ATHENS – Greek cultural heritage inspires contemporary artistic design in ‘A History of Revolutions,’ a group exhibition featuring works by 64 creators at the Ilias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum (ILJM) in Athens opens June 7 and runs through October 20.
This exhibition presents the recent work of 31 esteemed Greek and international artists, five instructors and 28 students from Greek public silversmithing institutes, inspired by heirlooms of the Greek cultural heritage. Starting point for inspiration are artifacts displayed in the recent exhibition at the ILJM ‘Form Follows Function 200+200,’ the catalogue of which is available at the Museum Shop and the Research Library.
The historic reminiscent of the 1821 Revolution becomes the vehicle for a new interpretation of jewelry, sculptures and other decorative arts.
The Greek War of Independence against the Ottoman Empire was a cataclysmic event which, however, gave birth to a new nation-state: Modern Hellas, simply known as ‘Greece’ at the present time. It was an all-out war fought both on land and at sea, a valiant struggle in the name of freedom, justice and, as a corollary, modernity. As such, it harnessed the resources of a deep-rooted tradition of liberal thinking and cultural expression.
In this exhibition contemporary creators, empowered with the dynamism of the Greek Revolution of 1821, chose artifacts, and recreate them reflecting both the historic events and contemporary social issues of repression. Aphrodite Liti, concentrates on the value of the Greek revolution paying her respects to those who suffered and fought for liberation. Her sculptures are dynamic and well-constructed with a monumental excellence that usually characterizes the entirety of her work.
The original objects of material culture are not just a source of inspiration for new creations, they trigger a personal, inner search and artistic expression. The slogan of the Greek Revolution ‘Freedom or Death’ is incarnated on the neckpiece by Yiota Vogli. Using leather and textiles, she colors the words on the front and back parts of the jewel, becoming a theme in the perpetual movement of a necklace. Body pieces inspired by Greek traditional jewelry, such as the tsaprazi, katostara or kiousteki, connect material culture with the perception of semiotics of the revolution. The work of Sofia Zarari reflects the history of women’s struggles, inspired by Laskarina Bouboulina, emphasizing the female presence of the ’21 era. Zarari, completed her work and dressed three women from different cultures, making her piece an amulet for modern female struggles. Similarly, Nicole Polentas’ ‘Blood Revolt’, explores the complexity and ideologies of social and political revolutions, across time, through the abstraction and subversion of texts and symbols. The large and very heavy necklace made of metals, porcelain and clay adds to the multi-dimensional image of the revolution, the breath of modern applied creation.
A work of art leaves its mark when it is original. This is marked by the novelties it presents in terms of form and concept. More so, when it is governed by freedom in the use of its materials, the application of techniques, and is distinguished for its uniqueness and semiotics, adding artistic value to the whole of its composition. This is evident in the work of Artemis Valsamaki, who fastens a jewel on a vest inspired by the French table clocks of the 1840’s. Other established artists, for their compositions, invent new techniques or enrich mainstream traditional practices. Sofia Bahlava and Vasilis Stamoulis, replace the usual metals used for the traditional costume belts of the 18th and 19th centuries with combined layered textiles. Furthermore, the belt’s orientation changes to intrigue the viewer. Its design is not observed only on the outer but also on the inner surface of the band. The text which has been sewn reads, ‘In the One That I Hope.’ We also find a paradox in the work of Elli Xippa who uses blue hunting cartridges to form two large necklaces. She explains that her works are symbols of peace, and that weaponry should only be used as raw materials for art works.
While established artists perform unique fashions, the students in the exhibition utilize their newly acquired knowledge of traditional silversmithing. With individual works or collectives, the students have found this opportunity to think outside the box concerning forms and on occasion the use of materials.
Innovation is demonstrated throughout this exhibition. After all, the development in the technologies of contemporary studio jewelry embraces all materials but keeps as fundamentals the art of silver and goldsmithing, as well as the creativity of the designer. Large pins, polymorphic body jewelry, vests, neckpieces, table objects, and sculptures are only some types of artistic interest. The brooch by Maria Koutmani (10) treats wood, metals, felt, and her own made colored paper to construct a modern ‘palaska’; a bullet case which was functional for the heroes of the revolution but also a protective amulet for the course of their battles. Niki Stylianou (24) finds another reason to experiment with original materials and forms. Her starting point is reform as the outcome of social revolutions, which as they are embedded in history and time, come in cycles that often reflect our inner revolts. As Stylianou believes in bloodless revolutions, she uses her pieces as the vehicle for influence challenging the viewer with the use of bizarre materials such as aluminum, laminated paper jewelry tags, and safety pins.
Volume II of the exhibition will be presented during New York City Jewelry Week at the Consulate General of Greece, November 15-17, with the participation of 21 jewelry artists from Greece and the United States.
More information is available online: http://www.lalaounis-jewelrymuseum.gr .