Currently exhibiting at The Strand Gallery is Advertising Exhibitions’ show LINES. Here you can discover the work of Maria Christoforatou, a diverse artist who explores the instability of the notion of home and the psychology of belonging through her sculptures, drawings and collages.
Christoforatou’s involvement in the art world was inevitable. Her creativity and interest in different materials emerged at a young age. When chatting to The Strand Gallery she told us:
I understood that I wanted to be an artist at an early age; when I was a kid I remember telling my family that I wanted to be an artist. I was always surrounded by colours and brushes as my father was a contractor for dyes. I love the smell of paint! I remember staying for hours in my father’s studio playing with brushes and patterns. I enjoyed visiting museums with my family and going to exhibitions, something that was always very inspiring and motivating.
Childhood experiences have also significantly inspired the themes and issues Christoforatou addresses in her work. Her portfolio is varied in technique and the mediums she uses, but her conceptual ideas are consistent and focused:
My work examines the emotional effects of displacement in relation to notions of ‘home’ as a place of refuge and departure, and the ways in which art can expose the effects of forced displacement and feelings of fear, pain and loss. My family experienced the loss of a home through two house fires. The burnt smell of fire still haunts me to this day. In both instances, I was overcome by feelings of helplessness, disorientation, a pining for my lost belongings, and a deep sadness. The sense of loss of routine and structure was also devastating. These were my first encounters with physical and psychological displacement and came to shape my subsequent experiences of dislocation as I moved from Greece to the UK, a sense of displacement that echoes (and always will echo) the first sense of the loss of home.
In her lofty studio space in London’s Southwark, Christoforatou spends much of her time experimenting with different methods and techniques. As an artist she finds the process of creating her work as important to the finished piece as the aesthetic qualities. This is particularly true of her project Homestead, which consists of a number of intricate collages:
A process of destroying and recreating over and over again is at the core of my practice, which often salvages and reworks remnants, fragments and debris. I manipulate images of, or motifs relating to, the physical construction of houses in order to explore the concept of home as fragile and impermanent. I work regularly at my studio; sometimes even short sessions can be productive and help me keep my creativity alive.
Pieces from Homestead can be found in the exhibition LINES. These collages again address issues of the home and are a mixture of original and found materials. Christoforatou collects her raw materials from a variety of newspapers and magazines, which she then manipulates through a black and white photocopier and combines with her own photographs and charcoal or pastel sketches. The juxtaposition of the real and fake sparks interesting questions for the viewer regarding reality vs imagination. When asked about her methods, she explains:
Found images were used to enhance a sense of absence. The process of photocopying accentuates the absence of that object and increases a sense of displacement. Destroying and recreating over and over again is at the core of my practice, which often salvages and reworks remnants fragments, and debris. The structures created out of collage are very small in the centre of the page, and requires the viewer to come nearer to the actual work. I intended to show that while the image appears to be a house or a building from afar, once nearer, it is possible to see that these are in fact not real or existing buildings.
It is an incredibly exciting and busy time for Christoforatou at the moment. Alongside her art practice, she is also working towards a Ph.D, with her thesis exploring further the way displacement is represented in contemporary art. As well as the group exhibition at The Strand Gallery, she has also just opened her first solo show titled ‘Un-Build’ at Galeria Metamorfose, Portugal. This exhibition features drawings and collages that further explore her favourite subject, home.
LINES can be seen at The Strand Gallery between June 12th and June 15th.