Froso Papadimitriou: Art Habens biennale magazine special edition
poverous popuerta, installation at Zweigstelle Berlin gallery, Berlin Germany
If I would describe my work with one word, that would be uncomfortable. Through my practice, I intent to discuss things generally people rather not. I was one of these children with tones of questions; that didn’t change much as I grew up. I like to know how things work, what are the mechanics that make the world tik and my way is by questioning the normalities we have been indoctrinated in.
My work is defiantly anthropocentric, focusing on behaviours and social dynamics. Whilst trying to identify my place within the ever-shifting social exchanges I can’t help but observe the contraptions and personas we invent to fit into a prescribed normality and excuse ourselves from the ongoing issues our societies carry. I am interested in our elusiveness and isolation from public involvement, whilst we operate amidst a bombardment of networks and social platforms.
I am particularly intrigued by the false pretence of self-righteousness and entitlement, which has become exacerbated through the online platforms we use. My work ranges from humorous social commentary to a floating recording of subliminal thoughts.
Unsettling yet other times playful, symbolic or direct my artworks are an invitation to exchange thoughts and viewpoints on the binaries that resonate between our self and our role within social environments.
I am classically trained; however, I am also an active explorer of boundaries and limitations as my work is a reaction. I like to experiment with multiple art forms such as painting, art installations, drawing, sculpture, video and craft.
slow the the much oil, installation at Gallery D, National Taiwan Normal University, Taipei Taiwan
1) Hello Froso and welcome to ART Habens. Before starting to elaborate about your artistic production we would like to invite our readers to visit https://www.frosopapadimitriou.com in order to get a wide idea about your artistic production and we would start this interview with a couple of introductory questions. You have a solid formal training and after your studies in Greece, you moved to London to nurture your education, completing a BA (Hons) in Fine Art at Middlesex University and an MA in Arts Management and Policy, Curatorial and Educational pathway at Birkbeck University of London: how did those formative years, as well as relocating to London, influence your evolution as an artist? Moreover, how does your cultural substratum due to your Greek roots address your current artistic research?
- Hi, there. It is a great pleasure to be part of ART Habens. Thank you for the invite.
My self-proclamation as an artist happened in 2009 when I graduated from my Fine Arts degree. Before that neither I considered myself as an artist nor I was practising fine art. I came to the UK to study motion graphics, but choose to start with a broader degree in Arts and specialise in my MA. Unfortunately, or fortunately, I had higher expectations from my course in terms of video related specialists and equipment than what I found and I had to decide whether I would drop out and return to Greece or finish the 1st year and then transfer. I choose the latter and then for that year I started spending time in the art studios. There I found the freedom I wanted to create for myself. One of the most influential figures during my studies is the UK based artist and my allocated tutor then, Jefford Horrigan. Apart from his thought-provoking work, as a tutor, he was the one who motivated me and gave me the confidence to pursue art after University. That changed my future plans entirely and where I am right now.
Soon after my graduation another opportunity was presented to me, to work as a volunteer at the Topolski Century museum in Southbank, London. After a year I submitted a proposal to the trustees and I was given a space in the museum for contemporary exhibitions and this is how my curatorial and art management career started and lead to my MA and many great collaborations internationally. (Regrettably, the museum changed in 2013 to a bar, due to lack of funding, maintaining part of the collection on display but not the art activities that where taking place there)
So, it was London and circumstances that have realised this artist into the world.
As for my Greek roots, there is a fundamental influence on the way I think and approach my work. One of the signature materials I use in all of my work is thread. This is a direct reference to the ancient Greek myth of the Treis Moires (Three Fates) Clotho the one who unravels, Lachesis the one that measures and Atropos the one that cuts the tread of life. The threads in my work represent individual lives, some long and other short, interwoven in clusters or torn apart from each other, similar to our social structures. When the threads are woven together, they can create but when they break apart, they destroy it, see fabric for example.
Although my practice addresses what I perceive as global issues, it does stem from my understanding of the two environments I spend my life in, Greece and the UK. However, my major ongoing project examines the way we relate to our past, by taking traditions and beliefs in different parts of the world and juxtaposing them to the modern way of living. I am interested especially in countries that have layers of different cultural influences and the sense of identity of their local inhabitants. The project started in Okinawa Japan in 2016, moved to UK 2017, touched Germany briefly in 2018 and the next step I am working towards is South America.
2) As a versatile artist, your creative production encompasses drawing, painting, sculpture, video and installations: what does direct you to such interdisciplinary approach? In particular, are there any experiences that did particularly help you to develop your attitude to experiment with different techniques?
- Before I studied Fine Arts, I undertook several other studies on illustration, multimedia and graphic design and worked in those fields. That knowledge and experience allow me to cross disciplines. Usually, an idea comes in a particular form and defines the medium I will use. In many cases, it might be a material or a technique that I never worked with in the past. The prospect is always tempting and although many of these attempts have failed miserably, they taught me a lot. It is also a personal characteristic of mine, while I love challenge, I dread repetition.
with the marks on my hands I will tell you my story...Hajichi, installation at Arcade Art Studio and Space, Okinawa City, Okinawa Japan
tell me where you were born and I will tell you your future..., sculpture
3) Your installation Femininity and the one eyed monstress... has structed us for the way it examines our resilience to ubiquitous attempt to being indoctrinated: when walking our readers through the genesis of your artwork, would you tell us how do you consider the role of artists in our everchanging contemporary society?
- This particular work is a question to the title “Freedom of Femininity” of an exhibition I took part, organised and curated by Zuza Tehanu. The solidity of these words is indoctrinated to us from a young age, yet I apprehended that I was uncertain what the term “femininity” really means (not that I am sure what freedom truly means either but that is for another whole interview). I, therefore, had to understand what we refer to as “Femininity” before I began to discuss about its freedom. I since concluded that femininity is a multitude of identities from physical characteristics to historical, cultural and spiritual notions, each one with the power and the use to free, enslave, elevate and manipulate the individual. Would it be then “Freedom of or from Femininity”?
This work is focusing in the way we, as women, understand the term “femininity”, how different it can manifest itself depending on the individual and how to identify when we as women become our own oppressors when trying to adhere to stereotypes of “femininity” which fail to represent us.
It is a highly symbolic work. The “One eyed monster” is a UK slang term for the male reproductive organ; playing with words this phallic reference transforms to a female form aiming to highlight that stereotypes and restrictions can also come from within. The work is made by colourful threads, each one representing the individuality of a person’s life. The eye for mouth is a direct reference to the once strong belief that women should be appropriated to be looked at but have no voice. The handmade crochet elements on the work are by my late grandmother. In her time in Greece handmade crochet was an indication of femininity and suitability for marriage. The mother-in-law would visit the bride’s house to inspect her crochets in order to evaluate the bride. My grandmother was very proud of her crochets, which have exquisite intricacy. We had suitcases of them left to us after her death. Here are used as a homage to her remarkable skill, whilst asking a very stout question about the ambiguous nature of femininity. Moving lower through the tight crochet dress of the structure, all the colourful threads become red, reiterating the redundant yet powerful physicality of being a woman.
If through this artwork I have accomplished to open a dialogue concerning the above observations, then I believe I have succeeded in my role as an artist on this occasion. I think that the role of the artists hasn’t fundamentally changed for over centuries. Conveying a message, whether is a personal thought, a political statement or a philosophical debate, creating room for dialogue and critical thinking, I believe is what artists have been doing for centuries, regardless of how their role was used by different social structures and their interests.
femininity and the one eyed monstress, installation at Grote Sint LaurensKerk, Alkmaar Netherlands
4) When playing with symbols of ‘looks’, Femininity and the one eyed monstress... highlights that femininity has become a symbol of major changes in human relations: how do you consider the role of symbolically charged images in your artistic production?
- I would say that symbolism and symbolical images dominate my work. It is a code of communication, a treasure hunt with leads and allusions. Although I consider myself a direct person, my work is the polar opposite. I think it is because my aim is not to tell the viewer what to think; the way we structure our thoughts is very personal. I rather, want to stimulate the viewer to think. I sometimes use more evident clues towards a specific subject and others more elusive but all aim towards thought stimulation.
mother and man, sculpture
5) Your artistic research highlights the tension between the Self and its surroundings, and as you have remarked once, the main influence of your work is the binaries that resonate between the self and its role within social environments: what does attract you of the nature of social dynamics?
- My work is a reaction to our anthropocentric times. Whilst trying to identify my place within the ever-shifting social exchanges, I observe us striving to fit in a prescribed normality and inhabit an array of personas to achieve that. That is partially due to the expansion of what we identify as our environment. Although in the past we ascertained ourself with our local now we operate globally and therefore we have an abundance of “locals” we can choose to identify with. By doing so we gradually become occupied and self-absorbed in social realms that demand evermore in gaining self-worth. Thus, we become less critical of the nature of these social realms and reduce our attention and contribution to crucial issues of universal welfare.
We don’t question the decline of human worth compared to gain, nor all the feel-good mechanisms set by canning craftsmen for cashing in the guild we are made to feel for the state of the world and the false belief of our inability to change it, neither the intentional division of causes to smaller antagonistic groups illustrating the infallible divide and concur. Instead we tag along doing the bare minimum that fits our congested lives.
I like to observe and understand how things operate, how do we forge our relationships and why we adopt certain behaviours that allow us to abstain when we are most needed to take control. These are questions I want to discuss.
black dot series 09, painting
big manifesto series 01, painting
ripped series 02, painting
6) We have appreciated the contrapuntal visual qualities that mark out your Pointless Self-Portraits series, and especially the way you sapiently combined references to human body and such unique abstract quality, that could recognize also in your interesting Invocation (next step): how do you structure the balance between tones and shapes in order to achieve such brilliant results?
- As mentioned above my work is anthropocentric and that includes the physicality of the human body. There are parts of the body that evoke certain emotions, different when placed in various contexts. Familiar references in my work play a big part however, the work evolves during its creation, especially with my painting work. I start with suggestions of shapes to create the composition but they change and grow to their final form as I work on them. There is nothing set in stone at the beginning except from the intention of what I want to discuss. The final result descends from a flow that at one point just feels enough.
The work “Invocation
next step” is a collaboration with two very talented artists, Joefur, who created the painted details on the sculpture and Zuza Tehanu, who is the model behind the work. This work came together for Zuza’s band’s “Yavenirie” music video and similarly, as above, the work developed in that moment.
pointless self-portrait 04, painting
invocation, next step, installation for a music video
7) Over the years you have participated and also organised artistic projects, that gave you the occasion to collaborate with artists from around the world: what did you learn from such experiences? And how important is for you to establish collaborative relationships with other creative minds?
- Collaborating is the next best thing to making. Apart from the inspiration, stimulation and knowledge one gets, being surrounded by creative minds, its great fun and the potentials of the outcome expediential. I have been very honoured to work with some brilliant artists, many of them now good friends and I am looking forward to working with them again and many more artists in the future.
8) We have appreciated the way you sapiently deploy elements that belong to the familiar sphere, to create such unique sense of ambiguity that elicit the viewers' intellectual and emotional responses, inviting them to elaborate personal associations: how important is for you to create works of art able to provide the viewers with a shared experience? Or do you prefer that each visitor attempt to create personal interpretations?
- In order to create a bridge of communication between the artist and the viewer through the artwork, I strongly believe in laying some common grounds for that communication then to flourish. This also gives the opportunity to the viewer to relate to the artwork through these common citations and for the artwork to resonate with the viewer.
I believe that the experience one has with an artwork is personal, as the stimuli to our senses is interpreted through a filter of our personal references. The experience becomes shared when viewers share between them their interpretations and, at this point, it is no longer about the artwork itself but each individual’s imprint of it.
chess, sculpture 9) You are an established artist and over the years your artworks have been internationally showcased in several occasions, moreover, you organise and curate exhibitions and events: as an artist who uses your work as a platform for discussion, how do you consider the participatory nature of your relationship with your audience? Moreover, as the move of Art from traditional gallery spaces, to street and especially to the online realm — as Instagram — increases, how would in your opinion change the relationship with an ever growing, almost globalised spectatorship?
- The presentation of an artwork can be very crucial in the way the artwork can be perceived. The outlets you mentioned for showcasing a work of art do not cancel each other I believe, but rather they enhance it. Nothing can compare to viewing an original artwork, however, that doesn’t mean that a digital reproduction of it can not convey its message and to a considerably larger audience; and why not bringing an artwork out in the street, off its pedestal and closer to the people one wants to engage with? I try to be in all.
My work is very tactile therefore, I thoroughly enjoy the physicality of a gallery. I also have an instagram account (https://www.instagram.com/froso_papadimitriou) and I would be a liar if I denied the pleasure of instant gratification. I have also done a few projects outdoors or with audience participation and I hope to do more, it is a different way of engagement, a very rewarding one. As a contemporary artist one has to be a bit of a juggler to be relevant, however, I believe there is a limit to that, so one doesn’t lose the integrity of their art.
the oil price gone up, sculpture
10) We have really appreciated the multifaceted nature of your artistic research and before leaving this stimulating conversation we would like to thank you for chatting with us and for sharing your thoughts, Froso. What projects are you currently working on, and what are some of the ideas that you hope to explore in the future?
- I would like to thank you in return for the opportunity and the time you have put in looking into my work in such depth.
At the moment I am involved with three very exciting projects.
One is the “Telephone”, a global art project based on the children’s game “Telephone” in which a message is whispered from person to person. In this game, the message is whispered from art form to art form. The founder is Nathan Langston and with a great team, all of which work voluntarily around the clock, they have covered 4,000,000 miles between 840+ artists from 443 cities in 66 countries. (and that is from the last update the game is still on). The final exhibition will take place online, where one will be able to trace the whole journey.
The link for the current one will be released once the game is concluded. Here is the link to the first “Telephone” project 2014, in which I also took part:
The next project is “Birthing a Better Future”, aiming to raise awareness of the importance of the child’s and the mother’s wellbeing for the first 1001 days from the day the child is conceived, to their mental and physical health thereafter. The project is organised by Alex Florschutz, who has put a lot of work and hours voluntarily for this project to reach a global audience. The exhibition is been travelling since 2016 with the next upcoming location in Delhi, India in 2021 and with an online outlet:
The third project is the group exhibition ‘Identity’ in Phylogeny Contemporary gallery in Seattle, USA. It is a physical exhibition and an online showcase from 15 of January – 27 February 2021.
At the moment I am also working in a new body of work and aiming to continue my ongoing project I mention at the beginning of the interview and hoping to participate to some international residencies, when COVID-19 permits.
pointless self-portrait 01