This is an island - two art specialists comment
Dr Michael Paraskos on Jennifer Harding and Geoff Rigden
IT was Dr Michael Paraskos (son of Stass) who set the bunches of easels/brushes/ and artworks flying (bundled up with concepts
–you know how it is) in our lively art scene during the fuss over Manifesto.
I thought he protested too much but he is still keeping in touch, and has sent in a most praiseworthy account of the art
of Jennifer Harding and Geoff Rigden.
He is right
Titled "The Dialectics of Place" the notes just happened to pop up a few days before OPEN STUDIOS (read this page last
week) hits the road, villages and other studios (and galleries) in the Paphos district.
Dr Michael Paraskos is a Henry Moore Fellow at the University of Leeds and rightly placed to be our cultural watchdog.
A few months ago, I met the British artist Terry Atkinson, who had just returned from the Basle Art Fair in Switzerland.
Atkinson visits a lot of the international art fairs – the Cologne, Berlin, Miami and elsewhere – and so I asked
him if he thought there was any difference between art in different countries. ‘Not really’, he said. ‘Contemporary
art has an international style’.
I am not sure whether Jennifer Harding and Geoff Rigden would appreciate me beginning this introduction to their work with
a recollection of Terry Atkinson. They are, I think very different artists, and nowhere more so than in their attitude to
place. Over the last two decades the art world has split into two irreconcilable, and often-hostile camps.
"One of these attends all the art fairs and Manifesta-like junkets, and fills the mainstream galleries and glossy art magazines
with a bland international style of faux neo-Dada. The other has to fight to be seen, is far more diverse in its use of materials,
and most importantly of all, is founded on intimate relationships to specific locations.
"To put it briefly, one camp is rootless and dead, the other in a living communion with a spirit of place. It is in this
latter camp, I would locate Harding and Rigden.
"At first sight this might appear a strange statement. Looking at the works of Harding and Rigden it is easy to see the
influence of international modernism.
"Both artists clearly enjoy abstraction, and see, willing to draw on various modernist traditions when forming their paintings.
Yet I would suggest they also root themselves in a specifically English cultural environment that result in a series of dialectical
Harding and Rigdon make work in a specific place – a ‘here and now ‘ but they also pull against a knowledge
of art made elsewhere and at other times – a ‘there and then’. This is a dialectics of place or location,
and can be seen in Harding’s 2000 painting ‘Ibelin’ and Rigden’s 2000 work ‘Nude Going Down
In ‘Ibelin,’ the flat red and black abstract shapes have an echo of New York modernism, but this has been filtered
through the sensibility of an English mind.
Similarly, in ‘Nude Going Down Stairs’ there is what appears to be a conscious reference to Duchamp’s
quasi-cubist painting ‘Nude Descending a Staircase’, painted in 1912. Yet it too has passed through the alembic
of an English mind, so that any conscious reference to Duchamp is counterbalanced by colours and forms that are decidedly
English, what we might call the English tradition. One has to transcend tradition.
That this happens in the works of Harding and Rigden is perfectly clear in their Cyprus paintings. Look at Harding’s
‘Black Ships at Limassol’, of 2003, and you will see a dominant colour from Cyprus – the flat cerulean blue
of our sky. Perhaps too there is an echo of Cyprus in Harding’s artistic references, so that the work might vaguely
remind us of the paintings of Stelios Votsis or Andreas Ladommatos. Yet there is something more painterly and rougher in the
treatment of the trees and boat, something that seems to come out of an English romantic tradition.
Harding has a deep and long-standing knowledge of Cyprus that allows her to fuse Cypriotness and Englishness so successfully,
holding the two together, but in tension
In Rigdon’s ‘Sundowner’, of 2005 we seem to see the sun setting off the coast of Lemba, where Rigdon
spends much of his time when in Cyprus at the College of Art.
A more oblique reference to the island is the painting ‘Blue, black, Cross-fire, of 2005, which brings to mind the
sometimes ornate metalwork on Cypriot windows not only in the crossbar shapes, but in the colours used.
Yet an English sensibility pervades these works, too, with a construction of space and handling of paint that it would
be hard to find paralleled in Cypriot art. In fact the nearest equivalent might be an artist such as Terry Frost, who also
came to Cyprus with a strong English tradition behind him, but vitalized that tradition by hybridising it with the Cypriot
Terry Atkinson was wrong. Contemporary art does not have as an international style and if it ever looks like it does then
it means an artist has failed toengage with the physical and cultural environment in which he or she is working . Recent events
in Cyprus art have taught the island a lesson in remaining true to its own environmental values, and not to attempt to reject
and replace them with imported cultures that have nothing to do with this particular place and even despise it. Yet that does
not mean Cyprus should retreat into insular parochialism.
Harding and Rigden show us an alternative. They are London- based English artists who love Cyprus and know its history,
culture and environment probably better than most people who are born here.
Through their art they show us that it is possible to bring together, like male and female particples, to give birth to
a vital and living art. It is a paradox, but true, the work of artists such as Harding and Rigden is the true international
art of Cyprus."
Dr Antonis Danos on Kakia Catselli-Trachoniti
Just opened at the 2006, Venice Festival until 1st Ocobet at Venice Lido
Here is Dr. Antonis Danos (Assistant Professor Department of Art and design. Intercollege, Nicosia) on the installation.
"Aphrogennimeni – foam-born: one of the epithets of Greek goddess Aphrodite ("foam-arisen") who was born, according
to one myth, of the sea foam, near Cyprus.
In recent times, especially in the post-colonial era, Aphrodite has been an integral part of Greek Cypriot, collective
self- representation – especially for the sake of outsiders. In a (mostly Greek Orthodox) Christian community, a pagan
goddess can only be a superficial ‘cultural’ reference, mostly for tourism purposes.
Yet, at the same time, Aphrodite is a fragment in a larger ideological edifice, that lays claims on an ‘unbroken’,
centuries-long, cultural ‘continuity’.
Kakia Catselli-Trachoniti’s "Aphrodite", in her installation, FOAM BIRTH, undermines dominant stereotypes, refrains
from participating in dominant discourse(s), and lays claims on a different (part of) tradition.
Instead of overused visual prototypes – such as the Hellenitic, 1stcentury BC statue of Aphrodite from Soloi, on
the west coast of Cyprus, or, more famously Botticelli’s Venus - Catselli’s female figure is a ‘generic’
one: a mannequin, such as the ones used by seamstresses, armless and headless (perhaps, a reference to partly-damaged ancient
statues, such as the aforementioned Hellenistic Aphrodite), made of plasticised, press foam (an equally skewed reference,
this time, to the goddess’s mythological birth}.
The figure stands raised above a platform that is covered with a floor pattern, of the kind that was used in Cypriot houses
during most of the previous century, imbuing the set-up, additionally, with a quality of domesticity. Like an a-historic sacred
symbol, indifferent to, yet about to receive, people’s offerings, like a woman about to try on her dress-in-the-making
,like a blank surface needing to be inscribed, the raised figure stands motionless. And she gets dressed, she gets inscribed.
Her plastic dress – also, a cover-shelter - is decorated with colourful, schematic, floral motives.
These are motifs copied off the ones used in the age-old tradition of making mandilas (mandila = (head) scarf, kerchief,
The making of mandilas is now extinct in Cyprus. It was an old tradition, consisting of small family businesses, each safeguarding
its secrets regarding the making of dyes, with which the organic motifs are coloured, after their outlines have been printed
on the fabric, using wooden-block stencils (manas). The entire process resembled work in a medieval alchemist’s workshop,
and the safeguarding of the trade’s ‘secrets’ contributed to the tradition’s demise.
The mandila was an integral part of women’s (and, occasionslly, men’s) attire and often carried various symbolisms.
Its public uses included a (still-practiced) brief ritual, in which the parents pass a mandila around the waists of the bride
and groom, indicating familial ties, and blessings wished upon the young couple. On other occasions, wearing a black mandila
was a sign of grief and mourning.
It is this popular tradition that Caselli’s work refers. The replacement of cloth by plastic, for the ‘dress’,
alludes to the death of the elaborate, manual-skill procedure-ritual of mandila making. At the same time, it constitutes a
resistance to a nostalgic, clichE – ridden, and thus superficial, tapping into the local past.
Instead, and this is reinforced by the large, palimpsest –like prints that hang on a pole, standing next to the main
‘figure’ of the installation, the entire construction acts as a bearer of personal memory. A memory that inevitably
carries aspects of the collective consciousness (as well as of the unconscious), which, however, resists hegemonic, collective
discourses. Despite the apparent references to recent tradition and the supposed allusions to time-honoured mythology, Catselli’s
foam birth remains stubbornly personal, yet not hermatically sealed: it is open and invites individual, one-to-one encounters
Alexandros Tasou presents his first personal exhibition of paintings, sculptures and artwork until 11th September at Kypriaki
Gonia, Larnaca. The exhibition is titled The Spirit of Apollon.
Orpheus Gallery summer exhibition, until September 30, includes works by Colombian artist Luis Guzman and emerging Cypriot
artist Alexis Vayianos.
Both artist are taking part alongside well known Cypriot artists George Erotokritou, George Gerondides, Panikos tsangara
and international artists Jeron Geronomides (Brazil), Miriam McConnon (Ireland) and many more.
The exhibition includes works of original paintings, original and limited edition sculpture and glass
Mon/Wed & Sat 10.00 -13.30.
Tues/ Thu & Fri 10.00 -13.00 & 17.00 – 19.00
MORE than forty artists from the Paphos region have agreed to open their studios and workplaces to the public during the
first four weekends of September. Not every single in the artist in the eastern end of the island is participating but there
are talents galore with the excellent illustrated guide of artists and locations saying that many of them enjoy an international
reputation. They also come from many ‘different backgrounds and cultures to make the event truly cosmopolitan’.
Artists from across the Paphos region are opening their studios to the public from 10am. until 6 pm. on the following dates.
As most artists are only opening their studios on certain weekends – allowing them for time to visit each other (some
are opening every weekend0 please check to see that each studio is open when you want to visit..
There is an excellent guide
Try the organizers
Nic Costa 26933356, Sue Harding 26221301, David Lester 26621130, Mary Beth Trotter 99752687, Marina Zach 99699380.