5 min read on Athene Galiciadis’ Empty Sculptures
About her silent dialogue during artistic creation, the timeless modernity of her sculptures, and their double life
Anyone familiar with Athene Galiciadis’ work has most likely already encountered them, the Empty Sculptures – as motifs on canvas in her multi-layered paintings. At the gallery in Copenhagen, von Bartha is currently showing a new series of sculptures by the Zurich artist. Stately apparitions, their size, and shapes are reminiscent of torsos, a reference that leads to the fact that she also calls her sculptures bodies. After firing, still unpainted, she places them on her work table to allow for an encounter at eye level. She embraces them, grasps and feels the figure, and learns more about the character she has in front of her. From this silent dialogue develops the second phase of artistic creation, the ideas for patterns, and colors that give the sculpture its final appearance and its unmistakable identity.
Athene Galiciadis has been creating with clay since her school days at the Liceo Artistico in Zurich. Being familiar with and able to master the basic techniques of sculpture was at the core of her education. Working manually with clay has remained fundamental for her artistic expression ever since – alongside drawing, painting, and installations. Although her Greco-Hungarian roots are important to her, the parallels with ancient ceramics in the technique and form of the objects have less meaning for her than the fascination with the archaic sculpture itself that forms a protective space like a small architecture providing shelter. The enthusiasm for these objects is the reason why they reappear as motifs in Athene Galiciadis’ paintings. Her canvases often depict flowers or animals combined with serial geometric patterns – which oscillate as background or overlying structures. The painted sculptures combine both, the reference to nature in material and form and the arithmetic rhythm of the pattern.
The pleasant, harmonic, yet not perfect forms of the Empty Sculptures seem familiar. These sculptures serve no purpose and are not produced in series. They are asymmetrical and idiosyncratic and each one is unique.
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On the one hand, the painted pattern follows the shape of the sculpture and thus emphasizes it, and on the other hand, the geometrical patterns give support and structure to the organic, somewhat irregular forms. A field of tension that is also familiar to human individuals. Like a second skin or dress that protects or supports us, or sometimes even brings out the beauty and charm of a figure.
Athene Galiciadis first makes a full-size drawing for each sculpture. After a single firing, she uses acrylic paint to color the clay figures, which serve as a three-dimensional canvas. In contrast to a shiny glaze, the quality of acrylic paint is intense in color but mat in the finish keeps the earthen aspect of the ceramics alive. As the titles suggest, the ideas for the patterns have many sources and come spontaneously from memories and things seen in everyday life.
The narrow or wide openings draw the eye into the hollow space of the sculptures revealing the original color of the clay and the fragility of the work. They offer a play of inside and outside approaches and encourage the viewer to fill the Empty Sculptures according to his or her imagination.
“I am happy to have new motifs for my paintings again”, says Athene Galiciadis with a twinkling smile looking at her various sculptures. So we are curious to discover which pieces will reappear as a protagonist in new paintings, yet to be made.