Yiota Skarveli artistically matured in London which became her home for more than two decades. There in the frame of abstract expressionism she developed her personal style, characterized by strive of intimate philosophical pondering which is prevailing in her work from 1985 to present.
Yiota Skarveli’s exhibition “Happy Days II” conveys two meanings. The first meaning is strongly related to the work of Samuel Beckett sharing the same title. In particular, “Happy days II” is the continuation of the previous exhibition recently presented in Athens (“Happy days I”) and represents group of works under the same volume. The reference to the work of the Irish writer could convey the intention of the painter to ease the ‘reading’ for the spectator.
The painter’s brush strokes reveal true, brief, ‘happy’ moments of the past. Those moments belong there and linger safe from potential upturns. When sensed at present they pose harsh questions: Those moments and days in the past, where truly happy? The way they where welcomed by the smile of Winnie, Beckett’s heroin, who every time calls out ‘Another heavenly Day’? Or in the name of perceived happiness the individual is consumed in comfort, settles down, gets trapped and deprives himself from the prospective of revolt and liberation of conventional limits established by him or the society. Those limits engulf his life. The answer to those questions is obviously extremely personal to the spectator.
Analogous questions are raised by Yiota Skarveli’s female figures entrapped gazing the viewer with the fayum stillness. Even under the viewer’s constant gaze, their glare surpasses the spectator constantly seeking contact and salvation beyond.
The alteration and the intensity of strokes, the fabrics, the earthy colors in parallel with the lucid red and blue and the way old photographs are framed deepen the sensation of entrapment in quest of escape.
Evidently, “Happy days” relate to the personal style and artistic past of the painter where the pair ‘past-present’ concern the artist throughout her career. Similar to the mood in the previous works: Was Now, Now in the Past and the Presence of Absence. In those series one can trace the decay of the material world as well as the decay of the human. The ‘present’ is portrayed as an undivided whole to the ‘past’ and the projection of the ‘future’ is mirrored in the past rather than the present.
The presence of photographs augments the pair ‘past-present’ not only because the old photographs are utilized in the present but they are ‘structured’ with the appropriate materials. Materials such as sand, marble dust and earth (dust to dust and earth to earth) transform the works to tomb stones that dedicate the ‘past’ into the ‘present’
The same intention is revealed by the artist in the series of books with the title “The Book of Hours”. Namely, The Book of Hours was one of the most important books of pray during the medieval ages exceptional for its decoration and the custom additions of the owner.
In this series the painter enables the viewer to go through the work page by page dismissing the ‘Don’t touch’ rule of the museum. The limitation in contrast, takes the form of suggestion; Touch. The artist does not struggle or worry about annulling decay as she recognizes that entropy expresses the natures law and art has to obey. The artist effort to achieve immortality may be in vain. This is the reason the spectator is at liberty to touch with his finger tops The Book, feel its substance and leave his marks. Anything left at the work itself is past to the next viewer as an integrated dialogue of past and present.
Personal messages devoted by the artist on the canvas, taken from her personal studies, convey an iconoplastic force adding extra meaning to the work. Text and image meet in a complete unity that through dialogue, reaches a greater intensity. The spectator is encouraged to extent the meaning of each page in his own way. By adding or subtracting words from the text itself, in the process the reading becomes the viewers own book.
The Exhibition is hosted at Sykiki an old warehouse filled with the memories of people who worked and lived there adds an extra dimension to the viewers attention.
Yiota Skarveli with her choice to exhibit in a place, whose original purpose “warehouse” belongs to the past, encourages us operating in these superficial modern times to experience the past not as captives but as creators nourished by roots weathered and long-lasting through time.
Georgia Kakourou Chroni
Copyright © Yiota Skarveli — 2017