ART / athens / creativity / exhibitions

ASFA graduates in the age of covid

IT’S ALWAYS interesting to see what exactly is coming out of the art schools these days, and the Athens School of Fine Arts (or ASFA), is no exception. I visited recently the first part of the ASFA graduates show, which ran June 16-19, to be pleasantly surprised yet again, with the great variety and quality of the works presented. Considering especially that these graduates didn’t have access to the space of the workshops due to the lockdown, and many of them had to find other solutions, such as working at home, it was interesting to see the results of their creativity during these trying times.

Work by Eleni Stavrianidou

One artist that really made an impression with her often stark realism, was Depy Pavlidou. Her works were especially poignant, and her themes contemporary. “Painting has returned to the art scene, because people want it”, she replied to me, after being asked how it seems that there was more painting this year. “Furthermore, it was easier for the painters to produce work at home, due to the circumstances. For the sculptors it was much harder”. But does painting still have a place on the contemporary spectrum of art? Well of course, if it is somehow contemporary, for example if its theme/subject, technique or visual language is contemporary, or if what the artist is trying to say is contemporary. And what Pavlidou is saying through her work certainly is, because she works in the tradition of realism, but with a contemporary twist, and an unabashed female perspective. “My teachers would tell me that my painting is more contemporary than I am”, she said with a smile.

Work by Depy Pavlidou

Within the tradition of painting, the female figure has often been idealized, or has been seen as an object of desire, usually through the eyes of male artists. But now, a female artist is presenting us with the female figure through her eyes. Pavlidou had even painted herself, in a series of naked self-portraits, as if to say ‘here I am at my most vulnerable, at my truest and realest, with all my faults’. Her portraits of friends and artists were humane and tender, as was her depiction of her ailing father, a naked bundle in a white sheet, looking like a baby.

Also on show, were the paintings of Andreas Gkanas. Made of fragments of dreams, where abstraction has erased the characters’ faces, the cool colours of his works created a peaceful ambience. For Gkanas, art is a form of escape from reality and the everyday. He tries to return to his childhood dreams, or what he can remember of them. The dreamy illustrations of Eleni Stavrianidou were also eyecatching, with their blends of oranges, blues, ochres and browns, while Anna Giannopoulou’s brightly coloured abstract works presented exciting visual narratives interspersed with invasions of yellow circles.

Work by Pandora Kartsonaki

Pandora Kartsonaki’s installation on the other hand, had us peering into a dark interior, where pastel-coloured ceramic balls and triangles formed a kind of cityscape on the floor. Behind them, scenes from a dystopian world were being screened. Her installation, called ‘Pandora’s Box’, examines the notions of good and evil, what we perceive as negative and positive, inspired in part by our experience of the pandemic.

  • Part 1 of the ASFA degree show ran June 16-19. Part 2 of the ASFA degree show runs June 23-26, Wednesday-Friday 2-10pm, Saturday 2-9pm. ASFA is on 256 Pireos Street.

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