A portrayal of Greek art today

Young artists are generally believed to bring new ideas into art and to view contemporary reality through fresh eyes. This partly explains the interest that curators have shown in their work and is one of the reasons behind the various exhibitions that have been held on young Greek artists during the past few years. «In Present Tense: Young Greek Artists,» which is organized by the National Museum of Contemporary Art (NMCA) and opens today at the Megaron Plus exhibition hall, presents the work of 34 young Greek artists (none born earlier than 1965) who were chosen by the exhibition’s curators (Daphne Vitali, Tina Pandi and Stamatis Schizakis), also young in age. The curators, who have been working for the exhibition for the past two years, perused the portfolios of more than 500 artists before making the final selection. They were looking for works relating to issues pertinent to contemporary art and life. These included the social role of architecture, mass culture, and the use of the Internet in art and identity (personal and collective identities). The intention of the curators is not to make an exhaustive documentation of contemporary Greek art but to show what they believe to be some of its most representative and strongest examples. Another goal was to include works made in diverse media (painting, sculpture, installations, video, etc) and to encompass as many different styles as possible, which they have attained. The art is displayed in a way that flows and gives ample space for each work to be enjoyed in its own right. The exhibition opens with the dark paintings of Ilias Papailiakis (one of the better-known painters and one of the oldest participants in the exhibition) seem to have taken their inspiration from the work of old masters. The large paintings of Vassilis Gokas are zen-like landscapes that the artist has painted in tones of gray and as if emerging from behind a veil. A similar effect appears in the photographs of Yiorgis Yerolymbos which look more like paintings than photographs. The resemblance with a painting is also apparent in one of the photographs by Panos Kokkinias, in which the image of a seated woman in a coffee shop is barely discernible behind the pouring rain that falls on the glass window. One of the most engaging works is a film by Yiorgos Drivas. The work is a succession of black-and-white, very spare but visually strong photographs that feature the interiors of mostly administrative or public buildings. A man and a woman are the protagonists of a story that is intentionally left vague and alludes to the feeling of alienation in contemporary urban life. A project by Vangelis Vlahos is another of the show’s most interesting works. The artist uses documentation and archival material to address sociopolitical issues in recent Greek history. An installation of the images (painted-on, photocopied photographs) that artist Alexandros Georgiou produced during a journey-artistic project in the Middle East and India also have strong overtones of an archive, but are closer to a visual diary. One of the strongest aspects of the exhibition is its diversity. One of its shortcomings is that it has left out several artists who have produced interesting work and have made a reputation on the contemporary art scene in Greece. However, this is not an exhibition that hopes to be as inclusive as possible. It offers a glimpse into contemporary Greek art and may very well serve as the beginning of future exhibitions that will gradually reveal the young contemporary art scene in Greece. «In Present Tense: Young Greek Artists» at the Megaron Plus exhibition space (Vas. Sofias & Kokkali) to 30/3/08. Info at the NMCA (210.924.-2111-2) or Sponsor: Bombay Sapphire.