New York.- By Vicki James Yiannias
Photos: Etienne Frossard
Far away but moving closer. Lying flat, then turning back. Behind. In front of. Not an experimental poem, these phrases describe the artistic license that paint, threads, and pieces of fabric seem to take when positioning themselves in Eozen Agopian’s works. Clearly, they have a mind of their own.
Speaking with the GN about Eozen Agopian: The Fabric of Space, her show of abstract, mixed media works now at the Consulate General of Greece in New York (November 15-30), the artist said something along those lines: “I work very intuitively and let the work develop organically until that magical moment when after working for some time the mind quits and it feels like I am just a medium and open to many possibilities. The image is discovered slowly and in a way, it reveals itself.” She describes this process as one of “layering and erasing, scraping and marking, unraveling and reconnecting, constructing and deconstructing.”
In an age of artist hype and commercialism it’s not so common for artwork to have such integrity, but vanity doesn’t stand between the viewer and Agopian’s images. I liked Agopian’s work immediately in images, but liked it even more when I saw the exciting textural contrasts, energetic dimensional exploration, and compositional tensions of the pieces themselves.
“Agopian plays with our perception by reversing traditional spatial relationships,” says art historian Thalia Vrachopoulos, curator of Eozen Agopian: The Fabric of Space. “She creates space out of color and fabric or threads, with her tones, balance, proportion, and texture.” The use of size to render perspective is another among many things Vrachopoulos discusses about Agopian’s work.
The GN spoke with Agopian who splits her time between New York and Athens, where her husband and daughter, both luthiers, live.
GN: You have said that you have always had an attraction to the traditional materials of painting and drawing. At what point did you think of incorporating threads/fabric into your painted work?
EA: I feel great pleasure in the action of applying paint—the sensuality of the brush moving on the surface of canvas. I started using thread in my work more than twenty-five years ago while I was still a graduate student at Pratt. My thesis show was titled Invisible Threads (1992).
EA: I always liked the practical properties of the material, which is ideal for assembling, mending, unifying. Threads satisfy my desire for fluidity: I can manipulate threads to create mass, sculptural forms, to penetrate the canvas or just leave them loose. I often think of thread as a physical line to draw into space.
At the same time thread held symbolic meaning for me. As a young girl growing up in Greece needle work was an activity that deliberately kept us busy in the late afternoons. As in my first experience with canvas, I was fascinated by the cleanness, vibrancy and variety of the colors. However, I easily got tired of the redundant images and motifs presented by traditional needle work. My attention shifted to the margins of the canvas where I could freely sew my own abstract images.
EA: By using thread as a primary medium I also relate my practice to modern scientific theories such as string theory—exploring the possibility that different particles in nature are made from tiny loops of string.
GN: You were born in Greece of Armenian parents. How does that influence your work?
EA: My background as a young woman of Armenian descent, born in Greece, immigrating to US at the age of nineteen, provides me with a multifaceted perspective. Having the experience of three different cultures gives me the ability to compare, filter and identify within three different internal landscapes. The uneasiness of not fully belonging to a single place has an impact on the composition of my works, in the sense that I am constantly striving to create precariously balanced spaces.
GN: When were you first interested in art?
EA: As a child, I always remember the joy every time I would get colored pencils. I would spend endless hours copying images from fairy tale books or from post cards we were receiving. It was complete happiness for me.
GN: Was your creativity encouraged?
EA: My mother would admire my capability to copy images so realistically and tell me that I should go to fine arts school when I would grow up. But my father died when I was fifteen and then we immigrated to Detroit from Athens when I was nineteen. I had to support myself so my dream of studying art and becoming an artist seemed unrealistic in those years. I was working a nine to five job in a big corporation and was taking some courses at night. I was twenty-three and after I moved to New York I was finally able to put myself through art school and materialize my dream.
A SHORT BIO
Eozen Agopian has a BFA from Hunter College and an MFA from Pratt Institure. She has exhibited her work internationally in numerous solo and group shows in both public and private venues. In New York, she has shown at Fox Gallery, Michael Walls Gallery, Lesley Heller Workspace, Shiva Gallery of the John Jay College and was resident artist at Triangle Arts in Dumbo, Brooklyn. Some international venues at which she has shown: in China, the AAW Gallery (Beijing); in Greece, the Eleftheria Tseliou Gallery and the Hellenic American Union (Athens); the State Museum of Contemporary Art (Thessaloniki), and the Museum of Contemporary Art (Crete).