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Interview with Marina Papadaki

Marina Papadaki, is one of the 12 selected artists for this first chapter of Murmur. Having followed her work over the past years, what we found intriguing is her approach on fragile social issues and her involvement on a large number of independent art initiatives in Greece. Through the interview that follows, you can get a better understanding of her practice.

Over the past years you have had the chance to work and explore your practice in several cities, including Belgium, Poland and Serbia. What are the differences that you have experienced between those cities and Athens? How do you think that those experiences have affected your work?

Well, I think that every place affects us differently according to the time we lived there. Poland was my first experience living abroad. I was only 23, and its political history worked as a starting point for the content of my practice. Belgium on the other hand, opened the window of western contemporary art and highlighted the conceptuality of the pieces I produced. And, then in Serbia, I was reminded of the beauty of Eastern Europe’s brutalist architecture and the fact that Communism is not dead. 

Then of course, Athens, which is my home city. I get an intimate feeling in its streets,  with its people, its air, and its light. At home, I don’t create like a foreigner or as a temporary resident artist who explores and observes the place and the people in a different way. I have digested the beauty and ugliness of the city. I think that it is not a coincidence that these last five years, that I have been based in Athens, I have put more of my personal views in my paintings and that my work has become more allegorical. 

Last but not least, what makes Athens unforgettable for an artist is, as already mentioned before, the city’s light and colors and its mix of residents coming from the Balkans, East and West Europe.

Marina Papadaki Banquet hall

Marina Papadaki, Banquet hall, acrylic and spray on canvas, 2021, 200x200cm

Your work has clear political references. How difficult is it for you to bring to the canvas your thoughts and references? 

The challenge for me, every single time, is even though my works have indeed political references, to avoid creating a strictly documentary or historical piece, but to emphasize on the allegorical narrative around those references. This way, there is space for the viewer to create his own window of understanding of what I want to discuss, having a more positive approach, without any traumatic or aggressive directions from me or the piece itself.

Hence the reason why I use a lot of symbolism in my work. It is an effort to be less aggressive. In my past works, the social issues and historical events that I wanted to highlight were at the center of the work, but over time I preferred to position them in the “background” in order to still be supportive of the depicted topic, but in a more discreet way, while highlighting the imaginary part of the story I narrate.

Marina Papadaki Diasporas

Marina Papadaki, Presentation from "Diasporas", project curated by Persefoni Myrtsou and Eva Giannakopoulou

Marina Papadaki To flower to flow

Marina Papadaki, Exhibition "To flower to flow", St. Lucas, Brussels, 2018, curated by Richard Velnet and Camiel Van Winkel

What do you want to evoke to the viewer?

I want to create a meditative and healing space for the viewer, but also a stimulus for action. I do not wish to only create a visually pleasing image.

Can you describe your creative process? From the first idea to the final piece.

I gain inspiration from certain events in history and politics for example from the industrial revolution. My research choices emerge from my interest in architecture, medicine, and industrial production. These disciplines have timelessly been tools for power to categorize, classify, and control nature and our instincts. 

When I decide on the content of a new piece or the subject that I want to highlight, the writing, the drawings, and the digital sketches are my starting point. Then I choose the parts that I want to keep, and their development leads to a painting or an installation (wooden constructions, motion graphics, digital prints, etc.). 

Distribution of Bread at the Tuileries in 1709, Anonymous, Bibliothèque nationale de Franc

Distribution of Bread at the Tuileries in 1709, Anonymous, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris Bridgeman images

Distribution of Bread at the Tuileries in 1709, 2022.JPG

Marina Papadaki, Distribution of Bread at the Tuileries in 1709, acrylic on canvas, 2022, 50x50cm

Is there any ritual you follow while working on a new piece? 

Since I was a student, I have been consistent with three things: having a suitable atmosphere, a well-organized space, and prepare all the materials I use for my works. When I go to my studio I make myself a coffee, turn the music on, clean and organize the space - if needed -, and then  start the actual work. I also enjoy preparing my canvases by myself instead of buying them readymade. 

Marina Papadaki no title

Marina Papadaki, no title, 2022, acrylics on canvas, 50x40cm, 1100€ - work available on Murmur

You are quite active on Instagram. You share many of your new pieces and their progress there. Instagram is definitely an important channel for an artist these days. How easy is it for you to keep up with the social media post expectations?

Well, social media can indeed keep the audience informed about the process of creating a work. But, I also believe, it is a trap for the artist to pay so much attention to it. It is really easy to be distracted by things that do not reflect on the actual reality. 

Any new exciting projects that you are currently working on?

Since the beginning of the year, I have been creating works around the politics of food and agriculture and exploring how these are connected with architecture. It’s a mix of paintings and drawings depicting imaginary stories and spaces or in some cases real ones that I learned through my research about the History of food in Europe, in order to make us think about our basic needs and how the ones in power have taken advantage of our vulnerability. 

Also, I have started to work on a new publication focusing on food. It will include texts, digital sketches, and drawings.

Marina Papadaki Tureen

Marina Papadaki, Tureen, 2020, Acrylics and Spray paint on canvas, 150x100 cm

Marina Papadaki The Great Horse Manure Crisis

Marina Papadaki, The Great Horse Manure Crisis, 2022, Acrylics on canvas, 100x100cm

Interview by Eva Zbogo
Athens, November 2022

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