Voyage to Vorres.

A residency in the Vorres Museum, Paiania, Greece, 2015

“Paiania is a small eastern suburb of Athens and is located in East Attica on Mount Hymettus. This is where the Vorres Museum was first established in 1983. The museum aims to preserve and promote Greek art and culture through exhibitions, residencies and related activities. It has a significant collection of ancient artifacts, folk art and contemporary Greek art. The complex is surrounded by maze-like gardens of Mediterranean vegetation, historic buildings and Greek sculpture. With a concentration on work from the 19th century to the second half of the 20th century, the museum reveals the beauty, complexity and re-adaptation of ancient Greek architecture with indigenous plants.

Ian Vorres founded the museum in 1983 and dedicated his life to building cultural bridges between Canada and Greece. When he passed away in 2015, his grandsons and the Hellenic Canadian Embassy sought to honor his life by establishing the first Canadian Artist Residency in Greece. Remarkably, the first residency program coincided with the national debt crisis and the massive influx of Syrian refugees, and with ambitious intentions to address the significance and preservation of art, archives, and architecture as markers of history and Greek cultural identity, the residency was launched just as most cultural institutions in Greece were being closed.

The first Canadian artist to be invited to reside at the Vorres Museum was Eveline Kolijn. With an established practice in Calgary, Kolijn’s work ranges from printmaking to installation. Her prints and works on paper push against the fixity of simple abstract figures – circles, ovals, squares and crossing lines that reference biological cells, natural patterns, fossils, and marine life. Kolijn’s prints which are based on the microscopic imagery of cells, mobilize the viewer to another layer of knowledge and possibility through abstraction. Aesthetic choices of materials and subject matter are strongly linked to the artist’s interest in forming a visual dialectic of natural organic patterns and synthetic construction. Her concept of carbon-sink systems provides a useful way to think about the interrelations of the earth’s ecosystem. In her practice, she constantly researches and re-evaluates the increasing alienation of human culture and natural origin.

Kolijn was highly influenced by the contemporary art collection at the Vorres. In her work, Metabolic Rift, she shows her deep interest in Aristotle’s natural philosophy and Karl Marx’s theory of ecology. Just like the rift itself emulates the environmental and ecological crisis, so does Metabolic Rift show the cracks and disconnections that capitalism creates between social and natural systems.”

Anahita Akhavan, curator, Voyage to Vorres Exhibition,

Gordon Snelgrove Gallery, University of Saskatchewan, 2017

In 2013 I participated in an exhibition at the Vorres Museum called “The Lure of the Local: Women Artists and the Canadian Landscape”. It was curated by Katerina Pizania to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the political Greek-Canadian relationship. The exhibition was opened by the former Governor General of Canada, Michaëlle Jean. The founder of the museum, Ian Vorres, was present. At this time, the museum was also made Canada House. Mr. Vorres passed away in 2014 and the management of the museum was passed on to his grandsons. They wanted to expand the programming of the museum and started a residency for Canadian artists. I was invited to be the inaugural artist because I was part of the “Women Artists and the Canadian Landscape” exhibition.

When I arrived in 2015, the refugee crisis was heating up. Even more on the forefront, was the socio-economic situation and Greece’s position in the European Union. I had been visiting Greece for three years in a row and was falling in love with the country. All through these years, the issue was the “bankruptcy” and membership of Greece in the EU. You could see the amount of boarded-up and closed buildings in Athens increasing. People had no money and how Greece had to deal with this was an overwhelming problem.
I had decided in advance not to engage with the many socio-political issues of the current situation because my art focuses on the environmental, not the political – even though these have become entangled in the Anthropocene. I did read up on classical Greek philosophy, especially on the work of Aristotle and his role as the original Natural Historian.

I had been looking for an opportunity to apply folded paper forms in my work again. The focus of the residency was to work on that idea. The Euclidean Geometry of folded lines connects with Classical Greece. The prerequisite of the residency was to incorporate the museum’s collection in some manner. I decided that the collection would deliver the content to the folded form. It all came together along the lines of a nature-culture dialectic. It even led me to discover a concept that was new to me but developed by Karl Marx: the Metabolic Rift.

Human Landscape - Painting by Yannis Gaitis (1976)

My readings on Aristotle were incorporated in the other body of work I made during the residency: my fingerprint carved into a stump of Mediterranean pine that I had collected from the garden. The fingerprint was inspired by the sculptures by Christina Sarandopoulos.

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