IT’S NOT EVERY DAY that you get to explore from an artistic perspective, a most tantalizing theme which has to do with Athens, both past and present. This city has lots of stories to tell, and everyone who has visited it, has their own one. And, on June 2, the first day of the first artists residency at Domus Art Gallery Athens, the three artists who have been invited to take part (Giusy Lauriola, Merima Fetahovic, Stella Sevastopoulos), not only exchanged stories of Athens, but also spoke of their artistic processes, within the context of the theme of the residency, ‘Greetings from Athens’. Inspired by a series of 9 postcards, which travelled from Athens to Italy, from 1964-1983, Manuela De Leonardis, was inspired to create the theme of the residency, and guided the artists, using her great knowledge and experience.
As an art historian, archivist of images, journalist and curator, De Leonardis had proposed the theme to the gallery’s director, Glenda Lorenzani. What followed was a two month period (April/May), when each artist worked on their own, but still with feedback from De Leonardis and Lorenzani. And now, from June 2-12, the team is working together, in the physical space of Domus Art Gallery, which has been transformed into a studio for these days. An open day/exhibition is due to take place on June 9.
This unique Italian-Greek cultural collaboration (De Leonardis, Lauriola and Fetahovic have flown in from Rome for this residency), is bound to have some interesting results, seeing as each artist has chosen their own sub-theme within the wider context of “Greetings from Athens”.
For Giusy Lauriola, this was an opportunity to explore her interest in the position of women, in the age of ancient Athens. She was intrigued with the many privileges that the Hetaira had, in contrast to other women. She says of the project:
“I am very enthusiastic about participating in the ‘Greetings from Athens’ residency, first of all because I love Greece. As they say, same face same race! But also, because it has allowed me to explore a topic dear to my heart: the condition of women. Not insignificant is the fact that we are all women in this project. According to the great thinkers of the time, woman was an inferior being because she lacked logos, while in Ancient Rome she was the total property of the pater familias. This leads us to understand why everything that has very ancient roots is very difficult to erase. That is why I wanted to focus on the figure of the Hetairas, a kind of geisha, the only women in Ancient Greece who were cultured because they had to entertain men ‘in every sense’ and free because they could manage their earnings. Legend has it that the highly cultured Aspasia, concubine of Pericles, had even transmitted to Socrates the so-called ‘Socratic’ method of discussion.”
For Fetahovic, it was the face of the Goddess Athena which captured her attention, and has led her to create an installation, which will focus on the different sides of Athena’s persona, via a series of ceramic masks, thus creating a narrative in the process: “It is a reinterpretation of tradition, with the use of materials, techniques, motifs and colors, with pure visual expression, established through the mask, which acts as a portal between past and present. The sculptural mass thus changes from one mask to another, like different representations of the goddess Athena.
The synthesis of dualism runs through the entire work through intertwined concepts: mask / identity, past / present, eternity / transience”, explains Fetahovic, who has explored raku ceramic traditions in her oeuvre.
For Stella Sevastopoulos, this project was an opportunity to explore the grey zones between art and design, by creating a series of linocuts, inspired by ancient Greek floral motifs, which she then incorporated into abstract works. Her research for the project also entailed searching for flowers and plants which link the past with the present, seeing as they have been part of Greek myth, architecture, art and design. The reconstructed akroterion of the Parthenon, on exhibit at the Acropolis Museum was of especial interest to her.
“Some of the flowers of antiquity that I incorporated into the preparatory works for this project, were the following: Sunflower is the sea nymph Clytie transformed; roses are created by goddess Chloris out of a beautiful dead nymph; poppies are created by goddess Demeter to aid sleep; Irises are named after the goddess of the rainbow; daffodils are Narcissus transformed into a daffodil; and violets symbolise Athens. Acanthus is the plant whose leaves are found on the capital of Corinthian columns, and olive leaves have been the symbol of peace from the ancient years,” explains Sevastopoulos.
The artists have been invited by De Leonardis to explore the theme of the residency freely if they would like, but she did also give some pointers: The theme of travel/Grand Tour; the classical heritage in western culture; the concept of seriality and reproducibility; the comparison past/present with a possible reference to the contextualization of the historical period 1964/1983 when the postcards “travelled”; “another Athens” – the imaginary landscape which is not depicted in the postcards.
Now that the residency has begun, and the team is in full creative flow, it will be interesting to see what the results will be. All in all, it is certainly an interesting creative laboratory that has been set up at Domus Art Gallery Athens!
DOMUS ART GALLERY INFORMATION:
The Domus Art Gallery is directed by the gallerist Glenda Lorenzani who decided, after a few weeks of her moving from Rome to Athens in 2014, to create this innovative project focused on modern/contemporary art. The Domus Art Gallery welcomes monthly meetings dedicated to artists, friends, collectors, art lovers, curious minds and whoever is interested in creativity. During these years, the Gallery has hosted different art exhibitions by many artists, mainly coming from Greece and Italy, strengthening the cultural and artistic links between these two Mediterranean countries, which share many values.
‘GREETINGS FROM ATHENS’: The first artists residency project at DOMUS ART GALLERY, ATHENS, conceived and curated by Manuela De Leonardis.
Participating artists: Merima Fetahovic (Serbia/Italy); Giusy Lauriola (Italy); Stella Sevastopoulos (UK/Greece).
Organisation/address: Domus Art Gallery, Athens (28 Prousis Street, Vari, 16672 Athens).
For more info: contact Domus Art Gallery (+306907477997, email@example.com)
Duration: 2-12 June, 2022.
Open studio/exhibition of works: Thursday, June 9, 6-11pm.
Visits during the residency: 9am-1pm, June 2-12, by appointment only (+306907477997).