Kiki Kolympari in Athens

Kiki Kolympari painting

The motifs that are depicted in Kiki Kolympari’s work have familiar features, yet it is not usually possible to fully identify what objects or situations the artist had in mind when she started the painting. Some of them behave like words on the tip of your tongue, almost but not fully  recognizable. What is depicted could be a bag, a trunk, a shopping cart, or a figure seeing itself in the mirror. In multiple paintings, there is a human presence – the color of skin, body-shaped curves, or hints of a person in an interior, a building, or a landscape.

The paintings have one foot in the world as we know it and the other foot in abstraction and imagination. The artist extracted certain shapes from what she saw, and then she changed the color, allowed a line or detail to grow, to have a life of its own. She let accidents happen, let paint run or drip. She moved away from what was observed and instead directed her attention to the dynamics the shapes evoke, creating an afterimage or a further development of the initial motif.

What happens when we look at a painting and cannot immediately name the things depicted? Instead of identifying a subject matter or a scene, we can look at other aspects: at texture, at details, at how a curve bends, at how two colors bond or contrast. The paintings offer us a range of sensibilities caused by colors at play. These aspects relate primarily to the question of how it was painted, not what was painted.

What can be appreciated in Kolympari’s approach is how she shifts gears within individual works. Firm, decisive brushstrokes evoking speed press against other areas where the paint is brought on thin or remains calm. Bold gestures give the paintings a general outline, a sense of stability, while softer and gentler areas create nuances. The works present themselves as a play of balancing forces.

The question of how something is painted points to the haptic quality of painting, a feeling of touch that can best be enjoyed close to the surface, practically right on top of the work, to observe precisely how things are made. A few steps further back, the focus is on the  orchestration of the whole, the play between fore- and background, the compositional balance, a feeling of floating or gravity, and, sometimes, a scene that reveals itself as an interior or view to the outside. There are competing conceptions of space within the paintings, the flatness of the painted surface broken by the occasional illusion of depth.

With these works, the artist does not attempt to educate  or make any points about the state of the world, the next crisis, or the right solution. Rather, she presents a series of visual situations that have their roots in daily life, but were transformed into something different. A painted presence that is just as much illusion as it is material fact.

This text was written on the occasion of the exhibition Kiki Kolympari ‘Afterimages’ at Athens Art Gallery. The exhibition is on view till Saturday 18.6.2022.

‘A Matter of Touch’ at Torstrasse 111 in Berlin

A Matter of Touch, Exhibition - Curated by Jurriaan Benschop.

Touch is an important aspect of painting. The temperaments of the artists in this exhibition can be felt through the way they have worked and touched the canvas, be it with a firm, decisive brushstroke, a light touch to create transparency, or the sanding off of layers to create flatness or roughness. A whole range of sensibilities can be stored in a painting, speaking to us even before we identify what is actually depicted.

Though keeping distance has become the norm in public life, in the realm of paintings, we can be reminded of physical encounters and intimacy, and enjoy a close perspective. The artists in this exhibition embrace the tactile and are interested in paintings as physical matter. Yet their focus is also on less tangible aspects of the artworks, such as luminosity, wonder, or absence. The importance of light can be felt throughout a range of different motifs and vocabularies.

The works have been collected from studios on both sides of the Atlantic. Due to the pandemic, not all artists are able to be present for the opening, yet their works offer us an artistic dialogue across borders. The paintings find a temporary home in the ruinous beauty of the Kunst- und Projekthaus Torstrasse 111. Located in the center of Berlin, the space evokes the time when the city offered itself as an artistic Freiraum.

Participating artists: Nikos Aslanidis, Thessaloniki; Thomas Brüggemann, Berlin; Michelle Jezierski, Berlin; Joseph Kameen, Aiken, South Carolina; Kiki Kolympari, Athens; Adrienne Elyse Meyers, Chicago; Grit Richter, Hamburg; Rubica von Streng, Berlin         

Curated by Jurriaan Benschop for Kunst- und Projekthaus Torstrasse 111, 10119 Berlin. Project management: Ulrike Seyboth & Ingo Fröhlich,

Exhibition from 16 July till 30 August 2020.

Image above: installation view with works by Rubica von Streng and Nikos Aslanidis.

MORE exhibition views

Painting Exhibition A Matter of Touch, exhibition view, Adrienne Elyse Meyers, Rubica von Streng, Jurriaan Benschop
Exhibition A Matter of Touch, works by Adrienne Elyse Meyers (back) and Rubica von Streng (front)