The group exhibition In(de)finite Selfhoods was initiated by CITRONNE Gallery as a research project to detect and bring forth new voices of contemporary, emerging, international artists. The point of departure for the dialogue were matters of identity, collectivity, cultural background, local and global genealogies of thought and creation, art movements and art histories.
The routes of communication and collaboration that create linkeages between the 12 international and Greek artists led to the first installment of the exhibition In(de)finite Selfhoods (4 June – 18 July), which inaugurated the gallery's Summer Program in Poros. The exhibition which assembled artworks in a variety of media spanning from painting to photography and installations, bridged discourses from different cultures, geographical locations, generations, singularities, artistic investigations and practices. The show in Poros provided for many of the artists the opportunity to meet, to share and to exchange, to be inspired from each other, and to construct in-between spaces.
The osmosis between the artists leads to the conceptual yet organic continuation of the exhibition in Athens, as a sequence that expands, broadens and delves into the artistic dissents. With the experience of the first show, a new series of artworks wishes to illmuminate and to decipher the realms, the roots, the causes, and the aspirations of our “glocal” collectivity.
Chiderah Bosah (NI) contributes two female portraits in pale purple hues that allude to the daily struggles and the resilience of Nigerian youth. Matters of representation motivate the practice of the young artist, who aims to spolight the underrepresented and invisible voices. Interpreting the stereotype of “the strong black woman”, Bosah either directs Sonia's gaze right towards the onlooker, challenging them with her strength, or he averts Daisy's gaze by portraying her tender and more vulnerable side. Despite the darker composition of colours, a light shines from within his subjects, who are inspired by his close social circle.
The series Tobacco Archive by Panos Charalampous (GR) functions as a collage of material inner landscapes, of “dry gardens”, which testify on the economic power of tobacco trading in Greece, that faded out half a century ago. The artist paints names, numbers, calculations, and dates on tobacco leaves in order to highlight the everyday labor, both physical and mental, of local tobacco producers, relating to the cultivation, the processing, the exportation and the circulation of tobacco.
The exploitation and exportation of local natural resources through globalized trading routes is also pivotal in Kwaku Yaro's (GH) work, who resorts to upcycling and repurposing of materials including mats, plastic bags, and jutsacks, frequently used in the trading of cocoa and coffee beans. For the artist, upcycling is a means to contribute to his community Labadi in Accra with managing the volumes of plastic waste. His subjects, members of this community, are dressed in a westernized manner, influenced by the social media and the popular culture. Yaro calls into question the practices of fast fashion that lead to mass waste in West African coasts, and wonders what is the position of his country in the contemporary geopolitical landscape.
Means of production and protocols of trade also become the backdrop in the installation of Panos Famelis (GR). The “sculptive drawings” A Frankenstein made of charcoal and sulfur | Stitch me up and put me in a wire fence of words employs a wooden cargo surface, where codes and protocols of transport are still visible behind the writing. The multi-layered automated transcription of poems renders the writing illegible and drives language towards abstraction: it becomes image and rhythm. Famelis contrasts the personal with the social, and he asks how these two frequencies coexist in the formation of a subjective identity, in a moment of crisis. The sewing of the different parts not only reminds of Yaro's seam lines, but also echoes an internal effort to put together the pieces of a fragmented whole.
The art practice of Dessislava Terzieva's (BU/USA) that combines collages, sculptures, and installations, becomes a conceptual anchor for this show. Terzieva draws from the tension between the attractive and the repulsive, the established and the precarious. She celebrates the aging of materials, the decay of public infrastructure, as well as the improvisational practices within a balkan household that stem from scarcity. Leading personal narratives towards abstraction, she re-contextualizes objects, material cultures and traditions with humor. For the needs of the show, the artist was invited on a residency by Citronne Gallery to procude a site-specific installation inspired by the genius loci of the city. The juxtaposition between materials and objects sourced from athenian flea markets and second-hand scarfs and textiles from her hometown evince the continuity of a shared historical and cultural Balkan experience.
Meanwhile, Nicole Economides' (GR/USA) practice handles the concepts of memory and monumentality (μνήμη/μνημ-ειακότητα), as well as the relation between personal and national identity through symbols and images of nostalgia. The painting Apollo touches on the appropriation of Greek mythologies by western modern painters and serves as an act of reclaiming her ancestral history. The use of language and erasure reflect on the in-between spaces of her dual citizenship. On the bottom of the work, the polaroid of Apollo's protome from the MET points out the access to transnational histories in universal museums and the ambiguous motives of the agents in the preservation and “safeguarding” of cultural heritage.
Abstraction is also the vehicle of Léllé Demertzi's (GR) hybrid collages on mirrors, which are inspired by the Greek mythology and Ovid's Metamorphoses in particular. The melding of sculptural and physical bodies, through photographs taken in metropolitan museums around the world, alludes to the diaspora of artefacts and people. Through the reassembling of dismembered bodies, the series aspires to reiterate and embody eternal traits of the human nature, and to empower through the consciousness of our incompleteness. The use of mirror invites the onlooker to become part of the artwork, to identify with the narratives of mythical creatures, deities and mere mortals, and to allow the trauma transform into scars (and stars).
The ravages of time and decay inspire the Ivorian mutli-disciplinary artist Cédric Kouamé (CI) in his ongoing project Gifted Mold. He collects and recomposes vintage photographs in order to materialize the passing of time by superposing layers of history that coexist in post-independence Abidjan. His premise is that no matter the degree of distortion of the photographic material, the image still conveys a sensation by implying the personal story of its subject. A similar point of departure gives breath to the triptych All is less by Adonis Volanakis (GR) which is based on an archive of glass films from Brussels by unknown photographer and provenance. The juxtaposition of the female figure with the grating shade (which reminds of a prison cell) comments on the glorification of beauty, elegance and ornament. The side panels derive from the verses by Paul Celan “All things are less than they are. All are more” and refer to the paradox between self and self-representation.
Ebenezer Nana Bruce (GH) also focuses on female portraiture with a larger-than-life stirkingly bright-coloured painting. The female form emerges from the monochromatic flat background with thick strokes of paint and is captured as a numinous being. The title of Yellow Shawl points to the unmediated realness of the woman behind her appearance, and thus beyond religious beliefs, social and economic status or personal taste. Ebenezer is motivated by matters of representation and manifests the essence of his subjects in all their frequencies and shades.
Alekos Kyrarinis (GR) is inspired in terms of form by byzantine iconography, folklore and the chistian tradition. His themes descent from archetypical narrations and scriptures. His practice spanning from marble sculture to painting, reinterprets intertemporal symbols in the here and now. The artwork Battle of Worlds II belongs to a larger series exploring Eastern traditions. The illusion of bas-relief, as well as the blending of figures and decorative patterns remind of the votive function of inscriptions, oblations, and offerings. In Kyrarinis' work, the figuration and the adornment, the physical and the metaphysical, the concepts of Good and Evil, and Human merge.
Finally, Courage Hunke's (GH) portrait draws the attention to one of the obscurest facets of the deeply religious Ghanaian society. Hunke aims to create awareness for the international community around the oppressing practice of stigmatizing any deviation from the societal norm, any form of resistance, and any expression of mental health disorder, and ostracizing it from the community, particularly in Northern Ghana. The artist traveled to these camps, the “safe spaces” where (disproportionally female) victims of this superstision are logged and documented their personal stories. His paintings are a living testimony of all these marginalized people.