That Which Was Is Now No More


Curated by Galini Lazani

Ileana Tounta Contemporary Art Center, Athens

Some issues are hard to talk about. Probably because they are hard to comprehend. And some concepts are hard to narrow down. The title of this exhibition encloses everything that changes around us and shakes us up. Animate and inanimate beings, our environment, the people that surround us and ourselves. Things that perish, change, are reborn. That which was is now no more.Yet, it is something new.

The artists that present their work in this exhibition each deal,through their own thoughts and means,with thesenotions of change and loss, but also with the creation that eventually results from them.

Doreida Xhogu’s video, accompanied by a series of small wooden sculptures reminiscent of relics, depicts the personal ritual created by the artist in order to come to terms with her father’s death, which occurred during her absence. In his workplace, a mine in Albania, the artist constructed a huge human effigy out of straw and tar, which she then beddedfor one night in her house and finally burned. The way she came up with to process this painful feeling of loss turned out to be her own personal creation after all.

Τhe new series of Eva Mitala‘s silkscreen prints also debate loss, in a sense. A loss of a completely different kind though, not so permanent and stagnant, but rather one that points to a shifting condition. Through her research on Chile’s Atacama Desert and the life of the indigenous inhabitants of the region, she incorporates in her work, through a mixture of digital and traditional techniques, issues that concern us all. Issues that become tangible in a “world in transition”, as she calls it, such as the extinction of traditional practices, languages, natural habitats. However, through extinction comes rebirth in the form of new, different ways of creation, as culture always finds its way to express itself.

Furthermore, the works presented by Natalia Manta, which always give the viewer the feeling that they come from or are intended for some kind of ritual, also deal with the life-giving power of loss and danger, since they take the form of sculptural totems in which one can recognize the bearing of some new life, yet at the same time of some unidentifiable threatas well. “Essentially, the entire installation reflects a prolonged suspension, in which existential anguish is established and defined as hope”, the artist mentions.

These thoughts, which contemplate the agony of human existence and its transfiguration into creation, lead to Chronis Botsoglou‘s series of works in which he portrays his mother during the days of her sickness. Their association to the exhibition is not about old age and death, but about the dementia that afflicted her amid her final years and everything that comes along with it; the deteriorationof a person’s consciousness, personality and identity. “The disintegration of the face”, as Botsoglou described it referring to his mother, subsequently relates to Nikos Komiotis’ painting.

The main morphological element of Komiotis’ work is the disfiguration of human characteristics, due to which the figures he depicts appear to fluctuate between a lifeless and an animalistic condition of being. His frequent inspiration from the sequence of film frames, where for split seconds the features get mixed up, jumbled and lost, reminds us once again that subtle changes can ultimately lead to a new spectacle, a new creation.

Galini Lazani

November 2023

*The title of the exhibition was inspired by a phrase from Thomas Hardy’s novel A pair of blue eyes: “…she that was is now no more”.