13/01/23 – 04/02/23
The history of the bust dates back thousands of years, thought to have originated in Egyptian times but rising to prominence in Hellenistic Greek and Roman times. With the main purpose of recording and displaying a person’s character, the exact method of translation from person to stone differed slightly between Greek and Roman tradition. Greek statues glorified the human form, focusing on beauty and the virtue associated with it, affirming this to stone as a lasting memory. On the other hand, Roman statuary took a more realistic approach depicting the portrait of a person as they were, lines, blemishes and imperfections included to gain a likeness as close to the original as possible and finding the beauty in the individual. In this new body of work Pouliassi has reformed the bust, utilising an array of characters as her muses she reinvestigates the common notions of busts and other statuary to form a new sculptural language focused on disrupting the ‘normativity’ of fetish, desire and identification.
Pouliassi has continued in her unique ability to craft trauma and history, both personal and universal, creating objects that question the base meanings of human, femininity and the self. These new works find a teetering balance between the romantic and the grotesque, objects ever transforming, in flux with themselves as beings. Pouliassi uses this instability as a means to destabilise anthropocentrism and create a post-apocalyptic feminine vision. The feminine is undeniable within the works, a self starting point from which Pouliassi searches through myth to reinvent femininity, decoding the monstrous feminine archetype. In an essay for Granta, Hannah Williams explores the idea of ‘woman as terroriser’ that has been a narrative throughout history;
‘The female body has been codified as disgusting, defective- leaking, bleeding, oozing- from time immemorial. She limps, incomplete and half-finished, across Aristotle’s theories, a deformed ‘monstrosity’ and ‘misbegotten man’; stalks through Talmud on Lilith’s jackal-feet, flying through the night on her bird wings to sate her demon’s appetite; drags her heavy body through Greek mythology, crowned with curls of snakes. She’s simultaneously too-much and less-than; little more than an underdeveloped man, a foetus too weak to grow entirely, pale and fragile as an orchid.’
The pedestals of woman Pouliassi has created stand as monuments acting to subvert the narrative and empower the monstrous. She combines monstrosity and sensuality to form beings that attract and repel us simultaneously. Like the busts of old they offer a representation of self, however, under Pouliassi’s hand they are enabled to tell their own story. Her continued use of found materials embeds the objects with a past separate for her’s. A life created out of detritus fuels more careful balance, decay existing with regeneration. The use of found materials also echoes to the economy of traditional busts that used less material than full size sculptures and embodied less space as objects, in turn echoing the space that woman has taken up in the traditional narrative.
Pouliassi fosters environments that are uncomfortable and force us to question the works both within the context of the exhibition and ourselves. The works exist in a purposeful imbalance, an unnerving equilibrium that keeps us enthralled by her objects, hypnotised by what is unknown.
7 November until 7 December 2019
Curator Will Coups
In 2016, Marios Psaras released the book The Queer Greek Weird Wave, exploring how Greek cinema was altered by the national crisis and how the politics of a nation can be critiqued by a queer-eye. In his description of the text, Psaras writes ‘Cinema might not be able to help heal a broken nation but it can definitely help revisit a nation’s past, reframe its present and re-imagine its future’. This statement exemplifies not only cinemas but the wider spectrum of the arts’ ability to assess and inform a situation in a subversive manner, providing a personal insight to the state of a cultural social unconscious.
In this exhibition, Pouliassi reaches into her own experiences to understand how her personal traumatic events are influenced by dystopian instability. Key icons draw us through her works, repeating in various images until we understand their significance on all levels. Crosses, knives and guns frequent Pouliassi’s pieces, leaving us unsure whether they are reminders of past events or a premonition of what may come. Paired with this, more delicate elements such as coats, jeans and shoes. These items bring contrast to the more violent aspects of the exhibition positioning themselves as domestic and every day. Relatable to us, the objects provide an entry point into the works, a sense of the familiar that allows us to become a part of them.
The human is central in how Pouliassi expresses her thoughts. On closer inspection of the works, carefully incorporated hair and teeth can be found layered into her paintings and plaited into stilettos. These remnants of humanity are not overtly associated with death alone but become a symbol of her fetishism of the macabre. Juxtaposed with the feeling of the past that these elements signify, Pouliassi offers a visceral human connection to the present. Found objects, sex toys and media tropes frequent the gallery space, serving as tokens of our time and locating the works within the millennial epoch.
There is an air of revolution to the exhibition. Pouliassi appears to be preparing a reactionary wave against her trauma and that of her nation’s. Her large paintings emblazoned with weapons and crosses evoke flag designs. The slogans written upon them act as mottos for how she sees the current climate, a satirical call to arms. Call 911, No bullets left, Missing. There is a want to find a way to escape the distress signals that Pouliassi confronts us with, searching for the proposed future that we hope she may see. Occasions throughout the exhibition allow us to glimpse at what could be, but Pouliassi has the ability to keep us confined in her way of thinking. We become a collective with her, riding the waves of momentary utopia then being brought back into her constructed dystopian home.