CULTURE

Nikos Alexiou, diversified artist, full of surface contradictions

Among the thousands of images that artist Nikos Alexiou has stored in his portable computer are views of New York, its architecture and people, its amazing vivacity and urban sophistication. Alexiou recently spent several months there, on an invitation by art historian Maria Kotzamani who teaches at Columbia University. Now that he is back, he still retains the memory of the city’s distinct energy and talks of how he would have liked to have spent more time there. This is perhaps strange for an artist that before leaving for New York had spent two years living in in a monastery on Mt. Athos, but as he succinctly and rather enigmatically says, experiencing New York and Mt. Athos are both the same thing. Just like his life, Alexiou’s art is full of diversity and surface contradictions. He has worked extensively for the theater, producing the set design for the dance theater Omada Edafous, for works directed by Roula Pateraki as well as Lefteris Voyatzis, and is currently rehearsing to act in the upcoming staging of a Greek folk tale. I n the meantime, he is continuing his decade-long project of painstakingly copying the hundreds of drawings left by Vassilios Grigorevich Barski, an Ukranian monk that lived in the 18th century, while also working on a couple of videos and interactive computer art. He is also wrapping up his recent show currently on view at Gallery 3, an installation of a labyrinth made up of paper houses and supplemented by blown-up photographs placed on the wall, a work which he compares to Kubrick’s film The Shining because of the mood of a nightmarish, endless route that the work puts across. Amid all of this, Alexiou’s attention is anything but scattered. Everything that he does carefully ties into a unified artistic notion. One activity contains and leads to the other in what becomes a cyclical and never-ending process, rather like his most recent work, the Labyrinth, which as Alexiou says contains both order and chaos. What is interesting about his recent work is that in a certain way, it is a visual analogy of his work method. In a labyrinthine way, Alexiou puts himself in a painstaking artistic process by either drawing lines in connected, endless motifs or forming structures by joining together parts of the same material. Of those structures, some of the most beautiful are made of bamboo shoots, a miniature version of the decorated display window of the Fanourakis jewelry shop in Kolonaki. As in other works, the recent one included, the use of bamboo sticks shows the appeal for Alexiou of brittle materials and their evocation of the wear and tear of time. Alexiou respects the passage of time and the way things age. This is probably why he never abandons a medium once he chooses to work on it, seeking instead to reveal the process of change. The International Jury, who will pick two films out of 15 for the two top prizes of the festival, is composed of Eduardo Antin, an Argentinean film critic and theorist who is also president of the Buenos Aires Film Festival; Yiannis Kokkos, the renowned Greek stage director; Pavel Pawlikowski, a Polish director working in England and the winner of last year’s Golden Alexander for Last Resort; Yugoslav actress Ana Sofrenovic; Turkish film director Nuri Bilge Ceylan; and Greek writer Soti Triantafyllou.