewer to do a double take. The artist holds the position of a sophisticated general and invites the passer-by to his trap, playing an unending game with mirrors. His only intention is to distill the doubt. Dionisis Kavallieratos unveils the false images and is bewildered by creating coincidences, praising appearances and activating a domino effect. For the artist, the world is a map one needs to scratch; it is made of consecutive layers: each layer creates the next one. See what happens underneath the exquisite glaze of ceramic sculptures. Not everything is beautiful. Derision and lust are dressed up in a big gasp of laughter. This is our world. Dionisis Kavallieratos lives and works in Berlin. He is represented by the galery Bernier/Eliades, Athens.
The journey is an integral part of the art practice and the life of Irini Miga (1981). She pays a visit to the society of her time prefering exquisitely the sober, unfamiliar, weird and unknown places. Those places are somewhat like the white leaves, on which she draws her installations and creates puzzles that the visitor needs to pass through. For this reason, she combines different materials like clay -a flexible and symbolic material-, wood or plastic and marries them with the ephemeral. The main theme of Irini Miga’s last works is the flow of history that remains eternal. With the decline of the classic era and its beauty canons, the artist juxtaposes the modern news stories with the residues of the turmoil. In this way, she puts herself right on spot and invites the spectator to do the same. Irini Miga lives and works in Athens and New York.
Pencils? Chinese ink? No. Vasilios Paspalis’ drawings (1980) have the following specificity. They are created by thousands of small dots that become independent or separated depending on the shadow or light zones. Vasileios Paspalis does not create his works directly on paper with Chinese ink but rather with electronic pen on screen before printing them in one or two copies. What do you think is the difference since the result is apparently the same? For this post-web era artist, the imposed screen distance and the possible transcription in a much more flexible support offers a kind of freedom and a detachment that the traditional approach limits with the physical proximity. But what is the drawings’ real meaning? Created in an iconoclast way, they refer after all to a mental state of mind. Vasilios Paspalis weaves spatial tensions and protects authority conflicts where nobody pulls out of the game. He compiles loss, oddness and the uncertainties of each under his supportive gaze. In an uncertain and confused spacetime, Vasilios Paspalis travels through the inconscient’s ocean and calls «imagination» for help. Vasilios Paspalis lives between London and Thessaloniki. He is represented by XPO Gallery, Paris.
Iris Touliatou (1981) simplifies the history and undresses the vast domains such as : modern architecture, art history, theater, cinema, litterature. Based on a preselected «fact», she dives in profound slippages and misalignments coming up with time in the axis of the 3 M (Memory, Materiality and Modernity) in order to give them a new configuration. The architectural ‘‘drama’’ of the Greek state hotel chain XENIA, the cancelled theatrical premiere of the labour opera The Craddle Will Rock, directed by a very young Orson Welles in 1937 or by Sergei Eisenstein’s unrealized film The Glass House are some of her themes. The artist approaches her constructions and sculptures without a feeling of nostalgy but rather a journalistic way. What we see are frozen moments in time that make thinking suspend between memory and expectation, seen and foreseen (or vanished), fact and hypothesis. Iris Touliatou lives in Berlin, Paris and Athens and has participated in numerous international exhibitions.
A passage from darkness to light, from the common consciousness to the awakened consciousness. In the same way that the Alchemical work praises the internal laws in every transformation, just like the “purification” process and underlines the need for transfiguration – personal, as well as social. And Panos Tsagkaris (1979) begins with his country. From the beginning of the economic crisis, Greek sadness has become a newspaper cover. Remember the cover of the Liberation Newspaper with ΧΑΟΣ in its title during the most crucial moment of Greek bankruptcy. The artist used the same media covers and covered with a 23k gold leaf all texts and photos with the exception of the central, more impressive photograph. In this way, he created a transformative phenomenon. The use of gold is a recurring material in his work playing a key role: the detachment from a possible development. Panos Tsagaris lives and works in New York and is represented by Kalfayan Galleries, Athens – Thessaloniki.
The projects of Maria Tsagkari (1981) are not intended to remain. The artist directs the metaphors of the notions of offering, thanksgiving, action, trust and faith in the unattainable. A garden with 800 different flowers made of the ash of burnt wood is a specimen of economic and political power that stages all the sensibilities and imbalances. These are the traces of a meeting of two surviving former employees of the Athens Gasworks which closed down 30 years ago. The artist created a carpet of ash with references from the Eastern and Western philosophy. The fact that the carpet is handmade and that the artist has engraved with dark letters the words « thank you» makes it even more valuable. Maria Tsagkari’s installations often bespeak the futility of their laborious creation, since they are offered or end up being dismantled by the public involved in the ultimate form they take. Maria Tsagkari lives and works in Athens.
Alexandros Tzannis (1979) tries to combine visual and abstract elements, idealistic and symbolic characteristics, decorative and allegoric forms. He is mainly interested in what the time dissipates in a twinkling of an eye and tries to counterpoint this modern phenomenon with a laborious, time consuming process. In his drawings that consist the main body of his work, the artist uses the ballpoint pen in order to create enigmatic, visual complex images from top to bottom. These images emanate from urban residues – damaged products from consumer’s culture or environmental decay – and from cosmic and unchangeable elements. In this way, a modern confusion is involved: the artist puts on stage his installations or sculptures that are made of natural and traditional materials, such as fired clay, which in their turn are combined with typical urban elements such as neon. We can say that, in one way or another, Alexandros Tzannis recreates the world. Alexandros Tzannis lives and works in Athens. He presented an exhibition at Koroneou Gallery in 2014.
What is a line if it does not exist in space? How does it exist within the three dimensions? How can a static line provoke the idea of movement? All these questions led Christos Vagiatas (1990) to create linear itineraries in specific places: drawing the outline of objects implying their existence, the artist redefines new places out of the abyss. His minimalistic installations sound like comparison signs: the only difference between his various projects lies in the choice of the initial idea. For example, the artist explores the limit in the installation «Old Palace/Greek Parliament – Christos Vagiatas’ house/student’s residence university of Ioannina» (starting from the title, we get all the concept). The elements here are already codified so that we find an answer to the following question: “How many times does the surface of my room fit in the Greek parliament?” The work serves as an echo: from the general to the specific and from the power symbol to the private sphere. Christos Vagiatas lives and works in Athens.
«Art is the only way in which we can regain lost time». This phrase of Marcel Proust concerns the earlier work of Chrisa Valsamaki (1981) and evokes the transformation of a symbol to a codified message. It is through the juxtaposition of images that the memory is revealed, the duration and the framework of which have been somewhat damaged. In this way, Chrisa Valsamaki sheds light on the hidden aspects of history and assumes the role of the revelation’s leader, in a discrete way, of course. In her recent works, she observes the frameworks within some strictly hierarchical and stiflingly constricted structures, as well as the consequences these structures have for the citizen. In the installation 7 portraits and 616 words, she exposes the concealed aspects of her country’s history. In a certain angle, we discover the profiles of 7 faces on a carbon paper who are the 7 former inmates from 1973 to 1990, who became known to the public either because they escaped or because of their struggles against the inhuman conditions of their incarceration. It is an attempt to portray those un-shown faces, excluded from official history and render the invisible visible. Chrisa Valsamaki lives and works in Athens.
The work of Panagiotis Vorrias (1983) is about the concept of resistance and retaliation with detachment and ricochets. In “Soundscape fitia”, the artist refers to the activity of a small group of people living in the suburbs that have the tradition during the night to set fire to the saites as they are called (handmade constructions made with cardboard and gunpowder). When the night falls, the program comprises flames, smoke and backfiring. The artist does not reproduce this action in order to frighten, as he already did before, but he underlines the fact that in times of crisis and intense unrest, a nonviolent, defensive practice can consume itself. The concept of resistance is seen here as a social game. « Rift collection » creates interferences in the silece of a deserted place. It’s the sound that gives here the movement that lurks, reactivates the thinking and redefines the notion of knowingness. Panagiotis Vorrias currently works on a project in the sea, a hole in the water that implies the human effort and struggle to overcome anything, and at the same time a missed act that sooner or later is doomed to failure in a personal or social-political level. Panagiotis Vorrias lives and works in Athens.
Natalie Yiaxi (1980) plays with the words, the paper, the signs, the photos and the sounds with lively and careful gestures. All those bent postures are found in places where she empties their substance. She chooses to reinterpretate the objects in triangular form as the esoteric writers of the 19th century were doing. In this way, she refers to the venue of the exhibition (the ancient house of the renowned Dragoman Hatzigiorgakis Kornesios in Nicosia, which hosts today the Ethnological Museum of Cyprus). She chose the big format for the book where she portrays an era via the thematic archives of advertisements of the 90s published in The Independent Magazine. She dressed a short-lived monument of paper in the room 506 in the St. Georges Lycabettus Hotel in Athens, paying tribute to all the unknown guests that stayed there for some hours or days. We still remember her Guide Book in the lithuanian-chypriot pavillion of the last Venice Biennale… a creation of paper as well…Natalie Yiaxi lives and works in Nicosia.
All balances are fragile. In order to pay an almost silent tribute to the Mediterranean, Athanasios Zagorisios (1979) created scientifically correct « objects » that reveal and respect a natural and ignored vulnerability. Look at the sea and its perfect horizontality, the one that makes us stand on our feet. Zagorisios imagined a tube full of water with only one airbubble inside. When we place this installation on the floor, the air bubble normally to be set in the center of the tube, moves aside. The horizontality of the floor is explicit. Observe right now a fine silk thread hanging from the ceiling just in a small distance above a light-bulb. The hot air produced from the light-bulb expands and therefore becomes less dense than the room’s cold air, so it rises above. These imperceptible actions of air are visualized through the subtle movements of the silk thread, alluding to a delicate sea breeze. Athanasios Zagorisios lives and works in Lamia.