New York.- By Vicki James Yiannias
TAMA (the Greek word for a votive offering or a solemn promise) by Tatiana Soteropoulos, a moving, symbolic installation composed of hanging scarves in 50+1, an exhibition at Cyprus House in New York until January 10, 2011 that features work by Ms. Soteropoulos and Stavros Antonopoulos, is simultaneously a commemoration, a documentation, an expression of hope, and a prayer.
The exhibition title, 50+1, chosen by The Honourable Koula Sophianou, Consul General of Cyprus refers to the 50 years that Cyprus has been divided but also the hope — represented by the +1 — that next year Cyprus will be re-united.
TAMA is composed of 101 hanging scarves (each with a knot representing a prayer, a traditional Cypriot practice). 50 are gray, “symbolizing the 50 years — not only the 50, but the years before the Democracy prior to the Declaration of the Cyprus Democracy”, 49 are off-white, “symbolizing the 49 years that have passed since the day of the Declaration of the Cyprus Democracy.” A mournful black scarf symbolizes the Invasion of Cyprus by the Turks in 1974, and a hopeful white scarf is “a wish and a prayer for the new coming year.”
In an interview with the Greek News about her work, Ms. Soteropoulos (who was born in Lefkosia and was a Fulbright scholar at the Columbus College of Art and Design, in Columbus, Ohio) spoke of the TAMA scarves as “a prayer, a hope, a wish for a better day, for a solution, for the refugees to return to their homes, for the missing men to be found, for the struggle and the suffering that all these years the Cypriots went through and are still going through.”
GN: What artists have influenced your work the most?
TS: The artists that have influenced my work the most are Gustav Klimt, Egon Shiele, and Van Gogh, especially Egon Shiele…. When I was in college, I saw an exhibition of his in Indianapolis and that was a turning point of my work. My work was not always abstract. I consciously moved to abstract, years later.
GN: Obvious question: Was the painting 50 influenced by Jackson Pollock?
TS: If there is a resemblance of my work with his it was never done on purpose. Jackson Pollock was not really one of my favorite artists, even though my work seems to be influenced by his. I have recently seen Pollock’s work at MOMA, however, and I have to say that I think that it’s very powerful. I really like it.
GN: What is usually the first thing on your mind when you produce an artwork, the medium or the message?
TS: I let the medium lead me, not the opposite. Usually my inspiration comes from the message. Though the medium is very important and I never force it. I let it lead the way. Not every time things come out as we have them in our heads. This is the reason why I don’t do any preparatory work. No sketches. Everything is thought out in my head and then I paint my vision on to the canvas. If it doesn’t come exactly as I visualized it, so be it. The most important thing is to express my feelings through my art and I can only do so by not using my logic.
GN: When did you first want to be an artist?
TS: I wanted to be an artist since I was little. I remember my parents asking me what will I do if I become and artist, will I have a job, will I be okay financially? Well, I still wanted to be an artist. Art is my oxygen.
GN: What is your goal as an artist?
TS: My goal as an artist is to create, create, create. Of course I would like the world to meet my art, to know more about it. But I paint first for me and then for everyone else. My work won’t touch everyone, but perhaps it will touch some.
GN: What is your goal in the art world?
TS: Truly the way I see it, is that since there are so many sad and bad things happening lately in this world, art needs to be more comforting and pleasant. I don’t need to show through my work the ugliness that we’ve caused to the world. People already know. They need to look at something that will touch them positively, both aesthetically and visually. Of course, many messages can be transmitted through art there are, but it can be done in an aesthetically nice/pleasant way.
Stavros Antonopoulos, who like Ms. Soteropoulos, was born in Lefkosia, told the Greek News that he also knew as a child that he would choose to study art, as did Ms. Soteropoulos
Mr. Antonopoulos creates artworks in mixed media — charcoal and acrylic on canvas, neon, Plexiglas, silkscreen, and sculpting with fiberglass, and other materials –but he is also professionally involved in set and costume design.
GN: Talk about your involvement in the theatre.
SA: I have worked and still work with the Cyprus Theatre Organization and theatres in Greece, the National Theatre and the Megaron of Music — and I have also participated many times in the festival in Epidaurus. I prefer and choose to work on large productions…. tragedies, Shakespeare, etc.
GN: What artists have influenced your work the most?
SA: The first thing my work was influenced by was the artistic climate of the city I studied in, Florence…. Renaissance Florence.
GN. What artists from past centuries have influenced you? What contemporary artists?
SA: I think that up until the present I’ve been influenced by Michelangelo’s works — the movement and pathos that they transmit. I don’t think that my work is influenced by any other artist, but I can tell you that I like the Pop Artists Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, and I also love the work of Gilbert and George; it’s possible that subconsciously my work is affected by some of the messages in their work.
GN: What is usually the first thing on your mind when you set out to do an artwork?
SA: No one thing in particular essentially, images appear in my thoughts and then come out on the canvas. Life and death are ever-present themes in my work though.
GN: What is the message of your paintings in the exhibition that show a man with a bird on his chest and another with a dog on his chest?
AS: My work has always had an anthropocentric character. Animals, birds, are used to show the idea of the nightmare, of social pressure, or, if you wish, the bitter truth that is all around us.
GN: What is your goal in the greater art world?
AS: Well, I don’t know if it’s a “goal”, but I suppose with everything new that I’m doing the idea is to get better and to be more effective and accurate.