Kalliopi Lemos: Navigating in the Dark, Part III @ the Crypt Gallery, St. Pancras

The solo exhibition by Greek artist Kalliopi Lemos (in collaboration with The Benaki Museum in Athens and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Crete) at the Crypt Gallery of St. Pancras is the final chapter of the Navigating in the Dark trilogy, a tribute to the long journey of the soul and its reinvention through numerous stages of inner-evolution.

The installation of Lemos represents the immense exploration of our true existence, an in depth esoteric crossing and the struggle of identity realisation. Her sculptures fully enhanced with symbolisms are strategically placed in the crypt’s narrow corridors, accompanied by intense sound effects. As soon as we enter this underworld environment we instantly become part of a journey, we try to find our own path, we face our fears, we see, we hear, we feel lost, we feel abandoned and alone, we close our eyes.. and this is when the journey of the psyche is miraculously led to a catharsis and a transition to a state of purity, the liberation of spirit and discovery of the true self.
|Kostas Prapoglou

Kalliopi Lemos talked to REVma -/+ about her trilogy and her work:

REVma -/+: Transition, physical and spiritual migration have been the main focal point of your work in the last decade. Although St. Pancras’s crypt seems to be the ideal location to compliment the final chapter of your trilogy, Navigating in the Dark, why do you feel that the journey of the soul and our “inner self” should first descent into the “dark place” in order to be able to navigate towards the discovery of our true existence?

K.L.: Navigating in the Dark is a sequence of three exhibitions, comprising sculpture that I created over the past ten years. The exhibitions are presented in varied and meaningful sites, making a journey of their own. First, outdoors in the secular, contemporary, intensely urban space of the Benaki Museum courtyard; then inside the Mosque of Ibrahim Khan in Rethymnon, Crete. For the last part I chose an underground space, the Crypt of St. Pancras Church. The three installations and the sites interact with each other to culminate in the “dark place” as you say, inside the crypt. Some visitors at the last exhibition tell me that they feel overwhelmed almost frightened descending in such a place. In my work I feel the need to discover a base: a truth that is unshaken and that connects you with your core. You have to descend into that ‘dark place’ inside you to discover understanding, sympathy and empathy, first toward yourself and then toward others. Navigating, to me, expresses this lonely search for a direction, as you try to move through the ‘underworld’ toward acceptance, humility and self-awareness. It has to do with movement and exploration.

The boat -as an archetypal shape in my work- represents this transition for me. I treat the boat as the symbol of crossing, a voyage made either by the living or the dead. For me, the roundness and cavity of the boat remind me the human body and its spiritual side; both the boat and the body are the carriers of the souls of the dead to the beyond. I am interested in the crossing of these boundaries; from life to death and the journey in between. In the Crypt, I exhibit three wooden boats, one with steel human figures, one with steel snakes and the last one with steel crows. A metaphor of the human life going through.

REVma -/+: The underworld and its dualism (life and death) played a vital role in people’s lives in the ancient Greek civilization; it was not only the final journey of the soul but also the transition into the ultimate state of an esoteric “catharsis”. Being Greek yourself do you see a correlation between the ancient Greek spirit and your work and, if so, to what extend has this been incorporated with the Navigating in the Dark trilogy?

K.L.: The struggle of the humans, the quarrels of the Gods, the symbolism of the myths and the enactment of the ancient drama are all part of my work. The staging of my trilogies, which unravels in three parts, is reminiscent of the structure of an ancient drama. In my last project on illegal migration the three public art installations in three different cities, Eleusis, Istanbul and Berlin I placed my first installation ‘Crossing’, near Athens, close to the archaeological site of Eleusis, where the cult of Demeter and Persephone was practiced, to link it to the journey to the underworld and the return to life. I tried to raise the awareness of the tragic aspects of this issue, in stages; to express our moral responsibility to our fellow human beings, shaking us out of our complacency. I explore the notion of existing between cultures, identities, and borders. The authentic boats that I used in these installations, the ones that carried the illegal migrants in their journey from East to West, carry especially heavy historical, emotional and conceptual freight. I guess the “catharsis” for me was achieved in front of Brandenburg Gate, as a political, human and cultural statement.

In my second trilogy, Navigating in the Dark, the spirituality of the sculptures is unveiled. I treat the boat shape sculptures, the paper Goddesses, the 28 bees, the steel and salt heads, as sacred objects. Works that contemplate this passage. My aim is for the viewer to experience an affiliation with this passage- feel their ‘catharsis’, their own emotional cleansing. I guess this is similar to the ancient tragedies.

REVma -/+: You have collaborated with director Theodoros Terzopoulos on a performance that will take place during your exhibition. What is the aim of the performance and how do you see the integration of musical theatrical performance with visual art working – especially with regard to your own work?

K.L: During 2011, Theodoros Terzopoulos and I joined our forces to produce a performance that investigates the boundaries between the visual arts and theatre. We created a performance entitled Esperia shown in August in Ancient Sikyon. The work from Navigating in the Dark Part I spurred the collaboration. The nature of the collaboration focused on an impromptu interaction between the actor and the artwork- a raw display of emotions and performance, which involved the direct dialogue with the artwork as a fellow performer. Now, we collaborate again, in Navigating in the Dark Part III, inside the Crypt. He is working on a new theatrical adaptation of Il Deserto, performed by Paolo Musio. It is a strong monologue, a raw performance that exposes the human psyche. This kind of performance works very well with my own work. When I exhibit my work, I try to create an environment with a meaning. Mostly an environment of inner contemplation. That is why the location, where I choose to show my work every time, is of crucial importance to the meaning of the work.

REVma -/+: You have recently exhibited the first two chapters of your trilogy in Greece (Part I, Benaki Museum in Athens; Part II, Ibrahim Khan Mosque and the Museum of Contemporary Art of Rethymnon, Crete). What are your views on the status of the contemporary art in Greece at present and are there possibilities for young artists to develop within the country borders, especially during these volatile times?

K.L.: I feel blessed that I have been able to work and live abroad for the stimuli that this experience has given me. But, I carry the voices of the culture and tradition of my country in me and within my work. Young artists have to find and be true to their inner voice. These volatile times are really hard, but also leave room for free, spontaneous expression and interaction. In terms of artistic creation it could mean freedom, in terms of actual production and border crossing of the work- is definitely a difficult time.