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Interview – i efimerida

Portraits of… pills: An original visual-arts exhibition that will be the talk of the town

16.12.2013 14:19

Exhibits that fascinate visitors, even though their subject and original source of inspiration are usually unpleasant, yet definitely indispensable, are on view at the Kappatos Gallery. Pills, their shape, packaging, solid yet soluble composition, form an attractive world that creatively inspires the visual artist Peggy Kliafa. It is not by accident that she titled her new exhibition Pharmakon.

The visual artist created paintings, surfaces, as well as impressive stained-glass windows. She talked to about the media she uses, the allusions of the exhibition and the art works themselves.

The first thing that one would ask regarding your solo exhibition would be why “Pharmakon”?
The ancient-Greek word pharmakon, which describes all the work on view in the exhibition, is used both in a literal and metaphorical sense. The subject of all the art works is the medicine and its different aspects. These art works were made from 2008 until today and belong to three conceptual groups, “Religion – Metaphysics”, “Nature”, and “Science – Chemistry”. Namely the historical phases of medicine with which its meaning has been identified at different times until today. Nowadays we might still use as a medicine faith or prayer, the products of nature and those of science simultaneously and alternatively.


It is an original subject for a visual-arts exhibition. How did your involvement with this subject begin?
The subject is not common, but it has been the subject of several visual artists from the beginning of the previous century. I hope that the way with which I approach it is original. I believe that the medicine is a very important part of our lives, to a different degree for each individual. Certain medicines changed the flow of history, for example antibiotics. In addition, perhaps it is the means for me to talk about matters that have preoccupied man for ever: the ephemerality of existence, our attitude towards life and death, the power of faith, innocence, the dual nature of things, moderation.


What kinds of art works are there in the exhibition?
There are paintings, such as “Portraits of Pills”, constructions, such as the stained-glass windows, installations, a sculpture of a male figure made of effervescent tablets and a video that shows its dissolution in water, various assemblages made of worthless, used parts of pharmaceutical packaging, and wallpapers.


You use very different visual arts media and materials.
This is common in contemporary art. There comes an idea, and the visual artist must express it through the medium that best conveys it in his/her opinion. I am generally very interested in working with different media, and medicines gave me various possibilities. Pills, in different colours and shapes, and their packaging, are employed in some of the art works in geometrical, repeated patterns, meticulously organised and absolutely symmetrical, while in other artworks there is a looser structure. In any case, when one uses worthless materials the quality of execution becomes important, I think; this makes their creation time-consuming, but I find that relaxing. I also believe that the material itself “always narrates something” even outside of other contexts. All the more so, the packaging of used medicines.


I notice that your art works involve the element of surprise. The first impression that one gets from a distance changes as he/she approaches and realizes the use of unexpected materials and unexpected concepts.
This is indeed an element that exists in all of my work – to give another impression in the first “reading” and another in the second. The ambiguity of the medicine endows with the ambiguity the works themselves. In addition, although I absolutely believe that art must be conceptual, I am interested in the aesthetic effect as well. And this is also surprising: how worthless, used, crumpled materials that are usually discarded, can be used to achieve images that exhale a feeling of “luxury”, of “perfection” in a way.


Although your exhibition has a perhaps “unpleasant” subject for some people, it does not leave one with a feeling of pessimism.
This happens because, first of all, I prefer for my works not to take a clear stance; I like them to pose questions, but to be open-ended. Secondly, art works, after all, unconsciously capture what their creator has inside him/her, and I am not pro or against medicines. I am all for moderation.


Peggy Kliafa’s solo exhibition Pharmakon opened on November 28 at the Kappatos Gallery, 12, Athinas Str., Monastiraki, and will be open through January 11.
Kappatos Gallery, 12, Athinas Str., Monastiraki, Tel.: 2103217931.

Opening hours: Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri 12-8pm Sat 12-4pm