For Greek artist HOPE, archaeology has always been a source of fascination, as seen in his signature collages of archaeological artefacts from various cultures. An artist that moves easily between street art, installation, curation, performance making and music, HOPE first started his artistic career on the streets of Athens, pasting large stickers of ancient statues in public spaces. The signature characteristic of these works was their totemic forms, which appeared like stacks of objects and images springing from dreamlike visions into the real world.
This recurrence of ancient statues and findings in HOPE’s work is connected to his particular interest in how the science of archaeology brings things that were once lost into the light, and at the same time how it produces knowledge about these objects. HOPE explains for example, how our perception of ancient Greek and prehistoric cultures is gradually changing as we discover unexpected things about them, and he gives the example of Cycladic civilisation, the prehistoric culture that thrived on the South Aegean islands some 3500 years ago: “Cycladic figurines weren’t white, but painted,” he says. “They were red and blue. And painted with many eyes on them. Eyes on their belly, their legs, their forehead... Everywhere.”
This understanding of ancient art as colourful and playful is of course light years away from our current appreciation of these statuettes as minimalist, whose geometric forms have inspired European modernists such as Konstantin Brancusi and Pablo Picasso. Our evaluation of ancient art as serious and ideal of course extends to the all-white purity of art from Classical antiquity and survives to this day through European neoclassicism.
“[Ancient] Greek civilisation was a very joyful civilisation, very playful. It wasn’t at all serious-like. Everything was simple and lacy in Ancient Greece. Even death was simple and unassuming.”
In his more recent work, HOPE has turned to making ceramics, a medium that as he explains seems to have chosen him and not the other way round. In his ceramics, the artist incorporates funny, cartoony faces, an element that connects to his previous work and particularly in his apparent obsession with pareidolia — the phenomenon where we see faces in everyday objects and other random images. Some of these ceramics also incorporate words that either reinforce or contrast the objects’ mood and colours. To the artist, this recent body of sculptural objects combines "harmoniously" with the rest of his work: "Both sides of my work present a playful and prismatic view on reality. The element of fragmentation and breaking down that exists in my collages is something that exists by definition in ceramics. Besides, they’re made to be broken at some point.”
To see HOPE’s tongue-in-cheek ceramics from up close, head to The Breeder gallery in Metaxourgeio, and look for them on the mezzanine; you can combine your visit with a walk around the current exhibition at the gallery.
Courtesy of the Breeder Gallery and the Artist