Contemporary art in Mystras

Neon light may carry strong associations of commercial signage and emit a certain hi-tech coldness, but in the work of Steven Antonakos it acquires an unprecedented warmth and calming effect. Antonakos, who was one of the first artists to pioneer the use of neon light and has been using it incessantly for the past 40 years in his art, has worked toward giving neon light an almost metaphysical quality. He has, for example, used it to create spaces of meditation, his so-called chapel series, which he began making in the 1990s. This interest in the spiritual that runs through the work of Antonakos explains why the artist chose the archaeological site of Mystras as the place to display his work, in this case, a site-specific installation titled «Remembrance.» The exhibition is curated by the curator of the National Gallery, Andreas Ioannidis, and is held in collaboration with the Fifth Archaeological Euphorate as part of a broader project that aims at presenting works at historical public sites. Four square, wooden panels, either gold or aluminum-leafed, are back-lit with neon light in different colors and placed at the Aghios Georgios Chapel at the archaeological site of Mystras. As with other works, Antonakos uses geometry, abstraction, color and neon light to redefine architecture, a given space and the ways that we are made to feel within it. This interest explains why most of Antonakos’s works are placed in public sites across the world in reference to the existing architecture. Besides expressing Antonakos’s interest in setting art and architecture against one another, the Mystras installation also shows his concern with the spiritual qualities of abstraction, color and light. Somehow resonant of the spiritual quests of early 20th century abstract painters, such as Kandinsky or Mondrian, Antonakos uses the sparest of means, just simple geometrical shapes and something as immaterial as light to their fullest potential. In his works, the glow of light is transformed into shapes and structure is turned to a field of energy. Much of Antonakos’s work is about transformation: the transformation of neon light’s contemporary quality, of light into shape, of a contemporary aesthetic to a language that reflects the past. Even though many of his works are visually familiar, their potential for «transforming» our surroundings removes a sense of repetition and offers a distinctive experience each time. «Remembrance» will be on view at the Mystras site through October 31. Open from 8 a.m – 3 p.m.