Athina Ioannou

Light, weight, materiality, color and the architectural elements of a given space are intertwined in the work of Athina Ioannou

Athina Ioannou

A poet of images

Text: Dimitra Kehagia || Photographs: Arch Athens Archive
Athina Ioannou
Athina Ioannou

Athina Ioannou artist is mostly working with fabrics, which she cuts, sews, synthesizes and then transforms, baptizing them in linseed oil. The new compositions are springing out her personal take on the setting they are destined for, and serve as architectural interventions and gestures within space, nodding to the history of painting: starting from early Renaissance, all the way to Modernism and Minimalism, up to today. The “hanging paintings”, as she calls them, along with her other multicolor compositions and drawings, carry within them both their setting and scenery, as well as the artist’s constant personal quest through painting.

In her work, she draws inspiration from particular places and locations, engaging in discourse with them. This creative process started out in 1993, in Rome, during her studies in the Fine Arts Academy. In an interview of hers at the Italian Radio Arte Mobile, she mentions: “I was always interested in the language of the image, I am moved by every work that has the power to bring new questions to light, by interfering in space. I choose my material on the basis of the given place, whereas I create the work’s dimension on the basis of space. More than showcasing a work of mine, I take pleasure in profoundly glancing at a place, acting on it, and interfering in space to produce an outcome that confers maximum potential to a minimal first base, and by maximum potential I mean a person’s possibility to be present. Whenever I visit a place, I form a relation of co-existence and forge a bond. Subsequently, the relation is evolving from a distance and the idea takes from and shape in the course of time.”

The artist’s inspiration and her search for the selection of the material, begins with the canvas. “This search gradually leads me to a new painting corpus, which engulfs the “here and now” aspect of time, of space, of a particular place. The fabric, and by extension the garment, is nothing less of a historical and social quest pertaining to the position we hold as human beings in the wider context of the world. I am concerned with the legacy of both the past and the contemporary. Time is a catalyst.”

In her work, Athina Ioannou is conversing with light and color. She goes on to explain: “Light triggers a revelation. Though material substance, I place time into space, that is the color’s language that outlines the form, as in the case of light and shadow. According to Athina, drawing is a “prerequisite of writing, a form of thought.” Ioannou has been repeatedly labeled as “contemporary painter”, but she defines herself as a “poet of images”. Her topics and themes revolve around “anything that concerns and includes the human existence”. At the same time, she takes a keen interest on the messages conveyed to the spectator, “the questions that touch the deepest chords of the beholder”.

“I believe that my work is a transfer, a question constantly renewed in the present. It is a fruit, not a result”. Could she see herself as anything else than a painter and what is the balance between study, work, talent and inspiration? “The truth is that I never had the time to devote myself to anything else; the life of an artist entails an unquenched thirst for study and a load of endless work. Therefore, the point of balance is found in the talent to achieve a harmony between the two. Inspiration is transformed into emotion. I draw inspiration from everything around me, anything that affirms and entails life. A mere cipher is no less interesting to me than a masterpiece. A word, a gesture, an invention, the flying of a bird, a theater play, an image, a trace on a stone or a footprint on the sand are all equally inspiring to me.”

As to her Greek origin and whether she purposefully incorporates Greek features in her works, here’s what she has to say: “I feel a citizen of the world, the evident features of my work are no other than the awareness of my language as a visual artist. In every new place I live, through every travel, in every encounter or cohabitation, I receive and let go of a piece of myself. My Greek origin is the heart that accompanies me.”

Her work reflects her international orientation, as in the case of her latest work, in the building designed by the world acclaimed architect REM Koolhaas in Japan, in collaboration with Tokyo-based Art Front Gallery and the Hilario Galguera gallery in Mexico. In addition, she has created the honorary flag for Bouboulina’s Museum in Spetses, as part of the initiative of the culture project Ki-nimata, which invited 8 women artists to design their own flag, drawing inspiration from the personal flag of Bouboulina, within the context of the 200-year anniversary of the Greek Revolution of 1821.

Athina Ioannou lives in Germany’s Düsseldorf, having set up a second work base in Athens, where her work is showcased in the Agricultural University of Athens, in a production by Onassis Stegi, curated by locus Athens. In 2020, she completed her work, “A Rose is a Rose”, which covers the entire height of the building hosting the permanent collection of the Perianth Hotel, in Agia Eirini Square. Her future plans include the creation of a new work, commissioned by a private collection in the Netherlands.

Le chant du Rossignol
Athina Ioannou/ Denys Zacharopoulos 
CubeArtEditions 2013 
ISBN: 978-618-80384-6-2

“Who’s afraid of the Walls?”
Interview with Athina Ioannou, Maria Marangou, Jackie- Ruth Mayer, Denys Zacharopoulos, Janis Kounellis
Radio Arte Mobile 
Roma 2012

“Floating gestures”
Athina Ioannou 
Solo exhibition 
Arch Athens 2019

Who Is Who:
Athina Ioannou (born in 1968, in Athens, Greece) studied Painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome, as well as the Art Academy of Düsseldorf, the city where she currently lives and works. Her individual exhibitions include:

Floating gestures, ARCH ATHENS 2019, Athens (GR) Mythologies, Gallery Irène Laub, Brussels (2018); Polifonías, Galería Hilario Galguera, Mexico City (2017); Athina Ioannou, Rose is a Rose is a Rose, Hopstreet Gallery, Brussels (2016). Recent collective exhibitions: ΚΙ-ΝΙΜΑΤΑ, 26.08.2021 – 26.09.2021, Bouboulina’s Museum, Spetses, (GR); Biennale P(ART)cours 2021, 25/04/2021 >27/06/2021, Brussels (BE) ; Accepting the human; 29 March–29 May 2021, Galeria Hilario Galguera México City (MX) ; THE INTIMATE CONSCIOUSNESS OF TIME 08/01/2021 >20/02/2021; Irène Laub Gallery, Brussels (BE); Gigantisme – Art & Industrie, FRAC Grand Large, Hauts-de-France και LAAC, Dunkirk (2019); L’Art Chemin Faisant … Paysages des Formes, Art Center L’Atelier d’Estienne, Britanny (2019), 7th Thessaloniki biennale of Contemporary Art (2019/2020).

Her works are showcased in the permanent collections of: Bouboulina’s Museum, Spetses (GR); Galerie des Petits Carreaux (FR); MRAC, Musée Régional d’Art Contemporain Occitanie (FR), Lieu d’Art Contemporain Sigean, (FR), Deutsche Bank AG and Daniel Buren, France, Benaki Museum, Athens. She is the recipient of many awards, such as the Jubiläumsstiftung der Sparkasse Neuss (2013), το Stiftung Insel Hombroich, Düsseldorf / Neuss (2013) and Kunststiftung NRW, Düsseldorf (2012), among others. 

Website/ Links 
Athina Ioannou

We thank Arch Athens for providing us with the artist’s résumé and photo material.