Young Cypriot runs her own show at Brazilian art event

There is one thing an artist participating in an established art bienniale can be certain of obtaining, and that is exposure. Recognition and bright new opportunities may or may not follow, depending on networking and the right curatorial support, but exposure is guaranteed. Which explains why Yioula Hadjigeorghiou, the young Cypriot artist who is representing her country at the 25th Sao Paolo Biennale, was so busy when preparing her departure, working out everything down to the last detail and acting as her own manager throughout the entire process. Already in Sao Paolo, where the biennale has just opened, she will start work on a group show scheduled for Gazi in early April immediately after her return and has another exhibit at the Averoff Museum in Metsovo scheduled after that, followed by a one-woman show at the Athens Gallery in the fall. With her busy schedule and numerous obligations, Hadjigeorghiou is in a sense experiencing one of the many symptoms of what living in a contemporary city is all about. Oddly enough, this is related to the general theme of this year’s Biennale (Iconographies of the Metropolis) and by extension to the subject of «Traps,» her 60-square-meter installation which she has set up at the Cypriot pavilion with the help of an artist friend. It is made out of plexiglass columns inside which Hadjigeorghiou has placed negatives of women swimming under water. Special lighting effects animate the photographs and help transform the surroundings into an enfolding, underwater environment. The work was not made especially for the Biennale, which, though inadvisable, is not unusual. Hadjigeorghiou, however, had no choice but to show a work that she had already made since the process that the Culture Ministry of Cyprus followed in appointing an artist was based on the appraisal and selection of already existing works. That she was contacted a mere two months before the start of the Biennale would have made the production of a new work impossible, in any case. Any major art event is bound to pose challenges both to the participants and the organizers, which may be especially true when the country in question is on the artistic periphery. Arguably this is the case with Cyprus, a country which has spawned major art collectors (Dakis Ioannou, Charis David and Dimitris Pierides are some of the greatest names) and talented artists but was slow in developing an infrastructure for the promotion and support of contemporary art, largely because of the country’s turbulent recent history. A limited budget (of just under 9,000 euros, or 3 million drachmas) for the Sao Paolo Bienniale may reflect this slow process. But perhaps more significant than that is the fact that Hadjigeorghiou was sent to Sao Paolo unaccompanied by a curator. (Nicos Nicolaou is the curator who has written the text printed in the official brochure of the Cypriot pavilion.) Despite such impediments, Hadjigeorghiou is grateful for having been selected and also thinks that the choice shows, on the part of the Cypriot ministry, both open-mindedness and sensitivity toward contemporary art. A young woman and already the mother of a 14-year-old girl, Hadjigeorghiou sounds most attractive in her grounded views and unpretentious manner. Far from churning out the usual complaints one often hears from artists, she believes in proving herself through her work and commitment. As an artist who is deeply concerned about the public environment, she also thinks that her responsibility lies not in imposing art on the urban landscape but finding more subtle ways of communication. This is probably why Hadjigeorghiou bases her works on the power of suggestion to the point of making them seem almost immaterial. In fact, in many of her works, the artist projects images that are not concrete but the result of optical illusion. «Traps,» for instance, creates the impression of a liquid environment and of movement within it which in truth is no more than the product of optical devices. The work is also a visual metaphor on the experiences of living in the metropolis, with the swimming women seen as either trapped or protected by the surrounding liquid environment. But more than that, it is about the transformation of our surroundings, in a way that is ethereal rather than physical.

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