Unutterable burdens

2023 – Art Gallery Ekfrasi-Gianna Grammatopoulou, Athens
Unutterable burdens
Katerina Koskina
Art Historian – Museologist
former Director of the Athens National Museum of Contemporary Art- EMST 

The works of Spyridoula Politi are deeply experiential, their materiality contributing to this. For decades their surface is processed so as to ‘reflect’ her idiosyncrasy, her inner concerns, her dreams and phobias.

In this new series of works, Spyridoula Politi emphatically states her identity as an artist and a woman. She transmutes into art her femininity, her constraint by—or liberation from—burdens of the past, from memories pleasant or traumatic. She uses techniques that reveal the texture of the canvas, demonstrating its roots in the art of weaving—a traditional practice of cottage industry associated with women from as far back as mythology, via Arachne or Penelope. At the same time, by releasing the warp and the weft from the materiality of preparation and colouring she creates fragile fields, liminal spaces where the matter ‘flirts’ with dematerialisation.

Yet to what extent can painting exist without materials or disappear from a painter’s practice? Spyridoula Politi is one those practitioners who struggle with matter and its texture. Today, with her thematic clearly defined as the indelible inscription of memory, she employs various ways of processing the surface by adding and removing, through actions and their reversal, with drawing and empty surfaces, with painting and objects. She is voluntarily trapped into a juxtaposition of opaqueness and transparency. She removes the ‘flesh’ of the canvas and sticks fabrics onto its fibres, adding matter. One might say that her works become likenesses of humans—dolls, mannequins, substitutes, idols. She covers them with highly personal objects, mostly ‘dressing’ them with clothes, her own items or those chosen by her, perhaps in an attempt to identify herself with them.

Clothes are a shell; they are at once protective and special features of our identity. They are closest to the body, to our flesh, and surround not just what’s visible while we live but also what’s there but cannot be told, described, defined—not even by ourselves. The ineffable burdens, in all senses of the word.

To this artist, clothes and canvases are symbols of her twofold identity, her existence. They are, moreover, the tangible elements with which she lives every day.

Most of her work is suggestive portraits that reference either the ineffable inner self or the outer image—or even experience and its imprint on desire or attainment.

In addition to the canvases, in this series Spyridoula Politi presents an installation in which the garment is at once the wrapping and the content, creating a curtain out of cylindrical forms. This confinement of some undefined content, the creation of an irregular shape through an encircling motion, suggests captivity and the holding back of impulses. The exhibition comes also with a short video that came about almost by itself, underscoring the importance of chance and the random element in the artwork but also putting into question whether randomness really exists.

Weight and lightness, transparency and matter, joy and sorrow are not unconnected or incompatible in the case of Spyridoula Politi. They are all experiences, positive or negative charges/burdens which art—and only art—can turn into starting points for creation, and can get you to live with them, to exorcise or even to enjoy them.