Ahead of the latest Arthole exhibition launch, curator Morris Monroe chats to artist Aphrodite Papdatou about the personal, the political and everything in between!
Who are you and what medium do you work in?
My name is Aphrodite Papadatou, I am a woman. I am a Londoner, I am an Athenian, I am a passionate citizen of humanity. I am inspired by the places I live and by my friends and lovers. I am an artist. I like to experience the physical. I increasingly feel the need to express who I am freely through my art. I like to record my impressions of people.
Currently I am a painter and I mostly use acrylic paint on canvas board (I like pressing against hard surfaces), although I find increasing fulfilment and joy in my experimentations with mixed media printing techniques – dry point, mono drawing, photo transfers – usually all done together in one unique piece.
Who was the first artist who mesmerised young you, and what work specifically caught your eye?
The first piece of work I remember being mesmerised by is Guernica by Pablo Picasso. Mine and my sister’s father (also an artist) owned a gallery in Athens bearing that name and there was a reproduction of the painting at the entrance – therein lay the well known Minotaur of the Guernica bombing. It is a most powerful anti-war image that imbued strong convictions in me. I come from a bohemian and anarchist family – my father a political activist in turbulent times in Greece. This image is part of my heritage – and a very topical one at that.
What training have you received in your chosen medium, if any?
I am a self-taught artist. I am not sure I see the process of learning how to make art as a training process, although of course that is all down to semantics! I see ‘training’ as learning through experience, and you either have a passion for doing it – an all consuming urge to make things – or ‘puke art up’ as I say – or you don’t. I do, and this became very urgent for me when I turned thirty-ish. Previously I had had ‘training’ in both printing and painting techniques during my ‘A-levels’ and doing an foundation in Central Saint Martin’s (I quit and studied history and politics at university). So I dropped out of ‘training’ only to return back with the fulness of my force just over two years ago – and here I am! I have so much to say through my art, and it only becomes stronger!
What’s your favourite piece of your work on exhibition with ArtHole?
I like Remember This – with the stripped girl with hosiery and high heels, the gas mask and rope. It is full of symbols that were crucial to me at the time of is making. It has also been featured in a feature film which was recently at the cinemas, together with other works of mine from my London Anarchy series.
In an ideal world, what would you change about the current art world?
All the stuffiness of the ‘haute’ art scene – art takes many shapes indeed, but for me it is really important that it stays raw, evocative, and able to connect with people in a physical and spiritual way. It distresses me how street art, for example, in many western art capitals – has lost the edge it had. You see street art covered by perspex now, right?! I want the art world that rules the markets to rethink this – to democratise art again. There are many cities now, including my home town of Athens, where crisis has meant that art IS the only way of expression. There walls are filled with wonderful murals full of substance and energy. In London we still have it East – but the increasing rents and expensive living in London are driving artists out…. Something needs to happen soon!!
What do you aspire to?
To remain good and kind and adventurous and loving; to never slow down my thirst for learning and experiencing other people’s bodies, souls and wisdom. I aspire to remain human!! And I want to inspire everyone I meet with humanism and humanity.
What music do you make your art to?
Anything that draws my mood on the day! I have an eclectic taste from old punk, metal, indie, classical, rock and roll to Greek blues and native South American music.
Describe your working process for us.
I paint people – my muses. Those that I have a spiritual affinity with. Keeping photographic records of my muses is the first integral part of my creative process, as is internalising the experience of our interaction – whatever that experience becomes! I usually sketch the images and compositions and finally transfer them to canvas – if I am painting. I have obviously different processes for other media I use, for example my mixed media printing process is very ad hoc and free and it focuses on the satisfaction I get from the tools I use to create it – the process of printing unique images – painted and etched on plates – using manually operated intaglio precess, the pleasure I have when I etch plates and scratch in marks on smooth surfaces, the sheers experimentation of the analogue, mono printing technique. The silkiness of the Somerset heavyweight paper I use….Beautiful! Lush. am quite anarchic with my processes generally, whatever medium I work on, but there is method in the madness!
What was the last thing that moved you to tears? (or just moved…)
The handling of the debt crisis in Greece by the EE oligarchs after the democratic referendum in late June. The whole situation made me both angry and tearful in equal measures – mostly tearful of people’s defiance and strength on very compromising everyday conditions. But also so touched by the love and amazing energy people sent – my friends and strangers from back in the UK and other countries….So wonderful, so absolutely touching! Humanity and defiance moves me and softens me. Inhumanity and ruthlessness makes me angry and fierce. Injustice to moves me to tears of pain. Love – giving it and receiving it unconditionally – moves me to tears of joy.
Join Aphrodite Papadatou at the launch of Arthole Presents: Girl Girls Girls on Thursday 30 July from 6pm.