by the artist
I have been working on the theme of layers for a while, the stories unfolding over archetypal faces and in the form of annotated maps.
It is in this context that I started to make the works which contained several pictorial planes, covering, hiding, uncovering and re-covering parts of the many layers. I played around with the idea that most often we see only the surface, when beneath there is a wealth of knowledge and information. The works have been informed by my own experiences, from the resettlement of my parents on the basis of religion, to my own, as an adolescent migrant. I also had the privilege of working with others whose lives have been shaped by the pain of displacement.
The physical journeys and their emotional impact are at the core of this body of work. The desirable trajectory of the recovery process is described as follows: Succumbing, Surviving, Recovering and Thriving. In the real world, however, recovery is a cyclical process. The above words were the original title of the project. I used them to help me compose the images and patterns. In essence, they are the dark and the light in the works.
The banner works are on material that alludes to the hessian sacks that contained the crop of raisins my grandparents harvested every year. This was a kind of agriculture brought to Crete from Asia Minor with the refugees. The hands that appear in places sometimes almost hidden have the dual meaning of giving and of taking, of offering help and of committing violence. The patterns used allude to cultural inheritance. I have used the motif of the Tree of Life, which exists as a powerful symbol in many cultures. Some hand-printed layers become apparent only when we examine the surface, particularly some of the digital prints, which at first appear to be totally mechanical. In the back-lit works, the good and the bad memories flicker through the top layer. Light and curiosity reveal new details the way that research does.
Faces from the several families are layered, manipulated or juxtaposed alongside these and other elements. The surfaces reveal and conceal intermittently, or have information that is obscured or has been removed after being applied, leaving but a trace. The films, particularly the film by Kate Drucquer, add another narrative strand and animate these histories.
Finally, there are some parts that will only appear when the audience leaves. What could not easily be seen in the light will appear for a while in the darkened gallery space. Memories, like the phosphoric ink used in these layers, will appear fleetingly, like ghosts in the night.
This is a body of work which has taken me into new techniques and methods but importantly has brought me into contact with many wonderful people. Their contributions have been invaluable in making this work. There is further information about these partnerships and the works in the catalogue. I am indebted to Rita Hindocha for illuminating my motives in her generous foreword.
To recover the past is not an act of nostalgia or morbid curiosity. It is an important function of a time limited life: to learn from those that preceded us and to hand down important information. We cannot forget the mistakes of the past, nor the people and the experiences that have shaped us. In recovering those individual and collective narratives we are able to feel, acknowledge, learn and forgive.
George Sfougaras, July 2019