'Toy house', 30cm x 30cm, acrylic on raw, stretched canvas.
Over the course of my many years in practicing and studying art, I have come across many artists, women and men. In this time, I have come to see this strength, vibrancy, and robust manner of communicating feelings, happenings, and thoughts in art made by women. Sometimes this fortitude is completely evident, sometimes a little hidden – but always there. Women creatives have been through, and are still going through tough times. Writing and working under male pseudonyms, being overshadowed by their male artist partners, facing social bias in regards to feeling the need to differentiate their chosen practice from ‘arts and crafts’ (pottery, fibre) to ‘fine art’ (painting, drawing), and encountering difficulties for training, education, promotion and of course, pay.
And so, after a lot of thinking, I decided to begin ALKALI, a new, independent art magazine, showcasing women creatives (contemporary & passed). Why the name ALKALI? The name comes from the alkali metals, found on earth. They are highly reactive (actually even at standard room temperature), and have many different applications, making them very important for life. They reminded me of women, who have an amazing toolbox of abilities to break down situations, react and adapt to new and challenging circumstances – and whose physical and mental capabilities to survive and thrive are immense due to their flexibility.
As a woman artist, I too feel that I have adapted, over time, to 'new normals' throughout my life. However, I would like to believe that in all those changes, I always did my absolute best and created at the peak of my abilities. I feel it is important to truly adapt, and not pretend, an action that can only lead to bitterness, and thus, bitter art. I think as women this is always a tough and fine line to trod when things don't go to plan. At the moment, working from a studio office at home, with my kids, I have adapted to trying to connect to my inner child. The child that when growing up as a young individual, did not have the chance to make art, nor was given the tools.
In this first issue, you will see women to be inspired by. There are three interviews, Aasa Rosti (pg 6-11), Susan Carr (pg 14-19), and Villie Flari (pg 20-27) – all contemporary artists who are highly creative, ingenious, and adaptable women who create art that makes you think, question, and challenge. Judith Farr’s viewpoint, as the first contributing writer to ALKALI will make you think deep about acceptance and its role in the life of a woman artist (pg 12-13).
As a retrospective, this issue focuses on the architecture of Kazuyo Sejima ( pg 28-29), and Penelope Delta, the first Greek woman to write for children (pg 30-31). Both of these women are true to form following and embracing function, and have embraced their cultural roots in their artform.
It is important to fuel women creatives with the right type of confidence and self esteem to begin their journey, sustain it, and pass it on. I hope that ALKALI magazine will be one of the many stones in building a strong foundation in this adventure.
A warm hello
'Playground', approximately 15cm x 15cm, air dry clay, acrylic paint.
By Founder & Editor Georgie Vargemezi
'No Copyright infringement is intended in the use of images in this magazine'
G) You are a sculptor of women figures, choosing to use papier-mâché. Is the choice of the material linked at all with subconscious links to the idea of a woman, her strength, her biological make-up, etc?
A) No, not really. Actually the main reason why I work with papier-mâché is far less poetic… it was born more out of necessity and availability. After graduating art school I went traveling with my future husband and I was staying for extended periods in far off places, like small tropical islands in the South Pacific or Australia and to be able to create my 3 dimensional art I needed to work with a material that was easy to find everywhere and inexpensive.
So I started to experiment with papier-mâché and it was all that I had been looking for. In its essence papier-mâché is an armature made with recycled materials covered with a pulp made of paper and glue, and these materials can easily be found almost anywhere in the world. This is more or less how I came to work with this wonderful material that I still absolutely love today.
Aasa Rosti is a vibrant Mixed Media artist, originally from Sweden, and currently working in sunny Malta. Her work is beautiful, bright, and makes a stunning use of spatial proportions. Read her interview to learn more about her process, choice of material, & approach.
Interview questions: Georgie Vargemezi
Aasa Rosti Etsy Shop opening soon: https://www.etsy.com/shop/AasaRostiArt
continued on next page
G) Aasa, hello and thank for getting on board for the first Issue of ALKALI magazine. For those who do not know you, can you introduce yourself to us, and tell us what you do?
A) Hi everybody! First of all a big thank you to Georgie Vargemezi for creating this new art magazine! I'm excited to take part in this first issue! My name is Aasa Rosti. I make sculptures and paintings in various media. Papier-mâché is my favorite material to work with. My art is usually semi abstract and often with a focus on the female form and I like to use a lot of colors. However, I love to experiment so you will find a lot of different kinds of art in my collections: papier-mâché fishes, 3 dimensional paintings, mermaids and abstract sculptures among other things. I’m originally from Sweden but for the last 20 years I’ve been living in many different parts of the world: Europe, North America, The Caribbean and Oceania. At the moment I live and work in Malta.
G) What themes surrounding women do you pursue?
A) I love to work with the female form. My women are very colorful and semi-abstract in shape. They are wonky, asymmetrical and voluptuous. And like in the real world they come in all sizes and shapes. I like to make their shapes abstract, and then take the abstractions to the extreme. Maybe I will create a big pointy breast or a giant eye for a head, it looks a bit crazy sometimes but I love it!
I often work on a theme called “Abstract Woman in Love”. The women in this series often carries a heart with them. This is symbolizing that they are women striving for the energy state called "love" and that they are on a journey trying to find that state of unconditional love, love as a universal energy. They are strong, magic women.
G) What do you think about the position of women in society, and the art world in contemporary society?
A) There are so many fabulous women out there in all fields. In the art world I am happy to see that women are getting more recognition because there are and have always been some amazing female artists out there.
Globally we are still far from being in a perfect situation when it comes to gender equality. However, I would like to have a positive outlook and believe that as we go on evolving as human beings undoubtedly women will become more and more empowered. Education, freedom, living in a safe and nurturing environment free from violence and suppression, getting possibilities, financial security and to be able to shine and live in harmony together is some key factors I would like for all human beings.
'Abstract Woman in Love'
G) Is there a particular artwork of yours that you are proud of, and why? (see image above)
A) I’m really happy with this large scale sculpture I created last year while living in Austin, Texas. It is called: “Abstract Woman in Love-Ready For a Party” and it was for an exhibition I took part in with the Art For The People Gallery in Austin and it is my first sculpture of that size. I just loved to create it and I hope I can make more big sculptures in the future!
G) How do you know when a piece is finished?
A) It’s a feeling. It’s like the piece tells you: “Stop it now, I’m finished”!
G) Can you explain to us your process?
A) It starts with an idea and I’ll make some sketches. I decide if it will be a sculpture or painting. For the painting the process is quite easy: I just start to paint, usually on canvas or paper, but for making a sculpture it is a little bit more complicated and time consuming. I start to build an armature that will be the “skeleton” of the sculpture. I use a lot of recycled material I have laying around: plastic bottles, wooden pieces, paper, metal wire and so on. Anything that can fit into the shape I want to make. While building the armature, the sculpture slowly comes to life and even though I have an initial idea of how I want it to be, the sculpture starts to sort of decide on its own how it wants to look like, and I just have to go with it. It feels like me and the sculpture work "together", and my work is to channel its shape into this world. Once the armature is ready I start to prepare my papier mâché pulp. I soak paper: news paper, advertising leaflets, paper bags, craft paper, etc for 24 hours. I then break it up into pulp with the help of a kitchen blender, strain out the water and add my glue of choice and other “ingredients” I might use like gesso, sawdust, linseed oil, etc… the recipe changes a little bit from time to time. I mix it really well. This part is super important in order to get a smooth papier mâché pulp. It’s hard work! When the pulp is ready I’ll cover my armature with it. If the piece is very big I have to put on pulp in different stages. Anyway, once it’s all on I let it dry. This can take some time depending on the weather. Strong sunshine is the best thing for drying papier mâché. Then comes the dreaded moment: sanding. In order to have a nice smooth surface to paint on this is a very important step to do. For best results I use a hand held electrical sander. When the piece is smooth to my liking I put primer and finally I can start to paint. I love the painting part! That is when the personality of the sculpture starts to come out.
It is a quite long process and definitely hard work but I absolutely love it.
G) Do you put a little bit of yourself in your sculptures?
A) I think that every artwork that is created carries the energy of the artist that made it. Same for my work. I put my heart and soul into it, so it is bound to have a part of my energy inside of it. However, my work is not autobiographical, it is not about me, it’s just that I think it "contains" some of my energy in it.
'Pieces from new collection of' 3-D paintings'
G) Aasa, can you tell us a bit about the evolution of your papier-mâché artwork to your sun ray pieces? (See image above).
A) I love to experiment with different ways of expressing myself using my favorite material papier-mâché.
These new pieces are something I’ve been working on for a while: it’s a collection of art work that is more focused on abstract, "organic" type of shapes, like swirls, spirals, rays, spheres, etc.
Using papier-mâché I create a combination of 3-dimensional textured shapes that pop out of the canvas, and then I add layers of colors and gold/silver finishing. The result is something that looks almost alive, vibrant, pulsating with energy, but at the same time with the feeling of something that belongs to hard matters like stone, sand, earth... it's a mix of spiritual and material energy, a point of balance between these key aspects of life.
At the moment I work on wood panels creating these “3D paintings”, as I like to call them, but I’m planning to also make free standing sculptural pieces in this style in the future. Although it might look very different from other things I’ve been doing before, I feel that I have somehow naturally transitioned into this, after years of working and experimenting with the papier-mâché material.
Once I have completed a few pieces for this new collection I'd like to find physical shops and venues where to sell them and I also plan to have an Etsy shop for direct online selling. It's not yet up and running, so keep an eye on my Instagram and Facebook to get updates about when my new line of work will be ready, and where to purchase it.
G) Do you find the artistic life lonely, and if so, how do you try to counteract it?
A) Of course being an artist can be lonely because most of the time you work alone, by yourself. However, I personally do not suffer from it because it is actually how I prefer it. I need a lot of time to myself when I work. I love to be in my studio when creating. I need the creative energy to flow through me in a secluded space. In the moment of creation other peoples' energy would interfere with mine and possibly stop my creative momentum. Then, when I am finished working for the day I will go out and socialize if I feel like it. For my type of persona, the artist life fits me perfectly. So no, I do not find it lonely.
G) Where do you get your inspiration from?
A) My inspiration can come from anywhere really: experiences, thoughts, emotions, places, people, colors, shapes, patterns, nature and animals, the list is long. Anything can inspire me, and usually each piece of my work is a combination of various inspirational moments.
G) Which women artists have inspired you, personally and/or professionally?
A) There are so many awesome female artists out there!
One thing I just love today is that through social media like Instagram and Facebook you get in contact with a huge amount of talented artists around the world. It really inspires me to see people creating all kinds of different things and to see how many very brilliant and hard working creative people there are out there!
I like a lot of different art but since you asked about female artists in particular here’s a few ones that I find inspiring:
Grandma Moses. A fabulous folk artist that started her art career at the age of 78!
Maud Lewis is another wonderful folk artist from Canada. She lived in a small cabin creating very colorful fantastic paintings in a beautiful naïve style.
Nina Barka is another artist I love, originally from Russia but lived in France. Her work is magical and I adore her mermaid paintings.
Tarsila do Amaral. She was a great artist from Brazil. I love her colorful, big paintings.
Last but (not least) Yayoi Kusama. A Japanese artist, I’m sure most of you already know her amazing work.
"Dear women artists, this is for us. When I write about being a woman and an artist I wonder what that even means, this is why writing is a good thing to do. What’s up with being a woman and an artist? Why is this even a question? I don’t think of myself in these terms except when I compare myself to others and you know what, when I do that it never feels good. I’m just me. I’ve been doing my best to understand myself, grow, be honest and if I’m honest I've had a whole lot of issues that are really not helped by seeing myself as oppressed or unfairly treated or even victimized. I may be all of these things but I just prefer to feel empowered if I possibly can. I want to think about what I can do instead of what I can’t. I want to be where I am instead of where I am not.
I am an artist and I have found faith and trust that just being me is enough. I don’t feel like this all the time, of course not, but I know that all the defeating thoughts are distortions of reality. I know that my voice, however small, however feminine, however unpopular, however uninteresting is my reason for being here. My voice wants to speak, my heart wants to make things and that’s why I’m an artist.
This is very important to me, especially now because I’ve realized that I’ve not been so kind to myself over the years. I’ve been working whilst also feeling blocked for a long, long time. I’ve been forcing my work out whilst also feeling desperately inadequate and sad. I’ve been forcing and controlling. I isolated myself socially. I felt like I didn’t know how to be myself because myself was just rage and despair. I didn’t know there was another choice. So I’m here, not forcing this, just letting the words come, trying not to judge. I love myself, now. I understand that my work must be made with love and faith, something I can’t force, I have to really feel it. I am learning how to love the world around me, how to slow down and pay attention. I am planning to make lots of “bad” art for a time, and do lots of very uncool things that might not look good on my CV like walking in the woods and taking long baths. I want to treat myself like the beautiful, sensitive female artist child that I am and see how I grow and blossom. I have the power to do this, I can do this, I choose to focus my heart and soul on this.".
As ALKALI's first contributing writer, Judith Farr touches upon the power that can come through acceptance.
'Seasons in the sun'
G) Susan hello and thank you extensively for being part of the first issue of ALKALI magazine. Can you tell us a little bit about what your average/typical day in the studio is like?
S) It really depends, I kept quite a busy schedule before the pandemic with everyday accounted for artistically as I had a ceramics practice to attend to, as well as painting and wood sculpture. Now, since the ceramics studio is closed, and art materials are sometimes hard to come by I have been winging it. Which is good as I have been making things I would have otherwise not have such as drawings in ink and my little comic book I am still working on. I am making masks from papier-mâché and taking photographs on my iphone. I even started a running practice I hope to continue with. I think there is always something fun to do if you keep an open mind.
G) How do you know when a piece is finished, or when you need to stop tuning it?
S) Sometimes it takes years to know whether a piece is finished.
G) As you know, ALKALI magazine is a new publication that showcases just women artists. Do you find that your gender and your experiences as a woman in society impact, or inform your work? And if so, how?
S) How does my being a woman impact my work? It is hard to say actually I don't have more sensitivity than men artists per se, I just think sometimes women look at things differently and have different experiences. That said, my sense and understanding of being female has taught me grit, strength, and the ability to see the long game. I am a mother of four children, three of whom I gave birth to. I did abandon painting for ten years to attend to my son who was struggling and consequently after some years died from addiction and mental health issues. I attended to the house and home, wrote poetry, made photographs and I really didn't think I would paint again. So my purview is of gratitude for being here now. I never thought I would be creating as I do on a daily basis, I thought my life would be totally different.
Now that my children are grown and my husband supports me totally I can make the work I feel I was always meant to make. I am very very lucky, but it wasn't always that way. If you have a dream go for it, even if it takes a lifetime to achieve it. The journey is always so much more interesting than the destination, and for women I think there are so many layers to our experiences.
I think it's easier for some men, not all but some to gain notoriety and make money with their work earlier in their career. Women just need to work a little harder but that has always been the case. I am up to the task. I believe we should never allow our gender to stop us or make decisions for us. Women have a lot to say about many things and we all have helpers on our road. Some men are great helpers in getting women's work seen and supporting us. I remember my teacher's words [he was a man] and think of them quite often: "Susan I love your conviction it is so important, but always remember beauty it is the honey that helps people see what they sometimes don't want to see, what they might otherwise turn away from". I use those words daily. So most artists, men and women, are really just bright souls in a skin suit for me.
G) What do you particularly like about your work, and is there anything that you dislike, or feel some sort of annoyance when it creeps up?
S) Sometimes nothing and sometimes everything, it depends on the piece. I just painted a piece in thin paint and I am not sure I like it. I wanted to destroy it but maybe not, maybe I am [just] afraid of it.
G) What are your most favorite materials to work with?
S) Everything. I mostly paint in oil and enamel and clay but I am open to everything [as the reader can see from earlier in the interview, Susan is a talented artist who knows how to work in clay, wood, paper, 3-D sculptures and more].
G) What feelings are integral to your work?
S) Wonder, beauty, strangeness.
G) What is the one color that you would never be able to do without?
S) White because it blends. I paint in B/W then every color is the most important [Susan is an artist who employs symbolism in her work, in whatever medium/media she is working in. Colors too, in their own hues and tones have their own significant explications ].
G) Do you have a favorite drink, or food that you consume while you work, if any?
G) Do you work quickly, or are you a believer in leaving pieces ‘be’ for a while before you go back to them/finish them?
S) Slow - sometimes pieces sit for years until they are done. My enamel B/W sketches oil on paper take a couple of days.
G) Tell us a little about your book ‘Tensions’, and where we can find it.
S) My book Tensions can be found at rawmeatcollective.com (under shop - artist books). It is a book about struggle, beauty, celebration, addiction in the family, and my son Josh. I want people to remember my son, he was a great father and a wonderful man. My friend Kyle helped me realize a dream of publishing my poetry, short stories and photography, and I am so grateful.
' "Labrinth" to the sun '
'The Procession (3 Eyes)'
G) Let us into what you are working on at the moment, and where we can follow you on social media.
S) You can find me @susancarr88 on Instagram.
I am painting, making masks, having fun with my work. We should all have fun with our work it should never be a drudgery.
G) Thank you Susan.
'Making friends with zombies'
G) Welcome to ALKALI Villie. Tell us a little about your processing of the images, after you have taken them. Do you believe in a vast amount of editing, or are you more Spartan in your approach?
V) I do not believe in corrective post processing of images, for example correcting exposures, or manipulating the images in terms of creating an absent aspect of a shot, for example blurring parts of the image to enhance motion/movement, or introducing a little cottage in a valley to bring in a romantic point of view. For one, we experience the era of DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) and mirrorless cameras that allow one to have full control of exposure - in doing so the cameras “share” with the photographer all of their knowledge on the amount of light that hits their sensors. If one uses a digital camera then s/he has the luxury to review the shots so truly there is no need to process a non-satisfactorily taken shot, you can simply retake the shot. Granted the latter does not stand true for the enstatanes, but then again you learn with experience. Also, the technological and infrastructural advances of cameras now, smartphones included, allow for a plethora of creative inputs in the shots in advance, for example multiple exposures, length of exposures, pin-hole photography, and so much more. In this sense I do not apply any type of corrective post processing.
Nevertheless, recently I started experimenting with color photography and I recalled the effects of negative colors and negative images. I enjoy applying these post-processing effects, depending of course on the subjects, context and composition of the shots. An example of such post-processing in my work is shown in the photograph shown above which is a shot of patches of common moss towering over river Shannon in Limerick. Both leaf-like forms (gametophytes) and tall, stalk-like forms (sporophytes) of the moss are shown. I introduced negative coloring, and as result the male (sporophytes) and female (gametophytes) parts are enhanced as blue/purple and pink. Apart from the aesthetic result of viewing something “out of this world” I like this post-processing effect because it introduces another contextual level in the shot, i.e. stereotypical colors for genders, and it can provoke further thoughts/questions to the viewer/s.
'Partners in life'
Interview questions : Georgie Vargemezi
G) You encompass time, its stillness, motion, and passing in your work.. What is the significance of this in your life, and your photographs?
V) As a baseline, all images share this common denominator, they are planck moments in continuous time. But then, one can build upon this, and exaggerate the time feature. For example via introducing different degrees of motion in a single image, creating Carré, shooting the same image in different seasons, in consequent years etc.
Until quite recently I considered time an enemy for me; I have been battling with the feeling that my life is kind of measured against time, and as a result I have been living under the pressure that there is not enough time to think things through – in a way that I would feel confidently satisfied with. Simultaneously, although since a relatively young age I thought of time as our only true commodity in life, I did not develop the skills how to truly use it, how to work with it. Now, I am learning and practicing exactly this. So now I USE time, thus I employ time every day to enjoy the things and the activities I like doing, the ones that fill me up with energy, happiness and positivity. I employ time to learn more, to experience more. And most importantly, I learned how to appreciate time more. I take nothing for granted.
When I exaggerate time in my pictures it can be for a number of reasons. For example, there are occasions that I just want to capture not a subject (not necessarily an animal including humans, it could be a whole plant, a flower, or an object) per se, but the way they move, for example dynamic, hectic, fearful, strong, placid, promising, hideous, unexpected, hilarious, aesthetic, awesome, etc. In other occasions, I like presenting an opportunity for stories to be imagined by the viewers of my art. An example of the latter is shown in photograph "Fishmongers" which displays a scene from the Milk Market in Limerick.
Nobody (apart from the protagonists of the image) really knows what the old man and the fishmonger are talking about; it could be as trivial as the weather, or an order for next week, or as intense as chatting about a recent death that took place the other day in their village and they cannot be really sure if it was not the long predicted murder they have been chatting about for years. This unknown is intensified by the atmospheric steam coming out of the ice buckets in front of the empty benches. Little details give context to the day, the rushing family with the umbrellas and the raincoats let us know that it is a rainy day, the empty and clean benches let us imagine the crowds of people who purchased the displayed fish earlier on, etc. A planck moment captured in a unique image that allows one to unveil the flow of time in many directions. Daily, seasonal, generational, societal. I find this magical.
G) Do you remember the first time that you took a photograph? How old were you, and what was your subject?
V) I cannot recall the subject of my very first photograph – I am sad about this as I would be very interested in knowing this information for me. I do remember though that when I was growing up taking pictures was something reserved only for the adults of the family. My parents had a 35mm camera -an Agfa bought when we as a family were living abroad. I do not know the exact model but it could have been one marketed by Agfa in the 60's, for example a Stillete, or an Optima. I recall that the camera went hand in hand with a Minolta external flash. When my parents were not looking I used to hold the Agfa in my hands, and explore its different options, like opening its back to reveal the chamber for the film, working the shutter to hear the harsh click sound, playing with the flash to see it flashing and listen to its sound.
I recall vividly the very first times I shot with a camera of my own - I was in my early 20s, and my partner and I used to travel a lot in my home country -Greece. We were shooting with a Canon A1 along with my parents' Minolta flash. At the time I used to like creating rather surrealistic images, for example using the flash in daylight to create a studio effect, employing liquids as substrates to distort images of subjects / objects, taking advantage of Canon's multiple exposure feature, etc.
G) How do you know when it’s the right time to press the capture button on your camera? Do you have a precursor feeling, movement in your body, or thought?
V) It is variable. Sometimes I go out determined to shoot aspects of a particular “subject”. This could be something tangible, for example flowers or the flow of the river, or something much more abstract, for example sadness or impatience.
In occasions like the latter I go out looking for the compositions that would express my quest, and I think that my decision making about when exactly to press the button operates like an hourglass, i.e. it resembles a type of measuring how close each shot is to what I have been looking for. I press the button when this hourglass feels almost full. However, the real test of whether my quest has been productive comes when I look at the shots on the screen, or on paper. I think that the more I practice such approaches the closer I come in tune with these fine and multi-factorial decision making processes that drive me to materialize certain shots - instead of others. At least this is what I am hoping for (!), as the percentage of satisfactory, fulfilling shots of such photographic excursions of mine is still low.
In other cases compositions “appear” in front of me, and I experience a feeling which translates into a necessity to shoot a particular image/composition. I think that this process applies in most of my enstatanes, street-photography shots. For example, I was walking down the river when I noticed this phrase, handwritten in red, on one of the poles by the stairs leading down to the river: “Maybe no one is watching” (see image to the right). I felt it was a particularly powerful message in view of the many suicides occurring in river Shannon in Limerick. Initially I took some landscape shots including this pole, but then my daughter had the idea to pose with her back turned, looking at the river. I believe that this human presence actually made the shot, both aesthetically (as it adds an extra dimension in the depth of field), as well as emotionally; it pushes thoughts, questions, and feelings on the surface. In other occasions, like still life and grandchildren modeling (!), it is all about details in the compositions. In such cases I form a kind of unique relationship with the subjects; it feels like sharing a dance with the subjects, and the moments when I push the button feel like crescendos, i.e. peaks.
G) Do you think that the fact that you are a woman affects how you approach a potential subject, and how you see that subject?
V) I certainly hope so! My relationship with my gender has been very rocky, and a kind of a “slow burn”. I was born and raised in a country that traditionally has been male dominated, and I practiced 99% of my professional work/life in male dominated areas as well, i.e. science, risk analysis. As a result, more than often I employed rather stereotypical behaviors to navigate through. Only recently, and in particular since my grandchildren were born I turned and looked into who I am as a woman first and a professional after. I would not exaggerate if I said that it has been the most interesting and challenging journey of my life. It was during this period that I tuned into my creative humanistic side again, and I dug into my love for photography. And although photography has been a male dominated area as well - even contemporary photography; just look at the names coming through in any photography competition nationally or internationally- when I choose any of my subjects now I believe I do so as a woman, a mother, a grandmother, a mother in law. Because this is my identity. The question then becomes whether my own perceptions and perspectives differ extraordinarily from ones practiced by the male gender. Most probably. Men and women are indeed different biological creatures, with completely different hormone cocktails running through their veins. On top of these per se biological differences there are societal inputs and imposed perspectives based on gender, so male and female views divert even further. Obviously our era (in most of the western world) appears to be much more democratic and inclusive compared with 100, 50, or 25 years ago. So now, we, the women, have a much more difficult job to do. We have even more responsibility to ensure that we give and get back indeed 50% of everything in our society - as we represent almost 50% of human population. We need to be extra resourceful, extra creative, and extra confident in order to identify true inequalities, objectively judge real injustices, and preach and practice gender equality in our families and close environments, and further on in our societies. This is why this initiative, an independent art magazine focusing on women creatives is hugely important as art space is another male dominated area. I believe that at the end of the day the whole society loses out if 50% of its voices are muted.
G) Do you think that your background of science has made an impact on your approach towards photography? And if so, is it negative, or positive?
V) At this moment in time I do not think that the way I choose, and look into my subjects has been majorly impacted by my background in science. I leave open the possibility that my biology training will surface, and possibly dominate, if I start shooting much more nature photography. Having said that, I acknowledge that my scientific training makes it much easier for me to indulge into the details of behavior and manipulation of light, and the technical aspects of lenses' structures and functionalities.
G) Let us into why you have picked these particular images to share with us.
V) I tried to showcase my journey in photography this far – and in particular how my confidence, and technical abilities, grew over time. So, I started with shooting in black and white, mainly street photography. Gradually, I developed enough courage to start getting closer to my subjects and more personal in my shots. In time I introduced colour photography, as well as experimentation with colour via post-processing.
As always, time passes by very quickly and sometimes I feel like I am galloping across photography land. Since I decided upon these photographs for the interview I have already went to a next step in my work, and currently I am experimenting with overexposures and photographing essays.
G) Do you believe that color enhances the feeling in a photograph, or do you think that black and white photography has an effect solely on its own?
V) Black and white photography has such a rich history. I grew up in the era of monochrome TV, and the first ever movies I watched were film noir and classical Hollywood cinema, so for me it is difficult to alienate black and white photography from all the atmosphere, aesthetics and weight that its history brings. Inevitably, seeing a monochrome black and white image opens a tap of feelings, and I suppose of biases, and it takes me longer to observe it “freely”.
So, when I started this journey of mine in photography I was much more orientated towards black and white, partly because of all the above. I now know however, that another strong reason behind this initial choice of mine was my lack of confidence to experiment in color. Shooting nature photography pushed me towards color – I felt that I needed to capture and showcase the tones, play of dullness and vibrancy, and immense contrasts that are freely, and so richly, offered in nature subjects.
I believe that each shot is “meant” to be displayed either in color or in black and white. I do not think however that there are any rules about which subjects are best shot in monochrome, and which in multi-color. It depends on all the factors leading up to and realizing a composition, and this is why one needs to be flexible and open to all possibilities. Personally, I feel that I have not found my feet in photography yet; as I am trying to build my own vocabulary in this art I am open to whether apply color or not on my shots, and currently I am indeed experimenting with both in most of the shots I take.
Beyond aesthetics, photography is an interactive visual art, and a valid question as well is “do I believe that the experience I want to communicate with this shot comes through more effectively via color or via monochrome?”.
Born in 1956, Kazuyo Sejima is a Japanese architect who is known for her modernist, clean design of slick surfaces like glass, marble and metals. Her sculpted designs – odes to the realities of life, form, and function - have lines and shapes that have the ability to melt into the sky, yet also cut a strong and very defined outline. The use of transparency, white, boxes and curves are Sejima’s signature. ‘Shibaura House’ (see image to the left), was created by Kazuyo Sejima for a printing company, and is situated in the Shibaura district in Tokyo’s vibrant business district in Tokyo Bay. Deviating from the dense, solid buildings that surround this design, ‘Shibaura House’ breaks the mold of its neighbouring forms by being a large, transparent glass box that consists of over four levels, all linked with winding holes in the flooring – allowing for the multiplication of light and air over double and triple spaced heights. The particular building is also meant to be multi functional; with spaces for social workshops, a cafeteria, business areas, design and art areas and more. In essence, it is a compact neighbourhood of knowledge and study. ‘Shibaura House’ manages to encompass and reflect the Japanese culture of Sejima, with its apparent, translucent and structured design that almost reminisces Japanese lanterns – yet has evident strong structure with its interlacing pattern of rectangles and stretched metal mesh.
There is a sense of dynamism and vibration as each floor seems to melt into the next and vice versa. This marrying of form and function is evident in all of Kazuyo Sejima’s work, and is vital to her architectural heritage. With its varying ceiling heights and lack of internal partition walls, ‘Shibaura House’ is a design that ensures the maximum functional flexibility possible, and its spaces have been used for business purposes, cultural events, schools, art exhibitions, and seminars – proving its multi functional nature, and its feasibility to bring people together physically. It is more than worthwhile to study Kazuyo Sejima’s designs, irrespective to what art form you are working in. Her use of positive and negative space, materials and textures, structures, play of soft and tough, allow for a consistent ebb and flow of feelings, reactions and thoughts, without the necessity of material excessiveness. This ability to reach an absolute balance can only be good, both for an individual artist, and also for the continuation and evolution of contemporary aesthetics.
by Georgie Vargemezi
Driven by an internal, innate talent, Penelope Delta (born Benaki), was the first Greek woman to write for children. She was born in Alexandria, Egypt in 1874, the third of the six children of Emmanuel Benakis and Virginia Choremi, and she went on to spent most of her childhood and teenage years there, whilst traveling to other countries in the meantime. She had a tough, extremely strict upbringing under the hands of her mother, and this influenced her to become a fragile personality. This unfortunately did not only give her a raw talent in regards to writing, but also a predisposition to frequently thinking, and acting towards ending her life.
Delta was extremely sensitive to the sense, and importance of history around her, and she started and maintained correspondence with several hugely important individuals in her time: historian Gustave Sclumberger, a renowned specialist on the Byzantine Empire, Ion Dragoumis, a Greek diplomat, philosopher, writer and revolutionary, Eleftherios Venizelos, a Greek statesman and prominent figure of the Greek liberation movement, and Bishop Chrysanthos, the Archbishop of Athens and all Greece between the years of 1938 and 1941. Her continued conversations with these pinnacles of knowledge and history, as well as the travels that she went on with her husband and entrepreneur Stephanos Deltas, prompted her rich, wonderful stories that incorporated historical events and places of battle.
Delta was a sponge of noesis. Her style of writing is lyrical, well composed, and has the ability to touch the mind and soul of those who read her stories. The most famous book in Greece, both amongst children and adults (as well as my personal favourite), is‘ Trellantonis’ (Crazy Anthony), which is actually about her elder brother, Anthonis Benakis. In this heart warming book, Penelope Delta essentially shares with the reader memories from her own home, and introduces us to the admirable and ethical perspective that she so admired in her sibling. It is almost as if she is creating somewhat of a shrine to her brother, yet in a participatory way, and not a passive one. Important to note here that her book also had images of the characters in them, which lent even more of a friendly aura for children readers. Even though Penelope Delta has somewhat been characterised as ‘overly patriotic’ by some, I believe that this was more of a bitterly dealt hand towards a woman who not only was aware of past and current political events, but also had the strength, talent, and nous to write about them, criticise them, and contribute to opinions of those who read her books. Even now, Delta’s book are ones that children in Greece will read as the first in their lives, and due to her clear, powerful but still beautiful way of writing, this will be a case for many years to come.