Apr
06

UK Cypriot artists return ‘home’ with a first group exhibition – euGreeka interviews

Thanasis Gavos   Wed, 6 Apr 2016; 14:51

The first group exhibition in Cyprus by UK Cypriot artists is held from 6 to 30 April at Nicosia’s Zmart Gallery of Loukia & Michael Zampelas Art Museum.

The exhibition, titled ‘London to Nicosia – Art, Expression and Connection’, aims to link Cypriot artists of the British diaspora with their homeland, to bridge the gap between the Cypriot art community in Cyprus and in England.

Painters Renos Lavithis and Andrea Tyrimos, painter and printmaker Despina Symeou and photographer Robert Kyprianou come together for the event, combining their creativity to present a shared body of work.

The person who had the idea for the exhibition was Robert Kyprianou: “To my surprise there is little organised or systematic contact or coordination between the two art communities. In part this is due to the youthfulness of Cypriot art history. Cypriot art schools and art exhibitions are barely 50 years old, and most of this history is significantly younger. Largely for this reason the two Cypriot communities have grown up separately and any connection has been on an individual and ad hoc basis. Hopefully, this exhibition will inspire the 2 communities to get closer together, to support each other and to enrich each other’s styles, influences and techniques,” he explained.

The idea of linking the two at communities was at once endorsed by his fellow exhibiting artists. Despina Symeou said that “connections made worldwide can influence one’s ideas and increase previously unconsidered possibilities; therefore, Cypriot artists based in Cyprus can look to the international art market for wider exposure.”

13 (a) Morning Commute on Inle Lake

Mr Kyprianou told euGreeka that the selection of the participating artists and artwork was made so as to give a feel for the range of artistic styles and talent in the British Cypriot community. “We could not do justice to all of the British Cypriot community’s breadth of work and techniques, but hopefully visitors will be left with a feeling for this range and a sense of pride in the Cypriot art diaspora, and a desire to connect and find out more – these are the principles of the exhibition as reflected in the exhibitions title,” he said.

Renos Lavithis, who will not be able to attend the exhibition in Nicosia due to health reasons, has been one of the most recognisable UK Cypriot artists, elegantly and warmly depicting favourite locations with his painting.

Despina Symeou will be showcasing mostly limited edition etching and screen prints, examples from ‘Mediterranean’, ‘Treescape’ and ‘From The Model’ series of works. She has also included two paintings from the 2015 ‘Transformation: Trees & Abstract’ successful exhibition at the Cyprus High Commission in London.

“Primarily the human form and nature are the biggest influence in the work I make, inspired by the unusual and sometimes playful images captured with my camera. I use photography to collate and compose information. The way I manipulate the photographic image dictates the narrative of the final piece.

“In the past I specialised in jewellery design. Recently I have noticed many similarities with making jewelry and etching. For example, both mediums employ the use of metals. I see the next body of work following this theme where the two creative practices will meet and a hybrid version may evolve beyond the etching plate.

“But as is the nature of this process the end result may in fact be something completely different. Although exploring the print making technique in its many formats, I still regularly paint and draw from life. This is a practice fundamental to artistic expression and the path taken from inspiration to the final outcome is a most fascinating and instructive period,” elaborated Ms Symeou.

Andrea Tyrimos will be exhibiting two strands of work in Nicosia; her ‘Urban Landscapes’ paintings, and a series of paintings from her ‘BRICK’ project.

“One of my favourite quotes is from Charles Baudelaire; in 1863 he called for painters to focus on ‘depicting the fast-changing landscape of life’, and described such an artist as ‘The Painter of Modern Life’. I like to think that my Urban Landscapes series does just this; captures the essence of modern day life.

“To compliment this, my BRICK series actually sees me take to the streets of London to create a series of hidden paintings, where I camouflage my pieces into their environment. I only ever use oil paints and brushes, as I like the traditional aspect of this. The pieces have an element of interactivity and play within them, which is not usually associated with paintings. The paintings you’ll see at the exhibition have been taken away from their original environment and moved into the gallery space; changing their context entirely. This project combines street art and fine art in a way which has never been done before, and I hope to expand this concept in other cities; you never know, you may even see me painting around Nicosia one day!” she said. Shoreditch Nights by Andrea Tyrimos

Asked to describe what this return to Cyprus with the exhibition means to him, Robert Kyprianou replied he felt “huge pride” but at the same time “enormous humility knowing what great British Cypriot artists and art could not be represented in this show.” For Ms Symeou the exhibition is a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with her ancestral roots. “Also to experience Cyprus from an artistic perspective instead of a holiday destination. Nicosia is a place that is unfamiliar to me so I look forward to discovering another facet to a country I have visited many times,” she added. And Andrea Tyrimos confessed to feeling “very honoured” to be exhibiting in Cyprus. “I spent many care free summer holidays there as a child. Now as a professional artist, I feel very proud to be able to reconnect with my heritage and history, and to be able to share my paintings with the Cypriot community.”

Ms Tyrimos is held into very high esteem among the London art community, so euGreeka asked her how difficult it is for an artist to make it in the UK, but also how well connected, known and supported Cypriot artists are in this country?

“In all honestly I would say it’s very difficult to ‘make it’ as an artist in the UK. Although it does also depend on what your definition of ‘making it’ is. Whether it’s financial freedom, or the capacity to be able to create and do something you love every day. For me the latter is most important. In my experience it definitely requires a lot of dedication and passion. Studying at St Martins helped to give me the thick skin required, and the perseverance to continue to fight for my passion.

“With regards to the support Cypriot artists receive in the UK, I wasn’t really aware of such support until I was invited to be a part of the show Art in the Cypriot Community last year.

1) St. Brides Church-Fleet Street

This is where I met fellow artists Despina and Renos, and eventually Robert, who is not only an exhibiting artist, but who also created the concept behind this current show in Nicosia.

Being a part of this collective has opened my eyes to the support available to Cypriot artists in the UK.

“I do think it’s important to support Cypriot artists, however I also believe that it’s equally important, if not more so, for the work to be able to stand for itself. The aesthetic qualities of the work should intrigue the viewer, resulting in them wanting to discover more,” said Andrea Tyrimos.

The last word belongs to Mr Kyprianou who praised the hosts of the exhibition, Loukia and Michalis Zampelas: “Through their gallery they are certainly visionaries and pioneers, and through their hospitality and warmth they have become friends. In my view, their chief attribute is as leading sponsors of Hellenic art and artists. Their gallery was precisely the right setting for an exhibition that would be bringing British Cypriot artists ‘home’.

“It is in this same spirit that the British High Commissioner and his Cypriot counterpart in London responded to this exhibition – bringing together even closer the two communities that they represent on two islands at the opposite end of Europe. I would like to thank them for their support and I would like to thank Ric Todd, the British High Commissioner, for agreeing to open our exhibition.”

The exhibition’s hashtag on Twitter is #LondontoNicosia.

About Thanasis Gavos

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