Abstract sculpture and installation are media which are not often discussed outside the most knowledgeable art circles, perhaps because it is fenced off by the general population’s inability to perceive what it is or does, or for the simple reason that it just isn’t widely publicised.
It seems to go deeper than conventional visual art, mainly in that there are extra dimensions in which to present an idea, and which themselves can be skewed. It is this that Greek-born Ioanna Pantazopoulou cites as a possible reason why installation seemed an attractive field: “It was not necessarily a conscious choice, but rather a necessity that evolved from the result of an ongoing exploration of process and progress in my practice. I began as a painter, however scale became a problematic issue for me, the frame of the canvas posed a limitation.”
Ioanna was born in Athens. “My mother was a ballerina and my father a natural dreamer with a great imagination,” she said of her parents. “I am not sure when art came into my life, I just remember it being there, always doing something with my hands.” And even then it wasn’t the conventional painting or doodling that occupied the young Ioanna; it’s as though she has always been interested in taking advantage of any space for the purpose of creativity: “I remember as a child painting on bricks, pebbles, pumpkins, walls, furniture.”
Though fully Greek, her education has left her with a bilingual and a bicultural dilemma. It took place at a British International School in Athens called Campion, which taught the British curriculum (GCSEs, etc.) in lessons conducted in English. “Growing up as a child I was not seen as Greek, and upon bringing my studies to London I was not seen as English either. Almost like a black sheep in both worlds.” Due to this, and the fact that she has been living in London for the past six years, she recognises Greece as “an exotic-unexplored territory”, whilst her adoptive home, London, plays “a huge role” in her life:
“The multicultural and general ethos of London allows one to discover something new regardless of how long they’ve been living there. London is exciting for me, it is alive, full of stimuli – for me it creates the urge to explore, discover things, be challenged, create.”
Her installations are experiments: vehement configurations of objects within a space, violent arrangements of things interconnecting and moving through each other, not spatially limited but rather occupying more than just a space. She describes the transition from painting to installation:
“I began to grow an increasing awareness of my body moving within the surrounding space and the effects this had on my creative process. I moved further in, into the space where paint got replaced by objects and materials available to me. Structures started to form and relations started to appear, a different language began to emerge.”
It is a language which disrupts, transforms, challenges and questions the habitual approaches we take to spaces and the uses we make of objects – it is a new unknown one, and certainly nothing like Esperanto. One of her nouveau-linguistic masterpieces is an exploration called S.B.L.
The fragile wilderness of S.B.L.
“With S.B.L. I was infatuated with the materials: the challenge of combining the fragile disused lightbulbs with the cardboard boxes. The lightbulbs when used in large quantity were positioned as to become supports for the structure resulting in a balance and spreading of tension.” The result is an intricate edifice, two separate materials developing a masculine/feminine relationship with each other, poised at various angles that are chaotic and which give the illusion of movement.
The photographic composition adds to the piece, also creating an artefact that can be handled, rather than the actuality of the installation, which exists in more dimensions, but cannot be carried around in a pocket.
Ioanna says that the titles of the pieces are almost like codes of reference, “they do actually provide a narrative or ‘in-joke’ that usually reflects an anecdote that happened during the making of the work,” she said. “Sometimes they are acronyms and other times they might just describe an action that happened in the process.” Perhaps S.B.L. is Stabbing Boxes with Lightbulbs. Perhaps not.
Another piece, B.B.P.S.M. creates a mad two-tone landscape within a simple space using everyday objects.
zepStark and simple – B.B.P.S.M.
It’s this installation that really commands the space in which it has been put together, transforming things inexpensively and originally from a collection of plastic bags, chairs, a broom, all covered with plaster. I think that it would be perfect for photographing new collections for fashion labels; Ioanna is enthusiastic about branching out from showpieces: “I would definitely consider utilising my skills to create a location for a fashion shoot. I am interested in fashion; when I was at school I wanted to become an artist, fashion designer, graphic designer… I wanted to do everything together.”
There is still time yet. For somebody more focused on the artistic side of things rather than design, she is more interested in collaborating with other artists than you would be led to believe, and this desire to work with others exposes an industrious and cooperative side which may lead to big success in the future.
But what now? She told CREATIVE BOOM, “For 2010 I am involved in a public art project around the location of Colliers Wood with this artist collective called POST that will take place in May 2010, and is supported by the Arts Council.” She will be creating a site-specific, something inspired precisely by the site in which it will be constructed. “More projects are on the way but still are to be confirmed for definite.”
Aside from this she is happy to have time to be able to commute between Athens and London – Ioanna believes that she can help the burgeoning Athens art scene by introducing ideas from the London. To be a pioneer of the arts in a major European city is a potential legacy that Ioanna is willing to forge.
by Russell Thomas
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Ioanna’s website, along with CV detailing her extensive background in artistic collaborations, is www.ioannapantaz.com.