CULTURE

Urban wall painting takes over Elais building on Pireos

Pireos Street has added a new urban landmark to Athens thanks to a 150-meter-long wall painting on the outer wall of the Elais food company. The company, which undertook the initiative, thus expanded its social policy to include the city and urban environment and also provided Carpe Diem, a group of young artists, with the space and incentive for creation. The artists’ wall painting, which uses archetypal figures and focuses on olives and what they represent, as well as on the effort required in production, is a work that derives from graffiti culture, but could not really be described as graffiti. Although spray paints have been used, it is slightly removed from the independent thinking behind graffiti culture because it resembles a coherent narrative. It can thus be described as an entirely urban wall painting. The Elais company, which has existed in the Piraeus municipality for over 80 years, gave this opportunity to the young artists conscious of the fact that the company is part of local history, something which the head of the company’s corporate relations noted at the recent presentation. The artwork, an innovative move for Attica, has been placed in the Ministry of Culture’s «European Days of Cultural Heritage 2003» program and is under the aegis of the Piraeus municipality, whose aim is to become an urban oasis with changing styles. On behalf of the company, Melina Throuvala announced that the wall painting’s theme will be renewed every three years. «We are working against the gray shades of the urban landscape,» said Kyriakos Iosifidis, a member of the Carpe Diem group. «Painting the wall was like demolishing it. For one month, we experienced the reactions of those who were walking along the street and watched the wall being transformed.» Historian Nikos Melios, speaking on behalf of the Research Institute of Local History and the History of Businesses, had this to say: «Elais was the first company that opened its files to historians while still operating. It is now opening a door to the future and to young people, in a downgraded area.» With green and brown predominant, the colors of the wall painting are intense. It describes the production process, stressing human effort, with references to the gods Athena and Poseidon. It contains emotions and needs, like the farmers’ picnic scene: A couple share a simple Greek meal (with tomatoes, olives, cheese and bread) during a break from work. The theme of thrashing the tree branches, reminiscent of an ancient vase, coexists with the contemporary Western company building. Passers-by looking at Elais see a dollhouse, the painted walls of which enclose the actual building. The recent presentation took place at the Villa, which formerly housed the Kerameikos tiles company and which Elais took over and restored. Stained-glass windows, surfaces with carved wood and ceramic tiles provided a suitable atmosphere for a new door to society.