When the composition of matter, its energy, wear and degradation become art.

Thalia Gatzouli

Art and Medicine

Text: Evi Kallini | Portrait Photograph: Sakis Gioumpasis

Thalia Gatzouli was born in the city of Drama in 1966 and currently lives in Thessaloniki where she works as a visual artist and nuclear medicine physician.

Her artistic narrative has inevitably been influenced by her involvement over the years with the scientific study and investigation of cell structure and function. The pool of images she has acquired from this discipline serves as the starting point of a meditation on the concept of matter and life. The physical and chemical properties of atoms and molecules, the composition of matter, its energy, wear and degradation become the raw materials of a personal artistic landscape. As Gatzouli states, ”I like to try and experiment with new materials and techniques, as this makes the creation process more exciting for me. Nonetheless, there’s always a personal touch that is based on my texts, the monochromatic palette and my topic.”

The artist completed medical school and received her PhD in Neurosciences from Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, while she also attended a year of graduate studies at Yale. In spite of these accomplishments, Gatzouli carried a void inside, feeling as though a significant part of herself was left in the dark and hadn’t discovered a way to be released. “I had a compelling need that was pressuring me from within and led me to discover other ways of expression. Plus, I was at an age where I had the opportunity to take such a turn and, without thinking about it too much, I decided to go to the School of Fine Arts at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.” Gatzouli graduated with honors in 2014.

Art and medicine constitute the two pillars of her artistic dynamic, possessing, as she explains, more common characteristics than initially imagined. “First of all, they’re both anthropocentric fields. Despite the different starting points, rational thinking on the one hand and the unconscious, the unuttered, the inner impulse on the other, they are both based on observation, analysis and composition. For me, they’re both a part of me, they are two complimentary, not contradictory worlds.”

Among the artists who have influenced Gatzouli’s work are those associated with the Arte Povera movement, especially Mario Merz and Jannis Kounellis. William Kentridge is also an artist she admires, watching his speeches on youtube on a daily basis. Moreover, in the year 2015 at the Inspire workshop organized by MOMus-Museum of Contemporary Art, Gatzouli had the opportunity to work and become better acquainted with artist Nikos Navridis. “That was a very important moment for me since it affected my work definitively,” she says.

Gatzouli’s first art work series that was exhibited is entitled “Μy blood”, an inox back-light box where laboratory-processed blood and natural dyes are inlaid mosaic-like, forming a number that shows approximately the earth’s population at the time of the art project’s creation. This was the first in a series that will be renewed on a five-year basis so as to reflect the changing rhythm of population growth. Another highlight in her artistic career to date came in 2018 when her project From left to right”, which was exhibited in 2016 at Thessaloniki’s Alatza Imaret monument, was selected by the National Library Board in Singapore for inclusion in the mini booklet “Arts Time”, themed as “Arts X Medicine”.

Among her numerous exhibitions, Gatzouli’s portfolio includes participation in “TRANS-FORM”, Brancusi Hall, Parliament in Bucharest; “Effective spaces”, curated by D. Zacharopoulos, Th.Misirloglou, K. Nikou, A. Chatzitatsi, L. Avgita, MMCA in Thessaloniki; “Foodie Fever”, curated by T. Vrachopoulos and D. Dominick Lombardi, Shiva Gallery in New York; Apathia Biennale of Mykonos, curated by Lydia Venieri in Mykonos; Art Athina 2019 and i-D projectart, Zappeion Mansion in Athens. She has also presented a solo exhibition entitled “The Inevitable failure to understand”, curated by Thalea Stefanidou, Lola Nikolaou Gallery in Thessaloniki.

Gatzouli participated in the 7th Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art, with the installation “Pause-undoing Τime,” situated in a 2×3-meter space referring to the medical myth of the 21st century, i.e. cryonics, while in November 2019 her work was featured at the exhibition “Three Generations” in Heraklion, Crete.




Thalia Gatzouli

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