Living and working in the UK, Athens-born artist Emi Avora looks to her Greek ancestry for inspiration. Drawing on iconic architecture such as the National Theatre of Greece designed by architect Ernst Ziller, her painting and drawing installations reflect on recent political developments in the country’s history. Longlisted in the Aesthetica Art Prize 2015, Avora’s selected piece So Close So Far Apart II presents an image which has been transformed by solvents. To celebrate the current Art Prize exhibition at York St Mary’s and release of Future Now, the award’s anthology, we speak to the artist about her painterly practice of abstraction and its exploration of a nation’s changing condition.
A: So Close So Far Apart II has been longlisted in the Aesthetica Art Prize. Can you tell us a little more about this project?
EA: The piece was part of a site specific installation that I produced for an exhibition at the National Theatre of Greece, Athens. The image depicts the interior of Greece’s presidential mansion, which was designed by the National Theatre’s architect, the German Ernst Ziller. Invited to Greece after the independence in the 1860s, Ziller was one of the main architects that established the neo-classical style in Athens, already established in central Europe based on Ancient Greek and Roman principles. So Close So Far Apart II is a manipulated image eroded with solvents, which act as a negative drawing tool. An admiration but also a frustration towards the architectural splendour, so ingrained in Greek history, yet not designed by a Greek architect, is expressed through its erosion and its manipulation. This was my way of contemplating the recent difficult developments between Greece and the rest of Europe. However abstracting and erasing the image also opens up some scope for hope and light for the things to come.
A: Thematically your work visualises other-worldly phenomena and interpretations of abstraction. What is it about these themes that you find so creatively appealing?
EA: Although a lot of my work is based on history and images often sourced from archives or my own images, my process of manipulation explores elements of the other-worldly; the idea of a parallel world and the creation of exit points away from the facts and towards a different realm. This appeals to me as it expands interpretation and invites the viewer to take a journey and to freely contemplate the work, without necessarily making a tight connection to the source. Abstraction is a way of achieving this and working towards it, as well as a way to pay attention to the medium and the process of making.
A: You work in a variety of mediums. Do you have a particular favourite?
EA: I would say that I am primarily a painter; however I do enjoy the freedom of using other media when they are appropriate to what I would like to communicate. It is important for me to explore other possibilities and I think different approaches can feed and help each other. Working in a medium I am not greatly familiar with also creates a challenge and allows for accidents that otherwise wouldn’t have taken place.
A: What do you think a person’s art says about themselves? What does your art say about you?
EA: It is inevitable that each artists’ work says something about themselves, their background, their environment or their ideology even if that is not intentional. My general concerns do tie in with my background and with my practice. My research often relates to history which often relates to my roots and the places I grew up in or events that influence current affairs. Growing up in Corfu, a Greek island which was governed by Venetians, French and British alike in the past, often informs the way I think and my interest in history, political influence that is often manifested through architecture by also the human condition. However this is something that feeds into my work without necessarily becoming the ‘theme’ of the work.
A: In your opinion, how do opportunities such as the Aesthetica Art Prize support artists?
EA: They offer artists an incentive to produce a body of work and present it, which is very important. Aside from the prize itself, just the fact of applying for an opportunity like this invites artists to think about their practice, put it in context and in perspective. This allows for further development and continuation. Obviously the exhibition and the publication offers exposure which can be very valuable.
Find out more at www.emiavora.com.
The Aesthetica Art Prize Exhibition, until 31 May, York St Mary’s, Castlegate, York YO1 9RN.
The Aesthetica Art Prize is open for entries and closes on 31 August. For details, visit www.aestheticamagazine.com/artprize.
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1. Emi Avora, So Close So Far Apart II