Evita Frantzola: The Dubai Project @ Broadbent Gallery

Broadbent Gallery presents the solo show of Greek painter Evita Frantzola, titled ‘The Dubai Project – Images from the Transformation’ and comprising of 12 medium sized mixed media paintings.

Frantzola’s narrative is stimulated by the architectural boom and the transformation of the urban landscape in Dubai since the early years of the 21st century. During her three month residency in Dubai (winter of 2007-2008), Frantzola experienced the rapid change of the surrounding cityscape as a result of a massive capital influx. This profound development and emergence of a city that re-established its status in the geopolitical map of the general region triggered Frantzola’s inspiration. The abstract mood of her paintings reminiscent of Gerhard Richter’s colour palette reflects the vibe of the instant urbanism she witnessed.

The depiction of prodigious building sites populated and interspersed with innumerable cranes may be mistaken with shadows of (non-existent) forest trees at nighttime. The -almost poetic- human absence from Frantzola’s paintings inadvertently leads to an underlying statement emphasising the human element and its objective real presence, ready to invade and morphologically, socially and culturally desecrate the -up to then- undisturbed locus.

Evita Frantzola talked to REVma -/+ about her exhibition:

REVma -/+: Your narrative reflects the technological advancement and constructional evolution that took place in Dubai during the first decade of the 21st century. Why did you choose Dubai over other analogous cities situated in the Persian Gulf region and undergoing parallel development?
E.F.: Dubai was the pioneer among all the emirates and other countries of the Gulf region and its current ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, has been credited for advancing Dubai’s infrastructure & economy. However, “The Dubai Project” was conceived in the spring of 2007 as my good friend Maurice Glucksman and I were working on an architectural installation at my ancestral home on the island of Cythera in Greece.

At the time Dubai was undergoing a historic transformation and we –a group of friends- had just visited the city for a short vacation. While there we were kindly offered a personal tour by a friend and also the project architect for one of the most notable construction sites in the world at the time: now known as the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. The sheer scale of the construction site was staggering, even though at the time it was a small fraction of its eventual height. The enormity of the challenge, not just as an architectural goal but also as a journey and a process leading to the realization of the architectural goal was stunning. The whole area was teeming with activity and the scene was like a highly choreographed dance performance with thousands of construction workers heaving in and out of the massive structure at every shift.

Beyond the Burj Khalifa, the city was a forest of cranes and new buildings were sprouting up everywhere along the strip of desert running from the old city on the Creek past the new airports, seaports, marinas, technology and financial cities and projects to construct an extraordinary string of manmade islands forming giant palms and a map of the world. The Dubai cityscape was extraordinarily dynamic and yet serene and this combination was captivating and intriguing. The images from this remarkable scene seemed truly unique and I became increasingly convinced that it was a moment, an image and a feeling in the history of the city that I wanted to capture and register.

REVma -/+: What is the audience’s response to your chosen narrative so far and to what extent do you feel the London audience in particular will react towards your subject matter?
E.F.: So far, there has been a high interest in the particular narrative for various reasons, the most important being that through my work the audience is able to experience a distant reality, that of the huge transformation of Dubai. These are images of Dubai’s remarkable growth from a sleepy fishing village to today’s modern metropolis. This process is extremely dynamic, full of positive energy and yet serene in the city nightscapes. And at this time of expanding economic crisis it hopefully brings to the viewer a sense of a promising tomorrow. In that sense the London audience is susceptible to the subject matter as much as any other European audience.

REVma -/+: What made you decide to exhibit this new series of work in London and not in Greece? Does the idiosyncrasy of your theme echo a rapid capitalisation that would not fit within the Greek situation at present?
E.F.: London was always the destination for the first exhibit of this work independent of the current circumstances in Greece. Why? Because as an artist, my challenge is to raise the standard of my work and measure it against the finest artists in the world. I do believe that there are many world class artists in Greece, but today London is where my work needs to be measured. London is recognised as the centre of contemporary art in Europe if not the world; and has the toughest competition as well as the most challenging critics and discerning collectors. That is not to say that my valued clientele from Greece have not taken an interest. In fact there is huge interest in Greece about these works and many travelled from Greece to see the exhibition despite the turbulence and political uncertainty at home. I feel very proud to be Greek and today more than ever Greece needs its people to deliver the fruits of their talent to the rest of the world and look outward and not inward. So if anything, the circumstances in Greece today support the idea of exhibiting in London now more than ever.