Sunday, 25 September 2011

Tasseography 2011

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OLYMPIA POLYMENI - TASSEOGRAPHY: extended until 13 May 2011
April 6th - May 13th
Much to our delight, Olympia Polymeni's new installation is incessantly changing in shape and texture to the point of gaining another dimension of meaning.
Olympia has always expressed fascination with art objects that reflect on their own subject matter, and now after one week at Sartorial, her works allude to the art of ‘reading the coffee' more than ever before.
Gloss paint is known for its penchant for mutation and changes of shape and texture well after the painting is formally – that is, by traditional standards – completed.

Polymeni's choice of medium can only be considered perfect, now that it resonates with the metaphor of tasseography and identities shaped by chance and perception.

On this occasion the exhibition shall be extended until the 13th of May.

Polymeni’s work takes an unusual twist on the over-used motif of the female identity, explored through the metaphor of tasseography, or the art of fortune-telling by patterns of ground coffee on the surface of a white cup, that is still widely practiced in her native Greece. Polymeni has created a series of paintings and sculptures evocative of curvy female outlines as though formed by leftover coffee.

The traditional reading of the female body would have it reduced to the womb, a black hole leading to decay and death, irrational like fortune telling or like Polymeni’s uncannily disjointed bodies.  Lumpy blacknesses acquire a presence of their own, as the texture of paint and sculptures of wax trigger off an intensely organic response, making the fragments of female bodies seem accidental and insignificant, as though they could have taken any other shape.

Polymeni interrogates and subverts the traditional notion of femininity reduced to confinement and “womanly” pastimes like “telling the coffee” in the afternoon just to while away the time. Not without irony, identity is represented as tragically dissipated with no hope to ever be whole again, constructed and refashioned over and over again by social norms and preconceptions. The female body eventually becomes a scene for political, social and existential statements.

Olympia Polymeni was born in Preveza, Greece in 1975. After graduating in philosophy, she studied painting at Athens School of Fine Arts and moved to London in 2009 to pursue her studies, earning an MA in Fine Art from Central St. Martins College in 2010. She lives and works in East London. 

26 Argyle Square London WC1H 8AP - - + 44 (0) 20 7278 0866
2010 Sartorial Contemporary Art

See-through, gloss paint on wood, 150 x 100 cm, 2011

Swallow, gloss paint on wood, 150 x 100 cm, 2011

Torso in Ermine, gloss paint on wood, 150 x 100 cm, 2011

Mole, gloss paint on wood, 100 x 150 cm, 2011

Pythia, h 67 x w 44 x d 49 cm, black wax, 2011

The Importance of the Others

Nicola Ruben Montini invited the Greek artist Olympia Polymeni to show her works in his home/studio Space4828 of Venice. The two artists first met at Central Saint Martin's College in London, where they focused their interest on gender studies, a research area not covered by the academic system in their native Countries, Italy and Greece.

Feminist and gay issues, The Importance of the others is an open studio perceived as dialogue between the works of two artists who defines themselves as gay activist and a feminist artist.
The statement of the exhibition is the margin between the two works in which both artists have resorted to use cinematic references to explicit their research: the videos Sorry (by NRM) and Beware of the Cross (by O.P.).

Part of the performative research of NRM incorporates the language of feminist performance addressing to issues related to homosexuality, in an attempt of re-enacting the subversive intent and searching for the crudity of the radical feminist direct language, with paradoxical results. In her paintings and sculptures Olympia Polymeni does not appear assertive in telling the women’s condition but rather seems to find the screen of formality and tone of blunt aesthetic "more diplomatic" and allusive. In both cases, it problematizes the machismo as a discourse on violence. Subverting a balance of power becomes an exercise in elegance and sometimes shamelessness.

Chiara Trivelli

All works by Olympia Polymeni are Courtesy of Sartorial Contemporary Art Gallery (London).

Spazio totale a un mese dalla Biennale. A Venezia inaugura la casa/studio/galleria d’artista Space4828 tra omosessualità e femminismo

Olympia Polymeni, Beware of the cross 2011 (still da video)

Il mondo fra quattro mura. Questa l’impressione che si ricava, leggendo la presentazione di Space4828, nuovo eclettico spazio che si inaugura a Venezia poche settimane prima dell’inizio della Biennale. “È la casa/studio del giovane artista italiano Nicola Ruben Montini a Venezia, dove lui come artista, curatore e residente cura mostre, talks e proiezioni di e sull’arte contemporanea”.
Come dire: tutto quel che serve, a portata di mano. Che ora Montini intende condividere, creando “un luogo per la discussione e per la ricerca sull’arte contemporanea, con particolare interesse per trends emergenti da tutto il mondo”. Auguri! Intanto ha a esporre l’artista greca Olympia Polymeni: i due si sono conosciuti nientepopodimenoché al Central Saint Martin’s College di Londra, dove hanno potuto approfondire l’interesse per i gender studies, settore di ricerca non contemplato dal sistema accademico dei loro Paesi d’origine, l’Italia e la Grecia. In programma un open studio sul tema Feminist and gay issues, The importance of the others, pensato come dialogo tra le opere di un artista che si autodefinisce attivista gay e quelle di un’artista femminista.
Inaugurazione: giovedì 5 maggio 2011 – ore 18.30
Cannaregio 4828 – Venezia


Sarah's Nipples


Two hundred and forty three


 Sarah’s Nipples
2010 by Olympia Polymeni
Central Saint Martins MA Show

Polymeni’s work seizes the true potential that lies within the monotone relationship of black and white. All her work is articulated through a dense inky black, with shape manipulated subtly through soft large swells and curves. This yielding articulation stops any of the harsh contrast so easily achieved through black and white, as well as allowing these compositions a deeply organic effect despite their unforgiving colour palette. This is perhaps particularly poignant in Polymeni’s three dimensional work: sculptures made out of bees wax – wax literally melting into these softly lined shapes. This impact and emphasis on material and form is achieved in the two dimensional pieces with the amount of white space these black shapes have to breath in. Surrounded by white the effect is one of a spot, a stain, a centre point; we are made to focus on black in its deliberate and obvious invasion of white. Sarah’s Nipples’ shape takes advantage of this focus, allowing the change of the rounded curve to a determined yet quiet diversion on the left a true presence. This gentle change is pleasing to the viewer, whose automatic tendency to try and recognise form becomes more determined with the composition’s simplicity, or happy to accept defeat with a shape so uncomplicatedly abstract; indeed, deciphering on the part of the viewer is made all the more intriguing with such a provocative title.  There is something contented, restrained but with satisfaction, about Polymeni’s compositions, proving the power of the abstract that lies in its refraining of mirroring reality.

Words by Sophie Hill

Cycladic Torso, ink on paper, 2010

Torso II, acrylic on paper, 2010


                                                          Torso I, acrylic on paper, 2010

The Elephant Woman, gloss paint on paper, 2010

Supine, gloss paint on paper, 2010

Genitalia, beeswax, 2010

Installation view, CSM MAFA, 2010