Varvara Liakounakou

Liakounakou Varvara
© Andreas Schinas

Born in 1978 in Athens, she studied Painting at the Academy of Fine Arts of Florence (1997-2001). During the years 2001-2014 she lived and worked between Athens, Southern Crete, and New York. She is organiser and instructor of Painting at the Mudhouse Residency, in Agios Ioannis, Crete. Works by her can be found in the Vorres Museum Collection, the Emfietzoglou Collection and other private collections. She lives and works in Athens and Southern Crete.


Solo Exhibitions


Union Citronne Galleries Athens curated by Elisabeth Plessa


“1 + 1 = 1” Medusa Art Gallery Athens


Art Space 24 Athens


Art Space 24 Athens


Artower Agora Athens


The Compound of the Sum

The current group of works by Varvara Liakounakou presents the two-way creative process that gave birth to her recent drawings and paintings, whose main theme is the relationship between binary forms, in the light of Tarkovsky’s equation “1 + 1 = 1”.

If the earlier works by Liakounakou were dominated by dark blue, deep brown and ochre, in essentially monochromatic compositions, the current drawings and oils are characterized by a bold colour explosion that moves between bright colours and absolute black-and-white, freeing the forms and their matter from the dark depth of the painterly surface. The dimensions have also changed dramatically, because the artist has dared to create on the canvas full-length natural-size figures, which are transformed into autonomous presences addressing us frontally, since they dominate the painterly void with monumental properties.

Starting from the previous mother-child complexes and the subsequent swirling tango figures, the standing pairs in these large works resulted from the numerous drawings produced over the last ten years, stemming from a common iconography and technique. The oils maintain the intensity of the vibrating gestural line of the drawings, cutting across the canvas repeatedly, while characterized by a sculptural quality generating pyramidal forms, small domes, twirling around their fusion. However, the element of dance is no longer a centrifugal force but a form-connecting mechanism. Just as the enigmatic smiles on the faces are no longer elements of expression but tools for bringing together these monolithic volumes, where drawing and colour coexist on flat surfaces that offer endlessly the occasion for abstraction, that is, the occasion for painting.

Everything is determined by the creation process of the work, the manipulation of light and colour, and the placement of the figures in space. The outlines, the shade gradations and the alternations of tones are born through the thickening and thinning of the ink and oil, forming self-luminous volumes – light is not shone on them from an external source but comes from within, through the grids of the lines. If Liakounakou’s figures once used to lose their colour in the fading of light, they now depict the point where they discover light.

Colour is no longer embossed on the canvas, but asserts transparency. The struggle with the materials is no longer the subject of Liakounakou’s works, because matter no longer resists her – the incisions on the oil pastels have willingly become both surface and content, shaping organically the subject matter of her works, through the act of painting itself. In both the drawings and the oils, the figures are depicted once again schematized, reduced to heads, torsos and arms, but now they are usually depicted in pairs, with their lower limbs outside the painting’s frame. Because what matters to the painter is located in the centre: in the close embrace of the two figures, which are not added together but are integrated in a single, unbreakable form.

As if portrayed in Byzantine icons, the standing figures by Varvara Liakounakou include a subtle eroticism in their embrace, possibly her own curiosity about “why things are attracted and magnetized, and why they are repelled”, why things are both intangible energy and perishable body. By drawing the specific melting point of line and colour, the union of two forms into one, an image is recorded of the physical information exchanged within the enclave of two human bodies’ embrace. This painterly and mental union ultimately depicts the unity of form and content, it depicts wholeness – the mirror image of an indivisible and inseparable Self.


Elizabeth Plessa
* From the catalogue of Varvara Liakounakou’s exhibition “1 + 1 = 1”, Medusa Art Gallery, Athens, 2017.