Magazine article Sculpture

Martha Dimitropoulou: Pine Needle Pixels

Magazine article Sculpture

Martha Dimitropoulou: Pine Needle Pixels

Article excerpt

Despite the Greek economic crisis, art is thriving in Athens thanks to a growing number of nonprofit and alternative exhibition venues. One such space, the Contemporary Greek Art Institute (iset), a nonprofit archive and gallery, recently featured the work of an unusual sculptor in the exhibition "Devaiue/Vaiue/Surpius Value: between 'work' and 'art,'" curated by Charis Kaneiiopouiou.

Martha Dimitropouiou, who studied painting at the Athens Schooi of Fine Arts, received her MFA in scuipture from London's Royai Coiiege of Art and a Professionai Doctorate in Fine Arts from the University of East London on a schoiarship provided by the Greek State Schoiarships Foundation. She has participated in numerous group shows in Greece and abroad, contributing works made exciusiveiy of pine needies. Her work for "Devaiue/Vaiue/Surpius Vaiue," made with the assistance of her husband, scuiptor Apostoios Karakatsanis, offered a considered refiection on the show's theme. Box Calf (2016) re-created a Hermès Constance bag-designed by Catherine Chaiiiet in 1969 and made famous by |acqueiine Kennedy Onassisat monumentai scaie. By eniarging this signature bag to such an extent, Dimitropouiou negates its utiiitarian function whiie emphasizing its meaning as a status symboi and iuxury item. But the pine needies add an additionai twist.

The pine, one of the oidest and most popuious trees of the Mediterranean, North America, and Asia, has a iong symboiic history, from ancient Egypt through the Greeks and Romans, to the Druids, the Buriates in eastern Siberia, and the Iroquois. As a iong-iiving evergreen, it embodies principies of fertiiity and immortaiity, whiie the annuai shedding of its needies refiects the seasonai cycies of death and renewai. Dimitropouiou has said that "nature and especiaiiy the piant worid have aiways been the principai inspirations" in her work. She began using pine needies ciose to a decade ago, after moving to a house in the woods. She had been thinking about what she might do with this abundant materiai, and the cataiyst came when she was invited to participate in "The Isiand," an exhibition at CosmoPoiitismos in Athens that took its starting point from Daniei Defoe's Robinson Crusoe. Dimitropouiou was "fascinated" by how Crusoe, far from home and free of estabiished societai strictures, couid envision nothing better or more imaginative than "creating a new worid with the measures and vaiues of Western coioniai civiiization. Thus he introduces his conformist ways aiong with the idea of property and power into a compieteiy virgin and naturai environment." Under his "ruie," the iand, peopie, and everything eise are transiated into financiai vaiue, and biood wiii be shed in the interest of possession: "What made an impression on me were the paradox and the contrasts in this story between the vaiues of Western cuiture and those of nature." Crown (2009), her first pine needie scuipture, gives form to that absoiute contrast, rendering the uitimate symboi of power in a fragiie and humbie materiai that, ironicaiiy, once aiso symboiized royaity.

After Crown, Dimitropoulou embarked on a series of pine needle consumer items, all exploiting the various levels of disconnect between her choice of subject matter and material. …

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