A Divided Island: The Art Partners insight into the contemporary art scene of Cyprus.
Last year, 2018, we spent investigating and discussing contemporary art scene in Cyprus with art professionals both locally and internationally. Recent economic boom and strong historical legacy positively influenced on growing interest to the arts. Complicated political climate stabilized since Turkish invasion in the early 80s yet Nicosia for instance remains the last divided capital in the world, with the scars of past conflict that comes in the form of Buffer-Zone, blocked streets with barrels and barbered wire. This complex nature of the Cypriot reality created the source of inspiration to make art under these circumstances and boon in artistic projects.
There are beautiful initiatives across the island, such as Art Seen founded by Maria Stathi, that has focus on building bridges between Cyprus and the international art world. The aim is to contribute to the cultural life by educating and developing the art scene of Cyprus as well as providing the opportunity to the local community to be introduced to contemporary art.
Pivotal in the development of art scene is Point Centre for Contemporary Art, which hosts a library, and its research department leads to the organisation of seminars, workshops, lectures, screenings, educational programmes, and other events, as well as the issuing of relevant publications.
There are quite a few collective project spaces - young contingent of Cypriot artists willing to collaborate in getting one another’s work out there. For example, in 2017 was founded Korai space by Andreas Mallouris & Theodoulos Polyviou as an attempt to explore the limits of curational agency as well as to host dialogues and hence open up artistic practices through discussion and production of projects. VOLKS is a space encouraging experimentation, critique, and collaboration. It is housed in a warehouse at the South Entrance of Nicosia and supporting artists working across disciplines who promote cross-pollination between creative and local communities. Is not a gallery is another artist-run space (founded by Andros Efstathiou), which is situated in the heart of the old part of Nicosia and promotes new and innovative works of young Cypriot and European artists.
It’s a new phenomenon - a tightly-knit scene and the artists running the spaces invite each other to do shows.
Another major platform to showcase local talent to be established soon is MOCA - Cyprus Museum of Contemporary Art, the project which was set in motion by The Cultural Services of the Ministry of Education and Culture. Until its establishment, the newly renovated building of the State Gallery of Contemporary Art – SPEL will be hosting a series of events and exhibitions. Its inaugural show opened in February and pays tribute to a great Cypriot artist, Christoforos Savva, who will be also representing Cyprus at the 58th Venice Biennale.
Lastly, but not the least, there is NIMAC (Nicosia Municipal Arts Centre) - the oldest and largest Contemporary Art Centre of the island. Housed in the renovated building of the Old Powerhouse, its architectural restoration and conversion into a beautiful art and cultural space was awarded the Europa Nostra Award in 1994. Current exhibition 'Things that go together' features twelve years practice of designer Michael Anastassiades. The show presents Anastassiades' design process through his research, his personal collection and studio archive. His works are in permanent collections of Moma NYC, the Victoria&Albert museum in London and others.
Uniqueness of the current situation in addition to the richness of ancient art (there is a wing dedicated to the Cypriot Art at the Met) and emerging contemporary scene, motivated us to launch an artist residency, Untapped Residency by The Art Partners.
Untapped is the title of residency as we believe that artists we're inviting have untapped potential, equally we can say about the island - full of limitless source of ideas and artistic possibilities. We strongly believe that art patronage is a vital part of art eco-system and it is important to contribute to any community you are connected to for the better future.
It is a research-based residency where artists explore the island and get into the urban mixed landscape. We invited two artists based in London, Mike Ballard and Robin Seir.
Robin Seir “Gether Contemporary”
Photo by David Stjernholm
Robin Seir occupies the no-man’s land between what would traditionally be considered ‘cognitive’ on one hand and ‘self-referential’ on the other. Engaging with visual agents that exist primarily as communication devices such as signs, icons, logotypes and typographies, Seir addresses instead their ocular, tangible and stylistic values. In a precession of style these paintings bear qualities hiding in plain sight, while content and purpose are left behind.
Seir’s recent works draw from ancient visual sources spanning iconography, ornamentation and pre-historic writing, along with contemporary counterparts such as logotypes and sticker designs. Through minimal and reduced vocabulary, Seir manages to avoid explicit, cognitive references and instead points to the physicality of reference itself.
Seir spent three weeks in August in Limassol and did several day trips to Nicosia as well as Paphos and the archeological site of Kourion. In an attempt to reference communication devices spanning as much contemporary mass-communication as well as pre-historic iconography, Seir found a particular interest in the urban visual culture of the streets of Nicosia as much as the pre-historic mosaics and ornaments of Kourion.
Combining and juxtaposing the communication devices of these often separated contexts, - Cyprus with its important heritage as well as urban climate of Nicosia made a rich and unique contribution to Seir’s painting vocabulary.