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Χάπι People, Xάπι Nation at Peggy Kliafa’s exhibition

December 16, 2013

Pharmakon is an exhibition with an attractive appearance but poisonous content. All the art pieces in this solo exhibition by Peggy Kliafa revolve around the idea of medicines and the way these relate to notions such as Religion, Nature, and Science. The material, en mass – pills, wrappers, leaflets with instructions for use, packages – reflects a body of work that has an equally large quantity in the genres in which it develops. The main theme is presented exhaustively in a variety of media. First of all, in the recognizable stained-glass windows, which remind us of European Cathedrals and which we have already seen in previous years – some of the most apt and accomplished works by the artist. Also in many canvases and sculptures that use our familiar aluminium blister packs for capsules as tesserae to compose pieces of geometric motifs, shiny enlargements of biological formations reminiscent of observing bacteria and micro-organisms under the microscope.
In sculptures-reliefs this medium produces impressive pieces that almost make you want to touch them – as if someone who, although he can see, feels the attraction to “read” by touch these surfaces as if written in Braille. The ensemble is completed by two long “wallpapers”, the first one like a wall from a pink children’s bedroom, where furnishing and decoration are made entirely of colourful pills and bottles of children’s syrups – the parallel food of every young organism in our contemporary chemical universe. The other “wallpaper” is a reproduction in print of the instructions of use of the medicines upon which some flowers are imprinted. In both cases, the juxtaposition of the background and the motifs is successful. In the children’s room, the pink colour is on the verge of vertiginous, the excess precise.

The exhibition is a fit comment of more or less powerful works. The small paintings of bottles of syrup were weak and somehow unnecessary; the small white sculpture of painkiller effervescent tablets that compose a male figure corroded by the chemicals is a powerful, perhaps one of the best works in the exhibition.

You cannot see this work and not think of the medicine cabinets and the Pill universe of Damien Hirst, the British artist with the on-going obsession of death that informs his body of work. We are not suggesting plagiarism; his work is so well known that it would have been pure naivety for an artist to appropriate it without the wisdom that comparisons will be automatically made. And the concurrent development of ideas is a common occurrence – it happens in a magical way even for ideas that seem to spring up in people’s heads, people totally unrelated and in totally different places on earth.

Peggy Kliafa treats a similar concept in her own way and produces her own art, which seems to confirm an identifiable trend in the younger generation of Greek artists, one that has become evident in the last three years. We saw it very clearly in Rooms 2011 and it was also confirmed later: the trend for the accumulation of a material in large, massive numbers in an effort of excess and its transformation into a specific conceptual framework, into a ritual repetition, the return of “handcrafting”, whose painstaking implementation necessarily takes a very long time, and to a certain degree also the idea of recycling and reuse. At least three of the exhibitions that we saw in the last two months shared these elements. It is not a coincidence; it is a remarkable change in materials, form and content, from which new and interesting art emerges. One must at least respect the effort, the labour and the quest for a new language.

Very interesting, impressive at times, Peggy Kliafa’s solo exhibition will be open until January 11, 2014.

Giota Konstantatou, Art Historian/Art Critic

Kappatos Art Gallery

12, Athinas Str, Monastiraki
Tel: 210 3217931
Opening Hours: Tue., Wed., Thur., Fri. 12.00-20.00, Sat. 12.00-16.00