NEW YORK – The Caravan of Innocence art exhibition by Yiorgos Theodorou opened on April 16 and runs through April 30 at the Consulate General of Greece in New York. Consul General of Greece Konstantinos Koutras gave the welcoming remarks, noting that this is the artist’s first exhibition in New York. He then introduced Theodorou to say a few words about the exhibition and his work which is so timely and moving.
Theodorou was born in Athens and studied Painting in the Athens School of Fine Arts, and Graphic Arts and Visual Communication in the School of Graphic Arts and Artistic Studies in the Technical University of Athens, while he also trained in product design and animation. His professional career started in the field of visual communication, illustration and animation, and gradually oriented towards painting and education.
He has had two individual exhibitions of paintings in Athens and has participated in numerous group exhibitions. In the field of education, today, he is the academic director of Graphic Arts in AKTO Art and Design College, and teaches in the School of Graphic Arts and Visual Communication in the University of West Attica.
The artist spoke with The National Herald about the exhibition, his work and what inspires him.
When asked if he always wanted to be an artist, Theodorou replied, “From childhood I painted… I always remember myself painting… but it rarely became an obsession. In elementary school, what I painted the teachers would hang on the wall, as a good example… I was bored by the lessons without being a bad student, but school seemed like the wrong fit.”
He continued, “In my teenage years, the intensity of painting decreased, but it did not stop. But I did other things… I was playing music and I liked football. I was also very social and an extrovert so I preferred to go out with friends rather than sit down to paint.
“Later I found myself studying graphic design, I liked it very much, but soon I found out that I would prefer to use my creativity for a more personal project. Then I decided to focus on art.
“After completing my first studies and starting to work freely as an illustrator and graphic designer, I aimed for the School of Fine Arts in Athens and succeeded. Today, I feel very lucky as I have managed to pursue what I really care about… painting and arts education. I also love education because it has continuous inspiration, it is creative and demanding. I would not have preferred to be just a painter in my life.”
About the exhibition and how long it took to put together, Theodorou said, “The Caravan of Innocence is a selection of works of the last four years, during which it established itself as an idea. But the subject started silently and without any special awareness since the beginning of the ‘dark years’ of the crisis (2010), and some of my older works belong to this unity as well.”
When asked what inspires his work, Theodorou told TNH, “Up to now man and his situation. Relationships, fugitives, immigrants, old people, teenagers, outlaws, death, insanity, disease, disaster. I am interested in man at his limits and not in states of equilibrium. Balance is important for our everyday life but also boring, it works like the uniformity of a dress code or an outfit.
“I think that man at the limits of his effort highlights his quality, strength, dignity, and endurance… that’s where he moves forward… and makes history.”
Asked how the crisis affected his work, Theodorou said, “The years from 2010 until today were (and are still) a particularly difficult time for my country. Greek society was polarized and divided. It experienced uncertainty as the predominant emotion and this as a result of the shock of the violent application of severe economic measures. At the same time, the country abruptly accepted thousands of refugees and migrants from countries with wars and poverty… and this continues.
“Most of the artists entered into a state of introversion, financial difficulty, and insecurity closing ourselves in our workshops and we worked without the prospect of exhibitions and viewings of our work.
“The Caravan of Innocence was created during this period. In Greece, during the crisis many of us thought about the possibility of immigration. We wondered if what we chose could even earn us a living. We found ourselves in a particularly harsh world. But we became even wiser.
“The Caravan’s goal is to ‘show’ innocent people, fugitives, who are obliged to seek a better fate. Here, however, the roles become entangled. These fugitives can be us, too. We suffer, struggle, but we are upstanding, proud… with a clear look… we are mostly young, children, and we look at hope… we are afraid, but we continue. We are not victims but power.
“This is for me the fugitive, the immigrant, the refugee. He has a key role in the creation of history.
“In replying more simply to the question, I would say that the Caravan, as a creature of recent years, embodies feelings and situations we have experienced. It tries to escape from the actuality and become universal. But surely an interpretation of it is ‘the face of the crisis,’ and now is probably the time to see it more clearly.”
Theodorou also told TNH about what he is working on next, “I have not decided to change the subject, I continue the Caravan with some variations in the way I find the roles. I think I can improve it even more and maybe start to express a new era. We will see.”
When asked about upcoming exhibitions, he said, “I do not have a specific individual exhibition to announce as I am in the process of organizing shows in Athens and in Thessaloniki. But in May I will participate in two group exhibitions in Athens and Paris.”
Among those present at the exhibition opening were Consul of Greece Lana Zochiou, Consulate of Greece in New York Cultural and Public Relations officer Evelyn Kanelleas, Greek Press Office Attache Dora Trogadi, Prof. Demetrios Argyriades, Lou Katsos, James Demetro, Popita Pavli, Giorgos Taxidis, Fotios Kaliampakos, Eirini Linardaki, and many art enthusiasts and members of the community.