The Greek sculptress Venia Dimitrakopoulou is exceptionally back on display in Italy with an important solo exhibition, titled “Venia Dimitrakopoulou. Primordial future - Matter”, at the Regional Archaeological Museum “Antonino Salinas” of Palermo, from 16 November 2018 to 3 February 2019.
At the Salinas Museum, the artist’s composite creative universe is represented by a remarkable selection of works – sculptures, papers and installations, some of which are for the first time on display in Italy -; among them new site-specific works stand out. They are on show for the installation-exhibition, curated by Afrodite Oikonomidou and Matteo Pacini, next to archaeological exhibits permanently on display in the rooms of the museum. The Salinas museum is indeed the oldest museum in Sicily and the most important institution for public display dedicated to Greek and Punic arts on the island. Due to direction given by its director, Francesca Spatafora, in the last few years the museum has opened to the languages of contemporary art.
The display has the patronages of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports, the Embassy of Greece in Rome, the National Museum of Contemporary Art - Athens (EMST), the Department for Cultural Heritage and Sicilian Identity – Sicily Region and the Council of Palermo. It is also part of the events within the project ‘Palermo - Italian Capital of Culture 2018’.
The Palermo exhibition is the first stop of “Trilogia Italia” (Trilogy Italy), which is organized by the Hellenic Foundation for Culture – Italy in cooperation with the Sicilian Institute of Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies “Bruno Lavagnini” and Artespressione of Milan, representative gallery for the artist in Italy during this event that touches also Turin and Trieste. The layout of the exhibition, peculiar to each city, in fact involves prestigious venues: together with the SALINAS MUSEUM of Palermo, there are the GALLERY of the SANDRETTO RE REBAUDENGO FOUNDATION in Turin, from 22 February to 31 March 2019, then the SARTORIO CITY MUSEUM and SAN GIUSTO CASTLE in Trieste, from 12 April to 14 June 2019.
The “Trilogy” highlights the themes typical of the Greek artist’s whole production: the lasting connection between the past and the present, starting from the rich archaeological heritage that bonds the Greek culture to that of Italy. Hence, the title “Primordial Future” expanded with a specific subtitle for each of the three exhibitions: in Palermo it is “Matter”, in Turin “Logos” and in Trieste “Sound”. «All three exhibitions – the artist clarifies – are linked by the same central theme that metaphorically is the thread that I firmly hold onto in order not to get lost, and here I refer to as “Primordial Future”. It comes from the depths of time and, with the awareness of the present, I feel that it can lead us to a less uncertain future».
Matter is the main character in all the works on display at the Salinas Museum – from volcanic rock to handmade Chinese paper, from bronze to marble, from plaster to terracotta – which highlights how much archaeology lives again in contemporaneity and how the immersion in the past enables the understanding of the present. The sculptress explains it: «In Palermo, I display the volcanic rocks, the heads of fallen warriors and heroes, as well as the works, made on Chinese paper, Shirts of Nessus, Secret Armour and Linethoughts. It is an exchange between fragility and solidity, ephemeral and eternal. It is a reflection on how archaeology reveals matter in the present. Matter is thus the main theme».
Venia Dimitrakopoulou decides to “listen” intently to each location of her exhibition tour, creating new ad hoc works in order to stay “tuned” with the creative act as she envisions it: «a continuous process, a flux where all is open to the unexpected».
Thus, just to mention some of the works on display at the Archaeological Museum of Palermo, plaster works, bronzes and volcanic rocks from Aegina (the island where the artist has her workshop) become heads and faces of ancient warriors, heroes and demigods, often made with their mouths half open, as in Agamemnon (2005-2009) and Pelops (2009). Next to them, Spears (2018) in marble and golden brass. They tell of the past of the Aegean through hidden veneers, and stand high like strongholds, defence instruments. In these works, the raw material firstly determines the aesthetic shape of the sculptures, which - connecting with the environment where they are displayed - highlight the historical references and characteristics of their place of origin. Thus, they tell a sort of personal story that leads the visitors to contemplate and interpret them.
Venia Dimitrakopoulou’s contemporary creations develop indeed in a constant balance between modern and aesthetic, traditional materials and techniques, from small size to monumental. In this regard, the majestic sculpture Promahones is significant. It is on display at National Archaeological Museum of Athens and is re-enacted in Palermo by the photographic series Promahones-Shadows (2014). The sculpture is made up of giant slanting steel disks, open at the extremities. As per Franco Fanelli’s words, «it greatly enriches the game of shadows - which these kinds of works can cast - doubling them, multiplying them».
By using stone, marble, terracotta, metal or paper, - which are suitable to express a stylistic nomadism that goes from the traditional sculpture to the installation, from video to action, from writing to the graphic sign – the artist investigates the characteristics and behaviours of matter. She breathes life into the figures and objects thus born. For example, the video Zoodochos Pighi/Life-giving Spring (2011), a dramatic work in the etymological meaning of the word, where the artist’s hands rise to become the symbol of the generating power of the sculpture dimension, in a never-ending metamorphic process of creation and destruction of forms.
All Dimitrakopoulou’s works have a deep anthropocentric nature and reflect on the role of human existence in space and time. A feature that the artist willingly catches in her creative process, calling the observers to take part in the artistic expression, to live it as a relation with himself or herself, through inner experiences, mentally and sentimentally. As it is in the series on paper Shirts of Nessus and Linethoughts (both from 2011) where – by using automatic writing on the shape of an ancient tunic or a banner - what transpires is the artist’s inner dimension in different languages. She frees her emotions and thoughts in order to hide them partially behind a line, almost as if to delete them, but never completely.
The three exhibitions of Venia Dimitrakopoulou in Italy are part of the events of the programme “Tempo Forte Italia - Grecia 2018” (Tempo Forte Italy - Greece 2018), an initiative promoted by the Embassy of Italy in Athens and sanctioned during the First Intergovernmental Meeting between Italy and Greece held on 14 September 2017 in Corfu. It was aimed at promoting and supporting the strengthening of cultural relationships between the two Mediterranean countries, in accordance with a balance among various cultural fields, from tradition to contemporary, from the past to the future.