Thursday, February 17, 2011

Article in the Neos Kosmos...

Tales of Love and Reason installation view 011
Sanctum, mixed media on canvas by Efrossini Chaniotis.
There was a great article in the Neos Kosmos about our current exhibition Tales of Love and Reason: The Lioness Constellation.  Art To Colour Your Mind, Article by John-Paul Hussey, original article here.  See below to read the article.  Don't forget that Efrossini will be talking about her works on Saturday 19 February from 2pm to 3pm.  This is a great opportunity to hear about her varied inspirations and working methods.


Efrossini Chaniotis has an exhibition coming up and looking at her work, past and present, it would be fair to say there are influences of Chagall, Mattisse and the Fauvists, because of her strong use of colour.

Then there's the reoccurring lions, the castles and the stridently ethereal female figures, as the subject matter, that would suggest she aslo tips her cap to the 19th Century school of Symbolist Art.

"I would say that, yes, Chagall is certainly what I have been thinking about lately" said Chaniotis, "But I have other influences like South American and the Greek Byzantine."

Again, two more schools of art that show enormous panache when it comes to merging colour with symbolism. But it's Chaniotis' use of colour that seems to do the actual job lighting up one's eyes, as much as they serve as a tool for a greater narrative.

"Definitely my use of colour is very strong and I'm fairly courageous by using colours straight from the tube, that I tend not to blend my colours too much. But I guess it's the emotive use of colour that I like to go for," said Chaniotis.

But then Chaniotis explained although it's flattering these comparisons to other schools of art are being made, "none of my influences are particularly conscious," and that really her impulses are very intuitive, rather than rationally conceptual.

"Although my training is in draftsmanship and the fine arts, when I started to do this kind of work it had a kind of imaginary narrative component," said Chaniotis.

"I started working very intuitively with the way I was drawing and not doing a lot of preparatory drawings. So it tends to be quite raw."

Symbolically speaking, her use of a woman straddling a lion is reminiscent of the Strength card in the Tarot. "Yes, you could say that, but when you are working with archetypes those connections can be endless," said Chaniotis.

But she then went on to say, if there is a connection it's probably more with the Cypriot Saint Mamas who is often represented riding a lion in Greek iconography.

Although each of these symbolic references are wholly different to each other in their intentions: the tarot card being a meditation on conquering one's desire and Mammas as the patron saint of avoiding taxes (or the protection of animals), this imagery for Chaniotis still remains aesthetically instinctive.

All these images first appeared in a series of small paintings she did about seven months ago, explained Chaniotis.

"In the beginning a lion appeared in the background in one of my landscapes and in the next painting the female figure, the subject of the work, is seen riding the lion in the foreground, which for me is a mysterious appearance and it's my job to notice these things in my periphery."

The castle is another dominant image and because Chaniotis comes from Corfu with its many fortresses dotting its landscape, this is possibly why they feature in her work.

But in the end who knows why the subconscious throws up anything and the reasons, if there are any at all, may not be as accessible as we would like them to be.

What is fundamental about Chaniotis' work is they do possess a naive beauty. And that whatever story is being told either 'in, from, by or through' this beauty, one's choice of prepositions, like an aperture in one personal lens, is really up to the eye of the beholder.

The term 'naive' is conveniently coined by rationalists to describe this style. However there is another term that might say the same thing. Yet we are reluctant to use it these days, which is 'spiritual'.

Because when asked, if she has any political or social intentions, Chaniotis came up with other words like 'belief' and 'mystery'. Chaniotis was herself reluctant to use the word 'spiritual' to describe her work when pushed.

Not because she doesn't like or agree with it, but because like many others, Chaniotis is afraid of the ridicule she might receive from the hipsters who roam the gallery scene.

To such an extent this word had to be pulled out of her with a personal reassurance that in an ideal world she, or any artist for that matter, should not be censored by this reigning pathological rationalism, considering it's now 'hip' to cite Einstein's preference for the power of the imagination over mathematics.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Interview with Efrossini Chaniotis...

Effie diptic
selection of details of works by Efrossini Chaniotis.

Tell us about yourself! Where are you from?
I am of Greek heritage and was born in Adelaide where I studied sculpture at the South Australian School of Art.  When I finished my studies I went and lived in Greece for 8 years and completed a degree majoring in painting at the Athens School of Fine Arts.  I was lucky to have a very broad art training as both cultures and educational institutions offered different schools of thought.

How would you describe your work? What materials do you work in?
Both my paintings and sculptures are made of mixed media. I tend to sculpt like a painter and in my painting integrate collage in a very fluid manner.

Formally both mediums are treated in a very tactile and dynamic way, for instance my sculptural figures may be categorised as soft sculpture but I may find myself sewing and stuffing a basic form then manipulating it by sticking paper on it or building it up the way a sculptor would if they were working with clay or reducing the form the way a carver might.

What attracted you to work in the medium that you do?
I'm really drawn to the different imaginary spaces that can be created by both mediums. My strengths lay in working across mediums (though there is great satisfaction and reward, from being absorbed in observational art making through drawing and painting). Since returning from overseas in 2000 I started down a path of narrative 'picture making' which suited my tendency for composing poetic imagery.

What achievement are you most proud of to date?
In this exhibition I feel that the relationship between the sculptural works and the paintings are beginning to take shape more strongly. But in particular the sculptures are playing in 2D and 3D space more effectively and the paintings are better reflecting my obsessive (in a good way) use of pattern, while gaining in intensity.

If you could collaborate with another artist, who would it be and why? Who inspires you?
I used to have quite amazing collaborative experiences when I was studying.

Chagall's large scale mural work comes to mind...if he had a great sense of humour (not saying he didn't...I've seen many photos of him smiling warmly) and played beautiful music while we worked I'd get up on a scaffold in a dome with him no problem...

Picasso would be awesome and exciting if he were not such a lady's man and ego maniac...

Mirka Mora's autobiography and her mural at Flinders street station which I saw when I first arrived in Melbourne captivated me and felt somehow friend/artist Sarah Lindner because opposites make great creative connections (with whom I had my first experience of true collaboration) there are other artists, peers and friends here and overseas who I admire, who are not necessarily well known. Collaborators can make the greatest teachers.

What's your work practice like? Do you work in a studio/home? What gets you in the mood to create?

I currently have a space at the Northcote Studio, .amongst artists and designers but I am flexible. I see a good journal on the bus and a black felt tip pen as a small portable studio if necessity demands. At present I use my studio space frequently but I'm working from home when I need to break the gap of travel to keep things flowing or sometimes when feeling I need to move inwards. Working in both mediums allows me to use my studio and home accordingly..." clean and dirty" ideas around creative spaces has always been important to me, even more so when I worked as an art therapist for a short stint.

Is there a soundtrack to your creativity? Do you have music or silence?
Easy...The Indian inspired Sheila Chandra, Laureena McKennit's Harp...Greek folk music with an Asia Minor influence....and the beating of drums be it Middle Eastern, South American, African or Brazilian Samba! It's a contrast of dynamic rhythm and meditative inward turning sounds. I love thinking about music.

What do you think people will take away with them from seeing your work?
The work is intended to stimulate wonderment (is that a word?), people's imagination and creative thinking. The autobiographical elements in the work allows me to share my personal creative world, but the art is there primarily to offer others an entry into their own world of personal myth and meaning making

I see the artworks as having their own intelligence, not necessarily a reflection of my own. In my experience people who resonate with my artworks often find personal meaning in the imagery. This makes the work potentially powerful and that's exciting.

If people engage with the work enough to find a piece that they connect with then they will be taking something with them that I am happy to give.

Where do you want to be in 10 years time? What's your dream?!

Aahh a lovely question Mardi, one that should be answered in totality but I'll keep it focussed. Working fully from my art making and using my creative abilities to the max. I'm making and exhibiting often enough to be sharing my work with a wider audience...always with great energy and enjoyment. I see having a space that can be flexible enough to support my own art making and sharing, teaching, collaborating and contributing to the community spirit. I'm also doing illustrations for books that are apt for both children and adults.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Launch of Tales of Love & Reason: the Lioness Constellation by Efrossini Chaniotis

Starlight Reunion, mixed media on canvas.  One of the works on show!
If you missed the wonderful launch of Tales of Love and Reason: the Lioness Constellation by Efrossini Chaniotis las Thursday then you can check out an edited version of the opening speech by curator Mardi Nowak.

Don't forget that you can join the curator and artist Efi Chaniotis on Saturday 19 February from 2pm to 3pm to hear more about the works.

"Welcome to the official launch of Tales of Love and Reason: the Lioness Constellation by Efi Chaniotis.
For any artist, it is a huge achievement to produce works for a solo exhibition and I'm sure you will join me in congratulating efi on creating such a beautiful and engaging exhibition for her first solo show, here at Town Hall Gallery.

It also can be an incredibly daunting act for an artist to produce a solo exhibition! Each work is produced lovingly and with such passion and emotion, that what is put onto the gallery walls is an extension of the artists being. Here we can see little fragments of Efi around us and as artists we can be a little scared to see and hear what people have to say about the works.

I think Efi can rest assured that everything that she has given us in this exhibition has been incredibly well received - definitely by the red sold stickers around! And really I think that is one of the biggest compliments an artist can have is unknown people buying your work and allowing it to live with them in their homes.

When Efi asked me to officially launch the exhibition I was quite taken back. As curator I'm often opening exhibitions but when an artist specifically asks you to do it, it can become difficult too as they often expect the curator to give some amazing insight into the works and how they sit within the larger visual arts world. And as a curator I also strongly believe that the sign of a great artist is that their works stand alone. They each individually speak to the viewer without having to say too much within a label or a description from a stuff academic curator.

Tales of Love and Reason opening night 016
Visitors at the launch of Tales of Love and Reason:  The Lioness Constellation, taking a good look at the works!

But as a curator, where do I think these works sit within the artworld? Well I can say that I think that Efi is a bit of a rebel within the art world. Bit of a girl after my own heart! Don't get me wrong, she has trained extensively both here and also in Greece and has a solid background in the history of art and also symbolism, which you can see within these works around us. But why I think she is a bit of a rebel is she is an artist who is incredibly true to her practice.

She follows her intuition to create beauty and to tell us viewers all kinds of tales. Her work is fun and playful, something that often the serious contemporary art world looks down upon but what they often forget is that viewers react to this, we want to be playful and be taken on a journey.

Efi also seems to embrace a globalism of art and design. It's been fascinating to see and hear what influences people see within the works. From medieval, Indonesian, South American and naturally Greek. The works embrace global influences but are still intrinsically Efi.

Efi's works also rebel against the notion of what a painting is. She uses fragments of fabric and paper within her patterned canvases combined with traditional paint - but then the painting jumps right off the canvas with the creation of her 3 dimensional canvases - the soft sculptures around the gallery. I know that when the sculptures came in to be installed, I kept referring to them as 'dolls' mostly because they are human representations but in reality they are 3 dimensional paintings. She has created a soft, stuffed canvas to create the characters that we see within her works. That definitely is the rebel in Efi, taking those characters out of the canvas and giving them their own world within the gallery !

On a personal note, it has been a pleasure to get to know Efi and work with her on this exhibition. It really is one of the best parts of my job is seeing each artists idea and expression come to fruition within the gallery and then to see you the audience admire and love the works so much. So thank you Efi for being part of the Town Hall Gallery program here!

Now, I'm sure many of you will have come up with your own ideas about the Lions and the characters within these works and what they all mean and what they are doing and that is what you the viewer are meant to do. But if you would like to find out more about the inspiration behind the works and what inspires Efi, then you should come along to our IN CONVERSATION program on Saturday 19th February at 2pm, where you can hear me ask Efi all the burning questions about the work!

I'd also like to take this brief moment to thank our sponsors Swords select for the wines you are enjoying tonight and also our amazing team of volunteers who work tirelessly here at the gallery. We very much appreciate your assistance and smiley faces!

So thank you for coming along to celebrate the launch of Tales of Love and Reason: the lioness constellation and we look forward to seeing you again here at Town Hall Gallery."

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Grouped round up...

Progress leader grouped

The Town Hall Gallery 2011 program really kicked off with a bang!  We had fantastic numbers for our first exhibition, Grouped and it was also a great opportunity for our artists to exhibit and also meet some of our patrons too.

Saturday 29 January saw our first public program, In Conversation with four of the five Grouped artists (Stephen Thompson was in Sydney for work!) and it was a very insightful hour hearing what inspires each of the artists.  There was some very thoughtful questions put to our artists and the curator too!  Our series of In Conversation programs are a great opportunity for our artists to talk about their work with the general public.  Although it can be daunting and many say "I haven't done this before!", they soon get into the swing of things.

Grouped installation shot 002

Artist Lee Hirsh gave some great insight into how she approaches her bold abstract works.  Below is an excerpt from the catalogue:

"Intuition guides me, an interchange with my inner self and senses, a subliminal dialogue. My creations are not contrived rather they grow with my perceptions and exploration.  My work has evolved from the use of found objects to layering the paint and incorporating textures such as marble dust and liquid bitumen.  I am fascinated by colour. The possibilities are endless with infinite hues originating from the primary colours. I am enticed by the myriad of shades, markings, tints that I come across in the natural environment and commercial world.  Through the interplay of the tactile, tangible and simulated, I am constantly challenging myself and my viewers. I intuitively have developed my own eclectic style and visual language, which enables me to reveal and share."

Thank you to all that came and supported our emerging artists in Grouped.  We look forward to seeing you at our next exhibition by artist Efrossini Chaniotis.