In(de)finite Selfhoods

Installation view In(de)finite Selfhoods, Citronne Galleries, Poros
Installation view In(de)finite Selfhoods, Citronne Galleries, Poros

The group exhibition In(de)fnite Selfhoods at Citronne Galleries Poros (4th June – 23rd July 2022) and Athens (14th July – 15th October 2022) brings together a cohort of emerging and established artists from around the globe and invites them to meditate upon matters of identity and collectivity. The mechanisms of identity formation include looking inwards to enhance self-awareness, as well as turning outwards to the world in order to establish a sense of belonging.

Another double tension rises between the past and the present: cultural heritage and local genealogies are juxtaposed to representations and manifestations of the self in the digital sphere. On the one hand, cultural heritage —be it material objects, artefacts, monuments, and archives, or intangible oral histories, local mythologies and religious practices— refects customs and traditions, spiritual beliefs, aesthetic and social values, which constitute inseparable elements of one’s identity. Drawing inspiration from one’s cultural roots and reconstructing one’s lineage of ancestorship is an intrinsic stage in the artistic production of every era, which sets the trajectories for writing tomorrow’s art histories.

On the other hand, living in a globalized world has accelerated the circulation of people and commodities, while the dynamic exchange of information in the digital world has shaped a shared experience that transcends physical boundaries. The social media in particular provide for our generation an unprecedented democratized access to self-representation by giving voice to cultural specifcities and offering a whole new feld to instigate knots of connection and convergence.

Uniting the local and the global, identity emerges as a palimpsest of both worlds, inhabiting their in- between space. It is proposed that identity is constantly in fux, shaping and being shaped by our positioning within the world. Aspiring to decipher the realms of our contemporary “glocal” collectivity, the exhibition In(de)fnite Selfhoods assembles artworks in a variety of media spanning from painting to photography and installations, emphasizes on the resonances of experience, and celebrates the divergences and dissents of different cultures, geographical locations, singularities, and artistic practices.

Chiderah Bosah (NI) contributes two female portraits in pale purple hues that allude to the daily struggles and resilience of the Nigerian youth. 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 friends and acquaintances.

Chiderah Bosah, Daisy (left), Sonia (right), 2022, oil on canvas, 36 x 36 cm.
Installation View. Ebenezer Nana Bruce, Petals Blouse, 2021, acrylic on canvas, 122 x 107 cm.

Ebenezer Nana Bruce (GH) also focuses on female portraiture with two stirkingly bright-coloured works. The subjects emerge from the monochromatic fat background with thick strokes of paint. The titles of his works Yellow Shawl and Petals Blouse allude to the unmediated realness of the woman behind her appearance and fashion choices, and thus beyond religious beliefs, social status or personal taste.

Kwaku Yaro, Akosua Dompe (detail), 2022, acrylic, plastic bag and jutsack on carpet, 206 x 123 cm.

Fashion is also pivotal in Kwaku Yaro‘s (GH) work, who resorts to upcycling and repurposing materials including mats, jutsacks, plastic containers and bags. His subjects, members of his community in Labadi, Accra, are dressed in a westernized manner, infuenced 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 countries, and insinuates the exploitation and exportation of the local natural resources through global trading routes.

Courage Hunke, Black Gold (detail), 2022, acrylic on canvas, 170 x 130 cm.

Meanwhile, Courage Hunke‘s (GH) portraits draw from one of the obscurest facets of the Ghanaian society: witch camps. Hunke aims to create awareness around the oppressing practice of pronouncing any deviation from the societal norm, any form of resistance, and any expression of mental health disorder as witchcraft. Women and some children are disproportionately affected by this superstition and are ostracized from society in concentration camps that function as “safe spaces” for them.

Cédric Kouamé, Gifted Mold, 2022, archival photograph, 50 x 40 cm

Cédric Kouamé (CI) in his ongoing project Gifted Mold collects and recomposes vintage photographs in order to materialize the passing of time by superposing layers of history 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.

Dessislava Terzieva, Time is Running Out, 2022, recycled fabric and resin on photograph, 70 x 60 cm.

Photography also plays a distinctive role in Dessislava Terzieva‘s (BU/USA) art practice that combines collages, sculptures and installations. The series in the show brings together colourful second-hand scarfs and images from the immediate surroundings in her bulgarian hometown. She draws from the tension between the pleasant and the repulsive, the established and the precarious. Terzieva 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 and the re-contextualization of material cultures.

Adonis Volanakis, I am in the box, 2017, pen on plywood, 44 x 44 x 16 cm. 

Adonis Volanakis (GR) presents a sculpture in the form of a wooden suitcase which speaks to the mobility of contemporary nomads. The repetition of the phrase “I am in the box” creates a spiral, parallel to the Phaistos disc, which provokes a feeling of the utmost seclusion. Whether it refers to personal belongings or memories and subconscious narratives, the contents of the suitcase remain hidden from sight. It is these scarce contents that the nomad carries from place to place that will remind them of who they are, wherever they are.

Language is also prominent in Nicole Economides‘ (GR/USA) paintings which explore the in-between spaces of her dual citizenship. State of being refers to the painterly tradition of romanticism and suggest that identity stems from not quite belonging neither here nor there, from being neither an insider nor an outsider. Meanwhile, Apollo touches on the appropriation of Greek mythologies by western modern painters and serves as an act of reclaiming her ancestral history. 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.

Panos Famelis, silencer (draft 2 / the roar), 2022, graphite on wooden panel, variable dimensions.

The linguistic element is also accentuated in the series Tobacco Archive by Panos Charalampous (GR) who prints letters, names, numbers, and dates on tobacco leaves in order to juxtapose the labor of local tobacco farmers to the glorifcation of smoking in flm noir, literature and advertising. The works function as material cognitive landscapes, as “dry gardens”, as testimonies of a production and economic power that fourished in Greece in the beginning of the previous century, but is now dying out.

Means of production and protocols of trade also become the backdrop in the work of Panos Famelis (GR). The silencer (draft 2/ the roar) is a “sculptive drawing” on 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 they both coexist in the formation of a subjective identity in a moment of crisis.

Panos Charalampous, Smokers from Tobacco Archive, 1966, tobacco leaves and oil on canvas, 160 x 215 cm.
Installation view. Léllé Demertzi, Disrupted Male Nude from Original Bodies, 2022, Photocollage, spray and glitter on mirror, 75 x 55 cm (left), Nicole Economides, State of being, 2019, oil on canvas, 140 x 102 cm (center), Dessislava Terzieva, Time is running out, 2022 (right).

Léllé Demertzi‘s (GR) series Original Bodies are hybrid collages on mirrors inspired by Greek mythologies and Ovid’s Metamorphoses in particular. The melding of sculptural and physical bodies, through photographs sourced from metropolitan museums and her sitters, alludes to the diaspora of artefacts and people, and aspires to reiterate and embody eternal traits of the human nature. The use of mirror invites the onlooker to become part of the artwork and to identify with the narratives of mythical creatures, deities and mere mortals in a process of assuming personal responsibility for trauma and igniting social healing.

Alekos Kyrarinis, Martyrs, 2022, marble, 60 x 30 x 30 cm. (In the background: Courage Hunke, Look, 2022, acrylic on canvas, 170 x 130 cm).

Finally, Alekos Kyrarinis (GR) inspired by byzantine iconography contributes a trapezoidal marble pillar with an angelic fgure in the center of the work. Simple geometrical patterns, as well as naturalistic friezes on the top and the bottom fll the space. The light blue and beige hues and the low-relief outlines create a sense of motion and lightness for the otherwise heavy volume. History, folklore and the Christian tradition coexist in Kyrarinis’ work, which offers a dense landscape where fguration and ornament, physical and metaphysical, the Good and the Evil merge.

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