Stella Sevastopoulos talks to artist Margarita Radeva about the pros and cons of following an art career today, her experience as an art education professional, and more…
THERE are many who teach art, but not many who do it properly. In many schools, art is considered of no importance, hence an excuse for the art teacher to simply skive, and to not bother with actually trying to teach the children anything of importance, such as art history, perspective drawing, creative thought, colour combinations and contrasts, three-dimensional modelling of materials such as clay. Creative thought processes can also be explored by combining the written word and the visual language, or with video/film, while the computer technology is being incorporated all the more these days in the creative field.
Creative industries aren’t exactly blooming in Greece, so why should anyone bother to teach kids art and creativity? Well, how about thinking about it a bit differently…. That these are industries that just haven’t been developed properly yet, so there’s plenty of scope there for future job opportunities. There are all sorts of design for example that could flourish in Greece, e.g. the many applications of graphics, as well as product design, jewellery design, fashion, furniture, ceramics. Furthermore, creative thought processes are vital to many industries and businesses, especially in advertising and marketing. But how can creativity flourish in this country, when many art teachers are putting off kids from art, by not bothering to teach it to them, or by criticizing their work, rather than helping kids to unleash their creative talents?
Hence the option to take your kid to an art teacher who cares. Here in the Southern suburbs, Margarita Radeva is one such teacher, who has been pouring all her energy into helping children develop their creative skills, since 1994. Margarita is a hard-working art education professional, who is probably overqualified for the job: with three art degrees, 14 solo shows of her own creative work, plus participation in many group shows both here and abroad, and awards for her ceramics and poetry. She is also an illustrator of children’s books. But Margarita is dedicated to her teaching. Her Michelangelo Art Centre in Glyfada, offers a wide range of classes to all age groups. With an open mind and an open heart, she has helped dozens of kids get into the Athens School of Fine Arts as well as other schools, including architectural departments of universities. Further to that, she has also been providing adults with art lessons, helping them to develop creatively, even at a later stage in life.
Margarita’s open mind to teaching art and creativity, has seen her realize various projects, the most recent one being an illustrated book of poems. For this edition, the children who were taking part in the creative writing workshop (run by Christina Kollia), put pen to paper, and also made lino-cut prints to accompany the poems written by Kollia. This is but a small example of Margarita’s inspired creative nurturing. She’s a teacher dedicated to finding new means and ways of developing creative thought processes and techniques in both young and old. So much so, that in some lessons, there are no age limits in the classes – both young and old can attend the same class. She has found that this makes for an interesting mix, where the children are better behaved when there are a few more adults in the room! Art Scene Athens’ Stella Sevastopoulos caught up with Margarita Radeva, in order to talk about her experience as an art education professional, and as an artist:
– Let’s start at the beginning, where were you born and raised, and where did you study?
– I’m from Bulgaria, born in Sofia, finished school and art school in Sofia, met Kostas Angelakis in Sofia, who was studying there. And then I found myself in Athens, due to love! So things changed a bit then. Instead of going to Europe for postgraduate studies, I did them at the Athens School of Fine Arts (ASFA), having also obtained a scholarship. My teachers were Botsoglou, Papaspyrou, Patraskides. Later, together with my husband’s family, we created an art workshop in Glyfada (‘Ergastirio Kalon Technon Glyfadas’ and an art group, called ‘Omada Technis 3’. Then, I did a second degree in sculpture at ASFA, under Theodoros Papagiannis, because I wanted to explore materials such as metal.
– What have you learnt from these teachers?
– Certainly you learn something from each one of them. Papagiannis was a great love of mine. I chose him because he’s a ‘worker’. He is a simple person, of the people. He worked without talking. I also liked his work. I don’t think I made a mistake in choosing him. Each teacher gives you his advice on how to approach your work etc, but at the end of the day it’s also about how you work and progress in your own way.
– Art needs hard work, and lots of it!
– Yes, that’s what I say to my students. If you want to become an artist, you can’t approach this job with the mentality of a state employee. If you think that you can clock out at a certain time, then forget it! Art today is about having two jobs: one which will allow you to make ends meet, and another (that of the artist), which will be about furthering your artistic practice.
– So, you think that someone can do another job and be an artist too?
– Well, today, that’s the way it is for most artists. There are very few artists who can actually make a living out of just being artists. This is because our society doesn’t support artists. Society can’t support them, especially in Greece and due to the crisis etc. But art doesn’t stop because of this. Those who can be just artists, are happy and blessed. And it doesn’t mean that you have to have a degree in order to be an artist. You are born an artist, and then it’s up to you to develop your art. The degree just means that you were in an educational establishment for 5 years (that’s how long it takes to finish art school in Greece). But it doesn’t mean that you have learnt to function creatively. You might have been taught at art school how to paint, to draw, but again it doesn’t mean you are a true artist. A true artist is someone who sees the world differently. And who wants to see the world differently.
– Here at the Michelangelo Art Centre you have a lot of departments and courses, for old and young, including preparation for Greek art school exams etc.
– We have all ages and for some lessons we don’t put different ages in different departments. The children can start from around 5 years old, after doing a trial lesson. We also have many people who are retired, and who have now found the time to explore art. They especially enjoy creating with clay.
– You do a lot of clay creations here. In fact you have a great clay workshop, complete with oven. And not many local art workshops have that!
– We do a lot of sculpture here. It’s good for creativity to be explored in many ways: through form, drawing and design, but also through molding, three-dimensionally, through sculpture. This helps both adult and child to develop in different ways. Both a piece of paper can be transformed into art, but also a piece of clay. With clay especially, I have found that children really love it as a means of expression. With clay, they become little gods, who can mold three-dimensional worlds with their own hands. And I have found that it is very good especially for kids with learning difficulties, or psychological issues. It really helps with stress. We explore all sorts of mediums, from acrylics, oil pastels, water colours, everything.
– You have been teaching art in Glyfada since 1994.
– Yes, I have taught at all sorts of educational institutions, including schools. I was the art teacher for 16 years at the Protipo Athinon school. I was at the ‘Ergastirio kalon technon Glyfadas’ workshop from 1994-2008. And from 2009 I have been directing the Michelangelo workshop. We also prepare kids for art schools and schools of architecture here, and we have had a lot of successes. Last year for example, one of my pupils, who I’ve been teaching since he was 5 years old, got accepted at the Athens university to study architecture. If a child has the talent, it can study here in order to take the exams in order to enter university for any of the courses that require drawing/design etc.
– Do you believe that anyone can be taught art?
– Of course, it needs to be taught, and everyone can learn it. Each person has their own character and will find their own means of creative expression. The thing is to have the right instructor who can guide you to find your way. To help you develop, to teach you how to function creatively.
– How about women in art? They haven’t had a fair deal, don’t you think?
– When I was at school as a teenager, and was studying art history there, I saw that there were men artists everywhere, and this troubled me. So much so, that one day, I took a pair of scissors and cut my hair off so that I looked more boyish, and started wearing more male-like, black clothes. The neighbours confronted me and said ‘What have you done to your beautiful hair? Why?’ For many years I didn’t want to look feminine. (For many years I also liked to do portraits of people, and would go to the old people’s homes especially, and draw the portraits of people there.) Afterwards I got over this problem about being a woman, and today, I’m proud to be one, and especially of being a mum. Because being a mum is also a creative process. I don’t believe that there is anything that a man has that a woman doesn’t. My everyday life is just like a man’s, working all day.
– How about your art work, how did it develop?
– My work started off from a minimalist style. I did a lot of painting and drawing from nature and of people as a child/teenager, so after that, I wanted to find simpler ways of expressing myself. So, I went towards minimalism. Then I started thinking that this century doesn’t express itself through only one idea or truth, we are a bit of a mixed-up situation, between different ideas, some of them inherited of course from the past. So, I then created a fragmented kind of art, where many works together would work like a puzzle, combining different techniques and ideas in the process. I moved on to creating works which were basically three-dimensional paintings, made of wood and paint. Afterwards, because my work was starting to become more three-dimensional, I decided to go and do the sculpture degree in order to explore further some of the artistic issues I was experimenting with. And after that, I started creating a series of mannequin dolls, creating basically a mould from one mannequin, and then clay variations of it. These were works that examined the concept of woman: The female body and the environment. Later I did a different series of clay works.
– The clay workshop at ASFA played a pivotal role in your own clay creations, and how you went about them.
– Yes, because I had initially wanted to be taught how to use a potter’s wheel. But the teacher’s helper at the school asked me ‘why?’. I told him that I wanted to create vases and then to change their shape. He said to me that I can do that with my hands, and that those who use the potter’s wheel simply create things based on a central axis, which is always symmetrical, and that even the most stupid person can do this. This kind of influenced me. So then, I started to do a series of human faces, made of clay. I think some of them are also combined with my memories of those people I used to draw at the old people’s homes. For me, they speak about the way that life is imprinted on a person’s face.
– There are different approaches to art in different countries, what differences in approach did you notice between the countries of Greece and Bulgaria?
– In Bulgaria, there was a classical approach to art. When I came to Greece, they kept on asking me at the art school here whether I was into sots art, or socialist realism and if I taught these kinds of art! I questioned that, I mean, I’m not exactly waving a red flag! For me there’s simply good art and bad art, whichever way you choose to express yourself.
– Are there things from your Bulgarian roots, upbringing and education that have played a fundamental role in your art? Cultural baggage that you have kept with you?
– Of course. There has been a search for the good, and for truth in my work, which I feel was something beautiful that I had garnered from that period in my life at art school in Bulgaria. There, they were pushing us towards creating and exploring new things. Of course this kind of inspiration can be found elsewhere too, also in Greece. The most important thing is to find a good person, the good teacher, and each art school or educational establishment has its good and bad teachers. It’s basically about being next to an inspired teacher who can help you progress. Who will say to you ‘well done! Continue!’, and not ‘What a load of rubbish!’. I found that those who weren’t very good in their art, would not be constructive in their teaching of it either, while those who were inspired, great artists, would help you go forward. Luckily, I found good teachers both in Bulgaria and Greece.
• Michelangelo Art Centre is on the corner of 89 Euxeinou Pontou & Eleftherou Anthropou sts, Ano Glyfada. Tel: 210-965-2734/6942077222. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Open Tues-Fri 5-9; Tues & Thurs 10-1; Sat 10-2.