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Eirene Evripidou’s versatile and poetic creative spirit

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SINCE its inauguration two years ago, the Evripides Gallery has brought a breath of fresh air to the cultural scene of Athens’ Kolonaki classiness. Housed in the former ‘House of Cyprus’ (the historic cultural hub of the Cypriot Embassy), the Evripides Gallery has been founded by collectors Kostas and Nasia Evripides, and their daughter Eirene. This gallery has embraced many forms of art, whilst also organising some musical evenings to boot. Its varied programme has thus seen to inveigling a wider audience. The common denominator is ‘Greek creativity’ – the support of the local, but also Cypriot art scene, and especially painting, during the difficult times of the ongoing crisis. There was a vision here, that was realised, and the person who has been pivotal in this, is its director, Kostas and Nasia’s daughter Eirene, whose demure presence hides a versatile creative spirit. Eirene Evripidou has put her heart and soul into this gallery from the beginning. ‘Art Scene Athens’ caught up with the soft-spoken young woman, with dark hair, porcelain skin and lapis-coloured eyes, in order to talk about the gallery, and her other projects: her recently published second volume of poetry (‘Reveries of a Moon’), and her photographic work, which is also on display at the gallery, as a complementary side show to Spyros Kotsalas’ paintings that form the main exhibition.

– You started writing poetry at the tender age of 15. What led you to choose poetry then as your creative outlet?
I started reading poetry at an early age; I must have been around 14-15 years old and I thought maybe I should try to write as well. I got mostly positive feedback, and I kept writing.

– Tell us about your favourite poets, and how they have inspired you. I noticed a bit of T.S. Eliot’s ‘Hollow Men’ was quoted in your new poetry collection (‘Reveries of a Moon’).
Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton, and also Edgar Allan Poe are my favourites. I also like Greek poets like Elytis and Seferis, but Plath and Sexton have especially influenced my work. They both wrote confessional poetry, which is what I mostly write.

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– Due to your parents being art collectors, you have been brought up surrounded by art. Would you say that painting and art have also influenced your poetry? Which artists have inspired you?

Being surrounded by art from a young age has of course influenced me. However I can’t say that one particular artist has influenced me – it’s more a case of a general influence from the art and artists that I have been surrounded by or came in contact with.

– You have stated in another interview for ‘Axia’ newspaper (with Irini Pitsoli), that your recently published 2nd collection of poetry, is about “the relationships I would like to have, and those that I had”. Shall we talk a bit about these relationships? Or human relationships in general? They seem to pervade your new poetry collection.
Yes, this volume of poetry is about human relationships and emotions. But it’s not just about the relationships we had, but also the ones we wish we had, which, however, intangible, influence greatly the way we feel and act.

– Would you say that writing poetry has a cathartic role for you? Psychologists say that we must express feelings such as sorrow, otherwise if we don’t, they turn to anger. I get the impression that poetry has served as a creative medium via which you have freed yourself of such feelings.

Poetry for me is undoubtedly cathartic. It is a way to express all the dark feelings, a way to externalize them and make it easier to deal with them.

– You have written your poems first in English and then translated them into Greek. How did you find this process? And why choose to write in English initially?
I find it easier to express myself in English. As for the translation, sometimes it can be challenging because some things can’t be translated exactly or have different meanings in Greek.

– You are also involved in photography, and the photographs you have exhibited at the Evripides Gallery contrasts to your poetry. At first sight they appear to be happy odes to nature (although they have been shot in the city), while your poetry seems to explore a darker side to your psyche. Do you agree?
My photographic work is very different from my written work. My writing focuses on the internal whereas my photography on the external. My poetry is trying to externalize negative feelings in order to lessen them or even eliminate them; my photography is about capturing something beautiful and preserving it.

 

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– You also had a show (‘An urban contradiction’) of your photographic work at the Cacoyannis Foundation, in 2014, where you captured elements of nature in the heart of urbanity. The shots were taken in two cities, London and Athens.
The current show of photographs is a continuation of ‘An urban contradiction’, with photographs taken in London and Athens. They are attempts to capture ‘instances of nature’ in the city. The emphasis is in the “antithesis”. Colourful fragments found in dark, shadowy streets.

– London and Athens. How do you see these two cities? What do they mean to you?Both cities are very familiar to me. I have many memories, same bad, mostly good. Though I grew up in Athens, we visited London a lot. I spent my college years there and I still travel to London whenever I can. Athens is where most of my friends are. It’s where I live and work. It’s where the sunlight is! London is independence, but Athens is guidance.

– You were born in London, grew up in Athens and later moved back to study in London at Kings College London, where you studied ‘Modern Greek Studies’ followed by two Masters (‘Digital Humanities’ and ‘Digital Culture and Technology’). This is a very interesting field. How do you see digital culture developing?

Digital humanities is basically computer skills and tools applied to humanities subjects – music, literature, art, archaeology. It’s a new academic subject that is being developing in recent years. It’s very useful and has many practical applications and hopefully it will develop more in Greece.

– From 2015 you have been involved in directing the Evripides Gallery. This wonderful gallery has brought new life to Kolonaki, despite the ongoing crisis. Tell us a bit about this experience.
For many years we had wanted to create a gallery, and had visited many spaces. But none of them were suitable for what we had in mind. But when we visited this building, we knew immediately that it was ‘the one’. Of course we had to deal with the classic bureaucratic problems in order to set it up, and get all the licences etc, but 6 months later, we were ready to start organising exhibitions.

– I get the impression that the Evripides Gallery is set on supporting the Greek art scene, at a time when many have abandoned it. Am I right?
Yes, painting, sculpture, photography on the most part, but also jewellery and fashion. We also try to support new artists, who find it hard to show their work.

– I bet you get bombarded by artists’ work every day.
Yes, all the time! Via emails, facebook; artists even visit with their portfolios.

– But how do you go about choosing the artists for the gallery? What are your criteria?
For us, it’s primarily about a work having quality and for the artist to be talented and have worked hard.
– What do you think of the Greek art scene in general?
I think the Greek art scene has a lot to offer. It just hasn’t been promoted in the right way. That’s the problem, and that’s what we need to work on.

• Eirene Evripidou’s two poetry collections (‘Reveries of a Moon’ and ‘Glass Roses’), are bilingual (English/Greek) volumes, published by Aiolos. They are available at the Evripides gallery and at greek bookstores (in-store and online).
• Spyros Kotsalas’ exhibition runs till July 29 at the gallery. You will also find Maria Yiannakaki’s light boxes and the photographic works of the gallery’s director Eirene Evripidou on show at the gallery, plus plenty of gift ideas (eg. small works, jewellery and design creations).
• Evripides Art Gallery is on the corner of 10 Irakleitou and Skoufa sts, Kolonaki. Tel: 210-361-5249, 210-361-5909, http://www.evripides-art.gr, info@evripides-art.gr. Open Tues, Thurs, Fri: 11am-8.30pm; Wed: 11am-5pm, and Sat 11am-4pm. Closed Sun, Mon. The gallery is fully accessible to disabled people.

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