Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Canberra based artist Elefteria Vlavianos talks to us about her practice and the inspiration behind her work in the Momentum 18th Tamworth Fibre Textile Biennial opening at JamFactory 29 October

Tell us about yourself, how did you become a painter/printmaker?
I am not sure when I became a painter; because as far back as I can remember I have always painted and loved drawing. Having said this I have been painting on a full time basis for about 8 years. My earliest memories of printmaking are working with large scale silkscreen print in South Africa; however my adventure into etching and lithography came about in collaboration with the master print maker John Loane.

Which painters/ printmakers, craftspeople, writers, artists, musician, anyone do you find particularly inspiring?
I have a range of painters/ printmakers – craftspeople, writers, artists etc. that I find inspiring. The range is quite eclectic. In art historical terms, I am currently looking at the work of Eva Hesse and Arshile Gorky. My interest these artists is related to formal and transformation aspect of their work. My interest in their work connects to issues regarding, cultural displacement, translation and renewal. At the same time I am equally interested in the work of Robert Ryman, Barnett Newman and Agnus Martin

Within a contemporary – Australian context – I think that Australia has a huge wealth of artists so it is very hard for me to pick. So to mention a few artist whose work I am interested in include Bea Maddock, Hossein Valamanesh, Vivienne Binns and Juan Devila.

A key writer for me at the moment is John Berger – in particular his books – The Sense of Sight.

Have any of these people had a specific influence your way you approach to making? If so, how? For all artists the list of ‘artists’ they keep and return to time and again, each provide a little insight into approaches, processes and ways of thinking about art – in general – and practice specifically.

The work of Eva Hesse and Arshile Gorky is of current interest to me. Gorky’s late paintings fascinate me because I identify a translation of culturally specific imagery into a contemporary abstract context. In relation to Hesse’s work, I am interested in her investigation of materiality, structure and form beyond the limits of a modernist approach to formalism. I see her work as shifting the position and idea of the visual object from that of a statement to a question about art, culture and life. I find this approach appealing because it opens up all kinds of possibilities of what art might be, how it can be conceived and constructed. I am also fascinated by the way in which she investigated the materials she used in order to find new ways of making them speak.

Recently, I had an opportunity to meet the painter Juan Devila. We had this most amazing conversation about, tradition and transformation in painting - the move between representational and abstract work particularly in painting. This conversation was about carrying over a particular kind of cultural tradition and aesthetic into a contemporary context. This conversation will probably keep with me for a very long time.

Are there any specific quotes, ideas, places that influence this current body of work?
A current quote that I like very much is by Anni Albers – from “Material as Metaphor in Selected Writings on Design”

“How do we choose our specific material, our means of communication? ‘Accidentally’. Something speaks to us, a sound, a touch, harness or softness. It catches us and asks us to be formed. “

Is there any specific collections, museums that you have found inspiring and why?Last year I had an opportunity to visit the Benaki Museum in Athens. I was particularly interested in their textile collection form the Ottoman Empire prior to 1920’s. The collection was magnificent. It was the first time I was able to look at a large collection of traditional textiles form Anatolia and compare – motifs, colour, scale and techniques used and compositions employed.

Welcome us to your studio - where is it, do you share the space, if so what are the benefit of a shared space?
At the moment I have a studio at an artist run collective in Canberra known as ANCA or Australian National Capital Artists inc. I have a studio on my own, but there are 20 other studio’s in the complex which means that you can meet and interact with other artist. It’s an absolutely wonderful facility, and community.

My studio is quite big, and is filled with stuff. At the moment I am in the process of stretching and gessoing my next lot of canvasses. As a result the walls and floors are covered with white canvasses of differing sizes. I also have two tables that have works on paper on them that I am working on. There are normally a few things happening at once in the studio, which is the best way to be for me. I like to have things in a kind of progression.

The work for the exhibition: Can you describe the specific themes reflected in this body of work?
I made this work in 2008 and at the time I was interested in the way in which memory can be carried over though material tactility. I was interested in the relationship between the intimacy of work and how they might connect individuals to a particular time, place or event. I had this feeling to create something that was intimate, jewel-like as well as being expansive or a movement in time. This interest is connected to themes regarding time, rhythm, and regeneration. In addition I also wanted the works to be seductive and to slow the viewer down into looking.

Describe your method of production in this current work?
My methodology is process driven and highly detailed. I also wanted to straddle the boundaries between – drawing, printmaking and textile genres. So in relation to this, I was quite playful. At the time I did not want to think to hard about the result, it was more a matter of making, so that one work lead to another. There are 6 in this series, but they in fact are part of a much larger series of 14 works. They were installed in a single line so that the viewer would move from one to the next in a progression.