She lives in Paris but has never turned her gaze away from «Small Greece», casting a critical and nostalgic view.
Text: Stephanos Tsitsopoulos
Anna Foka, the Thessaloniki-native who lives and works in Paris, casts a critical gaze and draws a nostalgic take on Little Greece through her work.
There’s a somewhat unsorted dimension in the work of Anna Foka who creates a dynamic and au courant form of art from La Ruche, the legendary artists’ colony in southern Paris.
«I ‘landed’ in Ruche in the year 2006, after having gone through numerous travails», Foka recalls. « The two-room flat I had in a low-rent neighborhood was sold, so I was forced to look for another apartment. I was lucky enough to get a place at Ruche thanks to my teachers at the Beaux-Arts in Paris who gave me very touching recommendation letters. »
La Ruche, which means “beehive”, was designed by Gustave Eiffel for the purpose of hosting events of the renowned Universal Exhibition of 1900. Up until 1934, the apartment complex provided low-cost housing to struggling artists, along with the occasional misfits, outcasts and vagabonds. While it fell into decline during WWII, la Ruche sprung back to life in the 1970s following the support given by Jean-Paul Sartre who shielded the building from eager developers.
“There’s no other place like Ruche. Both rustic and wild, it consists of a central rotunda-like circular structure, surrounded by triangle-shaped studios and other nearby buildings, set in a lush garden. It’s home to about sixty artists of various ages and ethnicities, some of whom are actually well-known. What’s admirable is that this diverse group of people manages to live a harmonious and creative life, without being afraid of the future, because, in contrast with other artists’ dwellings, la Ruche doesn’t evict its residents, they can live there indefinitely. »
Looking carefully at Foka’s work, one realizes that she’s mastered a language of her own, while at the same time she keeps evolving past and beyond her accomplishments.
«I can’t foretell the course of my work. I’d like to believe that it will evolve, just like I’m evolving and maturing as a person. Things are constantly shifting, everything is changing: the nature of the world, the governments, the structure and norms of society, language in itself is changing, along with the mediums and forms of expression… As for the mediums I use, I might turn to digital image processing which allows for mixing photography with art, something that I’m very fond of. And, in terms of composition in general, perhaps I could become more laconic, in other words use austerity to counterbalance opulence. »
Foka’s “Little Greece” series not only asserts the artist’s roots, it’s also her personal “statement” about the situation in Greece during the recent years, as she senses it. « “Little Greece” (or “poor little Greece” if you will) is a series of drawings that I recently completed having as theme modern Greece. As much criticism is carried forth by this work, it makes it up with an equal portion of nostalgia. By pointing out some negative characteristics of present-day Greek society, by providing a more detached point of view, I want to “jolt” the viewers and inspire within them a series of questions and thoughts, motivating them to change and act for the common good. What else could I do from where I’m at? I’ve been living abroad for more than twenty years. In the meanwhile my country changed, it developed and then it started to gradually languish. There was nothing I could do to prevent it. When I talk about Greece, I inevitably talk about myself, my roots… It’s my past, it’s what defines me. And when my country is tormented, I can’t remain indifferent. »