Monday, 27 July 2015

The art trail - 4

We are in the middle of a heat wave. The first of the summer, I am told. Everything has slowed down and any kind of activity requires great effort. The only viable solution is to go swimming. But I can't. Three weeks ago while we were walking in the woods at Blenheim Palace I got stung by some kind of beetle and the palm of my hand is a sorry and disgusting sight. I am on strong antibiotics and antihistamines but progress is very slow. I have been told I should not go swimming until it clears. So, no swimming. No walking much either, as it's impossible in this heat.

Trips to Athens are therefore a welcome distraction. We walked around Kolonaki on Saturday visiting some of the galleries that we like to go to but it was not a very successful trip as many are closed. Not surprising, given the economic situation - it's a wonder so many have survived.





First stop, the shop of Zoumboulakis Galleries.





The walk-in window had this painting of the Greek flag




Jasper Johns came to mind, but this one is by Teolemas Miltos and has the word Revolution written on one of the blue stripes.





The interior of the shop looked as inviting and interesting as ever




 
Fire by Manolis Romantzis
 




a print by Yannis Moralis





No Smoking, by H. Lambert
 
 
 


Across the road is the shop of one of the annexes of the Benaki Museum





and this was our next stop





small ceramic pots by Theodora Horafa





and a large one by the same ceramicist





looking in





this small box is by Horafa as well





A T-shirt of Melina Merkouri's face by Jean-Paul Gaultier




 
nice bags

 
 
 


'lucky' pomegranates





their art book section is always impressive.





Skoufa Gallery was our next stop. There was a group exhibition. No write-up whatsoever, not even a printed list of artists and prices - we had to ask the gallery assistant about each piece. This was the second gallery where we encountered this and a real sign of the times, when even a printed list of the exhibits is an 'extra' that can't be afforded.





by N. Kontrobrakis
 
 
 


by N. Kontrobrakis





Zoumboulaki Gallery was closed. They are open three days a week, but not on Saturdays (!)  Life goes on, but the signs of austerity in all its forms, are everywhere.




Saturday, 25 July 2015

Ametpia



Ametpia




at the Benaki Museum, Pireos, Athens.

The search for meaning is always part of viewing an exhibition: what does this work of art mean? What was the artist's intention? What does it mean to me? Can I make sense of it?

All these questions were swiftly abandoned once we entered the labyrinth of Ametpia.




(floor plan and list of exhibits)

There was no write-up next to the artworks, not even numbers to help us connect what was in front of us with the names of the artists in the catalogue. It would have taken hours to make the connection between the physical labyrinth that we were inhabiting and the catalogue. So, we abandoned any attempts to do so, and instead just walked, wandered and tried to absorb the cornucopia of what we were experiencing. It was a true experience of the senses. All senses. We had entered the labyrinth of the absurd, the bizarre, the stuff of dreams. The world of Hieronymus Bosch, it felt at times. So we just experienced.

This is how the curators introduce the exhibition (I must point out here that the English translations at the Benaki are poor. I have written to them about this, but did not get a satisfactory answer):

'Ametpia is the privilege of disproportion, of excess, the rejection of an overall vision, the error that turns out to be right. Out of the meeting of the Benaki Museum and the DESTE Foundation, works and objects become proofs of an impulse that, as a precise and determinate entity, takes part in the evolution of thought.

Totally uninterested in the values of community life, which promotes the virtues of measure and the happy mean, dismeasure is the expression of an original purposeless drive, which chooses neither to have nor not to have and whose sole intention is to be exercised without reserve. The degree of dismeasure is dependent on just how radical is the drive that expresses it.

When a drive that dominates the field of consciousness finds a particular form, it becomes instigation, stirring opposition or prompting imitation. If the imitation overcomes by impulse the inclination to restraint, an epidemic phenomenon occurs that forces the community to change its way of thinking and behaviour and its common action. An order of dismeasure can be extended to the point of becoming a conventional value, triggering a series of effects from the social environment to the natural person'.

This is just a small (!) selection of what we experienced while wandering around the vast gallery space.



 

The entrance to the exhibition
 



the first part was a series of maps
 
 



some old, some new





and then we entered the maze



  
 we wound our way through - some of the paths were very narrow
 
 
 

 
 
 
 













and then suddenly we would come upon a much wider passage, like a clearing




 
 
 

 
we  then came upon a section of extremely intricate prints
 

 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
looking closer
 
 
 
 

 
and again
 
 



we were warned that some people may find some of the images provocative










 






looking closer - a clear reference to Matisse















In this section the exhibits look like embroidery but they are not. They do however, anticipate the next section which is embroidery
 



 
 
 


Classic Greek embroidery, the kind we learnt to do at school and which I continued making for years afterwards

  












referencing Greek icons













the juxtapositions were quite bizarre













an altered Greek icon of the Virgin Mary
















Gold leaf referencing the Greek Orthodox icon that hangs on the opposite wall










Kolokotronis was one of the heroes of the Greek struggle for independence from the Turks





Unification or Death recalling Eleutheria i Thanatos (Freedom or Death) the main slogan of the Greek freedom fighters during Greece's struggle of independence from the Turks





the slogan is reflected in the mirror of this installation
 
 
 






we turned to yet another path of the maze and came upon these two huge columns - there was an overpowering sweet smell here





these are made entirely of white chocolate with some caramel for binding
 
 
 

 

This obese torso with its rolls of fat is also part of this section
 
 
 



as is this - the section of excess


 


My photographs do not do this section justice: this statue





and this photograph






are both reflected in the mirror. We then rounded the corner and found a door - went in to a small dark space that contained some kind of hairy creature  (it was too dark to see properly) and then we realised that the mirror was a one way mirror so that we could look into this space

 
 


and then we moved on to a series of photographs




 

note the stake in his heart
 
 
 
 









 




 
 
 
 




John the Baptist amongst all the suffering




and then some bizarre figures
 




including this one
 
 
 
 
that has cigarette butts as feet
 

 



and a cob webb for a stomach

 
 


one of the extremely narrow passages where we could glimpse the print of a face but could not get near it as the passage was too narrow - so, just a tease




 
and we made it to the end. What an experience!
 
One of the aims of the curators is 'to promote new and radical developments in contemporary art practice and inspire novel curatorial approaches'  -  they have certainly achieved that.