Anastasia Douka – Animalier with no taste for the Sublime*
Exhibition: September 09–30, 2017
Werft Raum für Kunst, Köln
Anastasia Douka works with modern-day Athenian sculptures that portray emblematic figures of modern and ancient Greece – important or lesser known. For her project at Werft 5, she has taken paper castings of original sculptures in the public space, thus engaging sculpture with a performative aspect that addresses both the original artwork as well as her own action as an artist.
I have not made the originals of these paper casts. I have made a selection out of the many public sculptures of the city of Athens. Giving an emphasis to the gender and social role ascribed to the represented figure. Making an observation: represented female figures are outnumbered by male ones. I made the casts only when the circumstances allowed me to take time and space to work directly on them, on site. These figures belong to different historical times and some constitute a symbol (mythological, popular or nationalistic) of their own category. Some are well maintained, others become dirty through time. They mostly remain unseen, but are real landmarks of the landscape. Some are made by gifted sculptors, others feel funny to look at, maybe because of their awkward placement. I like to cast them in color papers. The originals are brought from the outside inside a room, turning stone, marble and bronze into a thin skin of paper and glue. These paper shells are here virtually free of weight. I see in the cast the plain nature of the original.
* An animalier is an artist, mainly from the 19th century, who specializes in, or is known for, skill in the realistic portrayal of animals.
Douka choses to cast freely a fragment or the entirety of a bust, a torso or a head, her intention being to create an object hollow by nature and lightweight, contrasting the “heavy weight” originals (usually made of bronze, stone or marble). Materials found at the proximity of each sculpture (wrapping papers, flower petals, plant leaves etc.) often become part of the work, altering the anatomy and texture of the original. The resulting paper casts with a slightly distorted shape and dried out skin are not intended to represent the social meaning inscribed to the original.
The selection of public sculptures discusses issues such as replication, appropriation and function as well as the gender identity ascribed to the figures and symbols. Female figures are typically underrepresented as memorial sculptures and are usually associated with typical images of the role in society, such as motherhood, beauty, labour, leadership, care taking and nursing. A key figure in the exhibition is Athena Mesolora who served as the First Nurse of the Greek Red Cross in the 19th century, she is portrayed wearing her uniform and headscarf in a marble bust at the courtyard of the hospital. The large fabric backdrops narrate a metaphor for a city and transform the exhibition space into an inner landscape.
Anastasia Douka lives and works in Athens. She received degrees from The School of the Art
Institute of Chicago and the Athens School of Fine Arts. Her work was exhibited at Museum of Cycladic Art, Athens, Athens Biennale, SMFA Boston and Russell Industrial Center, Detroit. She has been awarded the Toby Devan Lewis Fellowship (Chicago, 2013) and the DESTE Prize (Athens, 2011) and was a scholar at Fondation d’ Entreprise Hermès, Paris, the Yaddo Colony, NY, and the Salzburg International Academy.
The exhibition series "Art + Crisis: Contemporary Art in Greece” is generously supported by Kulturamt der Stadt Köln, Sparkasse Köln-Bonn, and Sparkassen-Kulturstiftung Rheinland.