EXHIBITIONS / ΕΚΘΕΣΕΙΣ
Rania Bellou: ‘Between I and Me’ @ 12 Star Gallery

London based Greek artist Rania Bellou exhibits her new work titled ‘Between I and Me’ at the 12 Star Gallery in London

Bellou’s visual language involves the salvaging process of memory detritus via a channel of personal/interpersonal voyaging. The exploration of past events through ubiquitous templates of personal and social calibre demonstrates a reinvented presence of bygone eras. This almost oneiric product seamlessly interspersed challenges and reactivates the viewer’s involvement; the viewer becomes a participant in a reconstructed -almost idealistic- reality that comingles traces of timeworn with newly injected emotional baggage.

Rania Bellou talked to REVma -/+ about her exhibition and work:

REVma -/+: The subjective idiosyncrasy of “private” memory through space and time appears to play a pivotal role in your narrative. What makes you explore and question this particular context through its potential interrelation between the viewer and your work?
R.B.: My real challenge is to read an image as a presentation that is capable of creating new contexts, or – to distance ourselves from the textual metaphor – new configurations.

During the early part of my career my work examined the relationships between the viewer and the artwork in terms of spatial representation and narrative. The duality between transparency/glass, reflection/mirror and absence/presence became a recurrent theme. The intention was to initiate a dialogue or conversation with the viewer through the visual information that I provided. I deliberately bombarded the viewer with a collection of visual image layers to be read as a narrative within itself. This packaging of the collected visual information is often in parallel with various media systems, drawings, texts, sculptures and animations. These images are reflections from stories, songs and rhymes of childhood, that are then woven with a deep concern for the character’s life. 
Traces of the character’s presences in the form of objects and videos are left at various points and from these, together with drawings and other elements in the installation, a ghost narrative can be pieced together.

The point on which I base my research is the recognition that a process of creation or of information is not complete without the assumption of responsibility on the part of the viewer, who is no longer just a ‘passive receiver’ (spectator) but also a very important ‘energetic pole’ (producer) of an experience.

REVma -/+: The exhibition literature references Proustian memory. To what extent do you feel that involuntary memory may become the cornerstone of one’s self-reality and can this have an immense impact on an interpersonal and social level?
R.B.: The fact that we generally express memory through language means that there will be a wide gulf between memories and our expression of them, just as there is a dissociation between memory and experience. As Proust’s narrator says in In Search of Lost Time “We feel in one world, we think, we give names to things in another; between the two we can establish a certain correspondence, but not bridge the gap”. Through the use of visuals and sounds as Proustian triggers, I believe that a work of art shows the way we perceive the world outside of time.

Benjamin’s media aesthetics opens highly relevant perspectives by raising the question as the extent that visual literacy might be explicated in the model of textuality. However, deciphering the representative aspects of an image in my drawings and relating it to a textual context are not yet a reading in a strict sense. In the light of Benjamin’s recourse to psychoanalysis, the real challenge is to read an image as a presentation that is capable of creating new contexts, or – to distance ourselves from the textual metaphor – new configurations.

In my drawings I use traces of the past and point at something that is absent, but it can also indicate the state of the relationship between technology and magic, that is, its own mediacy. Not unlike what Benjamin calls a “dialectical image”, my work is marked by a ‘historical index’.By becoming a cultural archeologist, an archivist having a total knowledge of the material I am using, I am trying to draw new links between what was deposited there, giving birth to unpredictable stories.

REVma -/+: You are a young Greek artist pursuing a successful career in both Greece and worldwide. Your work has been exhibited, amongst elsewhere, in Mexico, at Moscow’s 2nd International Biennale for Young Art and The Royal Academy of Arts in London. How achievable is it for a young artist to expand their career outside Greece and how do you see the arts scene evolving in Greece at present?
R.B.: I am based in London and represented by Kalfayan Galleries, a Greek gallery with a strong international profile. The advancement of an artist’s international career comes through a long-term effort and is realized through the participation at international projects, Biennials, museum and institutional shows (such as my current exhibition at 12 Star Gallery, Europe House, London), residencies as well as art fairs such as, in my case for example, The Armory Show Contemporary, Art Dubai, Art Cologne among others.

Just like everybody else in the world, we need to support activities that aim to excavate, rescue, study and continue the creative process where art is approachable and communicative with the wider audience. In Greece, art institutions are state-run or state-funded and the state’s capacity has decreased during the last few years. We haven’t invested enough on art education, having as a consequence the lack of spiritual growth therefore I believe a new generation of artists will emerge that will be a reservoir of hope, ideas and new economic growth that can lead us out of the crisis (this might be too idealistic..). For an artist to expand their career outside Greece is as challenging as it is within Greece. It is definitely achievable; we look at the chaos of the world and create a sense of perspective and hope.