Sofia Stevi / Hotel nostos. Humble nimble, dreamlike tumble at Marignana Arte | Venice
Exhibition curated by Alma Zevi
Friday, June 27, 2014 to Saturday, September 20, 2014
Sofia Stevi (born in 1982) is a Greek artist living and working between Athens and London. She has exhibited in London, Athens , Brussels and Switzerland. In 2003 Sofia graduated in art at Vakalo School of Art and Design of Athens, while from 2007 to 2009 the artist frequented a Communication Design Master course at Central St Martins college in London. In 2013 she curated a series of talks at The Wapping Project, London on epicurean philosophy "The Icarus Project, challenging the way we see the world". Stevi also co-founded Fokidos, an artist-led project space in Athens.
Stevi works on large and small scale formats with a wide variety of materials (including acrylic paint, plaster, fabric, rubber, plastic sheeting, string and ceramic) to produce sculptures, paintings and, most often, works that sit between the two disciplines. An experimental and instinctive colourist, her use of found, and usually cheap, materials recalls Arte Povera. Stevi often collects discarded objects on the street that she sees beauty and a new meaning in. The artist’s chance encounters present to the viewer the overlooked refinement in everyday things, for example the onion wrapper that is stuck to one of her paintings. The approach is simple and poetic. The result is quietly powerful in its conviction, yet at same time playful and ephemeral.
In this exhibition, Stevi will be exhibiting two series, The Spine Books (2009) and Diary (2013). The books (each is unique) are carefully constructed, manipulating traditional bookbinding techniques to subvert our cultural conception of the book. The books have no writing on the pages: the book becomes a sculpture, and the form becomes the content. The meticulous hand-weaving of the book evokes the female world of embroidery and needlework, a closed and domestic space. This collides with the traditionally male world of publishing, and the idea of the book as a mass-produced vehicle for disseminating information.
Handiwork is a continuous theme in Stevi’s work and can be seen in the Diaries. This is a series of small ‘paintings’, where one is produced daily. Implementing this rhythm onto her routine was a challenge (temporal and emotional), and is conceptually connected with On Kawara’s “Today Paintings”. In the Diaries we see the trace of the artist’s hand, always gestural, and oscillating between: gentle, aggressive, chaotic, refined, constrained, methodical. The hand expresses the the artist’s changing state of mind, and is universally relatable to oneself. The influences of the compositions range from Minimal, to Pop, to Constructivist to collage to readymade. Meanwhile the multitude of textures penetrate the space in front of them, becoming colourful, wall-hung sculptures.
Both the Spine Books and the Diary use a relatively small format (20 x 14 cm), which is based on the dimensions of a regular reading book. Indeed, the shape for the Diarywas taken from the book Stevi has been reading this year, Journey to the End of the Night by Louis-Ferdinand Céline. Observing this return to a small scale is refreshing in an art world saturated with a ‘bigger is better’ approach. It also presents a type of mobile art, which we can almost put in our pocket and carry with us. This is suggestive of the intimate relationship one can make with an artwork, as talisman and object of contemplation. In the Diary series the small scale acts as a constraint; Stevi only has enough space to put the essential on each, thus intensifying the painting’s layers.
Stevi’s work is always abstract, despite its fundamentally human vitality. Working in series, each piece is different, but allows for self-reflection and a particular pattern to grow. There is also a strong notion of temporality: the speed and spontaneity of Diary works is contrasted with the extensive time and planning required to produce the Spine Books. Stevi says,
My aim is to record experiences of life by investigating the materiality of visual information through a clear approach of collection and then selection. The work exists as a fine balance between instinctive editing and chance. The final form of the investigation is not pre-determined. Mistake, error, sickness and disappointment represents aspects of reality and also serve their own purpose in the balance of my work.