London! From July 12th till July 23rd, the Herrick gallery will showcase a must see exhibition: Ultimate Angles by Byron Newman & Aphrodite Papadatou. The two artists use different mediums to present their representations of transgender communities, one in Paris in the early 80s, the other, London, in all its present day glory. We talk with both artist about their visions and their work. After our interview with photographer Byron Newmann, it’s time to chat with artist Aphrodite Papadatou.
KALTBLUT: HI Aphrodite, I can’t help it to noticed at the first sight that your painting are all so colourful but in the same time there is something real sad coming out of it…
Aphrodite: The exploration of the human condition is what drives my life and my work. Made up as it is of its startling contrasts and nuances, weaved in looms of isolation and togetherness, the human condition is like layered lace. You mention colourful sadness: Yes, It is is in this way I like to capture human beauty; in its horror. At both its strongest and at its most vulnerable. I like to clad its sadness with pop colours, and to celebrate its resilience, its uniqueness. Ultimately I want to humanise my subject matters, who are also reflections of myself. But at the very end, I always hope that our love and its colours will conquer all.
KALTBLUT: We can see a lot of Egon Schiele in your work, how was he an influence?
Aphrodite: I am very influenced by German and Austrian expressionism, both wittingly and unwittingly. That owe a lot to my studies in History and Politics. I am fascinated by that period, the fin de cycle generation. When I was at school my art teacher noticed that my natural style had qualities that resembled Schiele’s and introduced me to his work. He could see how we use a similar economy of lines to convey burning expressions and for representing limb-like bodies. Someone recently told me my work was ‘Schiele on psychedelics’. That’s an honour. I think Egon was a genius. The biggest influence for me from Egon is his raw, sexual strength, always unapologetic.
KALTBLUT: The medium of painting has been and is still very macho and not very progressive, how do you place your practice in the tradition? And in the contemporary scene?
Aphrodite: It still is. There is much work to be done. I want to see more women painting with raw energy. I want to see more women making art and selling art. The making and consumption of art must be democratised and fluid. The purpose of art is to be feasted upon by all. Painting for me is the most direct form of self expression. It was declared macho by the few. We can now declare it otherwise.
KALTBLUT: How do you pick your models?
Aphrodite: I am fascinated by burning eyes, by characters who own the psychological and physical spaces they inhabit with insatiable energy, defiance. I document friends, lovers, social and cultural subcultures, fetishisms. I pick models based on an affinity I have with them, I see in them things that spark my love, my fascination, and nurture a sense both of distance and of belonging. I am almost always sexually attracted to them in one way or another, for they are beckoning figures. And almost always melancholy.
KALTBLUT: What’s the influence of the city you live in in your work?
Aphrodite: For all its troubles, recently more so than ever, I am proud to be a Londoner, to be a citizen of a city that in the whole strives to show the best of democratic, tolerant character, especially when threatened by injustice by prejudice from within. And precisely because diversity is what it is made of, it has become one of the best, most creative and free spaces in the world to live. In my own circles of artists and intellectuals – but also in those circles of all good citizens – it is of course a natural way of being: we will fight the cause of freedom, of equity, of openness, and of forging creative, free environments until the end. This task in itself is the greatest influence of this city. So I have a romance with London – reclaiming its space inspires me. We own it. I called a recent series of paintings – ‘London Anarchy’, as ever portraits of outsider figures reclaiming different corners of the urban landscape. Artists, strippers, transvestites. This idea is now more topical than ever.
KALTBLUT: How is it different to represent a transgender person for a painter?
Aphrodite: I find they transgenders have a natural tendency to amplify emotions and expressions. The transgenders I have chosen to paint, form the Athenian transvestites to the wonderful punk queens of East London, have all revelled in auras of theatricality, of the spiansism, of performance. They have been nearly always defiant subjects to paint. Utterly compelling. That nature bodes so well with my expressionistic oeuvre. So they are my natural subject matter.
KALTBLUT: Sexuality is a big part of painting, the desire to be with the model, or the desire to paint, how does it work for you?
Aphrodite: Everything I paint is made of sexual desire, not only of hedonism, but the desire to be close to my subject matters, to satisfy to an insatiable urge to belong. But there is empathy in equal measure which is merely the need to connect. To be human. For me painting, like sex, like a hug, kissing, is the most intimate thing I can do
KALTBLUT: What was your first reaction seeing the work of Byron Newmann for the exhibition?
Aphrodite: I was captivated by his work on the Paris transgenders in the 80s from when I very first saw it. Raw, powerful. Urgent.
KALTBLUT: What is your ultimate goal?
Aphrodite: To keep experiencing the most intense emotions. To be able to communicate these for as long as I live. But I think at the end of the day we all want to be loved and be looked after.