Curatorial Research Programme: Traces of Landscapes beyond land

Curatorial Research Programme: Traces of Landscapes beyond land

The third “Residency Programme for Academic and Curatorial Research of Contemporary Greek Art” organised by “The other Arcadia” Foundation (Athens) in collaboration with The Courtauld Institute of Art (London), commenced on 26th September and ended on 6th November 2023.

The third resident to travel and spend time in Athens was Maria Alessio, who completed her MA in Curating the Art Museum at The Courtauld Institute of Art in September 2023. Maria Alessio was selected by a committee consisting of:
Deborah Swallow, Director, The Courtauld Institute of Art, Anna Somers Cocks OBE, Founder of the “Arts Newspaper”, Elisabeth Plessa, art historian-curator, Caroline Levitt, Head of Curatorial Department, The Courtauld Institute of Art and Daphne Politi, Head of Residency Programme, The Sotiris Felios Collection.

Maria Alessio spent 6-weeks in Athens where she was introduced to artists and leading art professionals living and working in Athens, while also had the chance to engage in extended conversations with Sotiris Felios. Based on her proposal researching “landscapes beyond land”, a bespoke programme of visits, discussions and exhibition tours was designed, centering around landscape painting forms, art history, human experience and myths related to the notion of place.

Maria’s research culminated into the exhibition A sense of place: Traces of Landscapes from The Sotiris Felios Collection. The exhibition included more than 30 paintings and sculptures from the Collection created by more than 20 artists. For its presentation, Maria engaged in conducting research through interviews, museum visits and books reading, while also planning and executing the organisation of the exhibition and writing the curatorial text and the main text of the press release.

The exhibition

The Courtauld Institute of Art, London and The Sotiris Felios Collection present the exhibition A sense of place: Traces of Landscapes from the Sotiris Felios Collection curated by Maria Alessio. The exhibition opened on Wednesday 25th October 2023 at the art space 16 Fokionos Negri Athens and is on view until Saturday 11th November 2023.

A sense of place: Traces of Landscapes from the Sotiris Felios Collection is the second exhibition presented in the context of the Residency Programme and is the culmination of curator Maria Alessio’s six-week residency in Athens, during which she immersed herself in its vibrant arts community and developed her research and curatorial practice through meeting with Athens based artists and art professionals from leading museums and galleries of Greece.

It comprises paintings and sculptures by: Io Angeli, Alecos Fassianos, Maria Filopoulou, Christos Bokoros, Alecos Levidis, Afroditi Liti, Andreas Lolis, Tassos Mantzavinos, Natalia Mela, Louiza Missiou, Emmanouil Bitsakis Vally Nomidou, Kostas Papanikolaou, Elias Papanikolaou, Kostas Papatriantafyllopoulos, Anna Maria Tsakali, Edouard Sacaillan, Varvara Spirouli

Curator’s note

Like any work of art, landscapes exist on the threshold between subjectivity and objectivity, freedom and necessity. Taking as its starting point the landscapes in the Sotiris Felios Collection, this exhibition delves into the complexities of such inherent tension.

In art history, the genre of landscape designates pictorial representations of an open space, usually natural, whose qualities make it the object of aesthetic enjoyment for humans. The different generations of Greek artists in the Collection were inspired by aesthetics of natural and urban settings of Greece and skillfully explore it in their works.

The extraordinary variety of styles and media that characterises the works in this exhibition demonstrates that the landscapes exhibited are not purely aesthetic depictions of a place: as artists observe, remember, and even invent the places they depict, each work produces its own, unique, sense of place. In fact, as British cultural geographer Denis Cosgrove explains: ‘Landscape is not merely the world we see, it is a construction, a composition of that world. Landscape is a way of seeing the world’ (Cosgrove, ‘Prospect, Perspective and the Evolution of the Landscape’, 1985).

The artworks in the exhibition are all variously permeated by the nostalgia of the emigrant, the curiosity of the visitor, the intimacy of the resident, the imagination of the dreamer. More than a staged view, each work engages with landscape as a memory theatre, that exists between past and present, presences and absences and through the emotive and the subconscious rather than the purely rational as the compositions come to life.
The exhibited artists’ deeply subjective engagement with the imagined and real places that they depict reminds us that landscapes can and do exist in many ways and are not purely something we look at but also something we experience, something we live in: people, animals, plants, and even mythological creatures inhabit and shape the landscapes depicted and are the subject of the sculptures that populate the exhibition space. Expanding on conventional notions of landscape, the artworks extend its dominion beyond the flatness of the canvas and into our own space, inviting emotional, bodily participation.

At a time when the climate crisis challenges and urges us to rethink our relationship with land and nature, this exhibition celebrates landscape as something beautiful and wondrous, yet also incredibly intimate and close to us. Through a poetic appreciation of the Earth’s beauty in its topical variety, embodied in the richness and vibrancy of the selected art works, we are encouraged to think of landscape not only as a way of seeing but also as a way of being. Moving beyond the rational and individual perspective, this display calls for a sense of commonality with the imagined and real places, as the uniqueness of each artwork pervades the shared and universal experience.

The Sotiris Felios Collection “Residency Programme for Academic and Curatorial Research of Contemporary Greek Art” is funded by “The other Arcadia” Foundation and is supported by the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports.