Dripping dull colors with vibrant dashes
Evocative yet ordinary
Manic yet calming
Layers of inspiration through undefined logic
Prickly sensations of something familiar
Spinning wildly while flowing slowly
In her Strange Landscape, Irini Karayannopoulou allows magic to flow through her hands as she creates all types of objects and scenes. An abundance of elements fill her drawings, paintings, video animations, and sound works. With so many parts, how is the viewer to make sense of all the different objects? How can one find connections between a bag of gold coins and a bird flying in the air? It is preciously the magic that Karayannopoulou uses which brings her strange landscape together in a meaningful way. Manic animations reveal disparate elements thrown together as if they were meant to be. Multi-colored motifs transform into a circle, and then move into a lush forest landscape before finally becoming sharp angled stars. The flow is rapid yet sometimes sluggish depending on what seems most necessary at the moment.
There is no argument that the work the artist produces is a little strange. She embraces the weirdness to the utmost, constantly pulling something from her bag of tricks. In fact, it often seems that the stranger, the better. For only in a strange landscape would a less clear association between the elements, not to mention a more varied approach, actually create more meaning. Each project must be developed in its own way, according to what the object means through her magic. Karayannopoulou also makes magic, she allows it to inform her artworks and uses it to understand. Animations transform an object into something else; static images (like single paintings) may not be visually transformed in an obvious way, but they begin to feel like it; magic allows the viewer’s mind to change the feather pen into the flying bird or the intense donkey into the Chinese fan.
From star shapes and punk rocker girls to birds and trees, Karayannopoulou uses a kind of free association as she moves through her subjects until her idea becomes manifest. Some associations are apparent, while some subjects seem disparate and disconnected. Domineering birds suggest the invasion of painting. Brightly colored diamond shapes resemble a harlequin. And young maidens are oddly reminiscent of distorted children’s stories. Something simple is transformed into something even greater. What’s more, drawing doesn’t have to be narrative—which Karayannopoulou clearly believes. There is an undeniable element of magic woven into the works and this magic can be used to understand something more basic: media can be fresh, powerful, and heavy, all at once. Karayannopoulou is unbound by the traditions of media, rather she is audacious enough to appear ignorant in her approach to various media, allowing her to, in the end, find her own method to create a new way of looking at the same old thing.
In this way of working, each media informs another, much like every object leads to the next. Most of the drawings are actually the remnant of a video animation, which means sometimes beautiful elements are lost unless the viewer has paid attention to the video. Beautiful moments covered over. This is clearly a metaphor for life; watch closely lest you miss enchanted moments. Karayannopoulou seems to have no anxiety about loosing the stages of drawing, but rather embraces the fact that there is a secret hidden under the graphite and ink. The artist hides yet other secrets in her paintings. Some paintings are painted over older paintings, which lend a quality of depth to her oil paintings that is matched only by the erasure marks in the animated drawings. This concept extends also into her sounds works, which are comprised of layers of strange voices and crazy melodies. Subtle elements such as word or phrases and inklings of familiar sounds give the taste of something recognizable.
Karayannopoulou’s approach to media is reminiscent of adolescence. Her near defiance of the traditions of a particular media allows her to move past the expected, and to create new techniques through the exploration of the very fundamentals of the medium. The magic flows through to inform the subsequent imagery. Is the artist naïve, or rather bold in her ability to do what is necessary? She doesn’t hold back from what she creates; there is no reservation in what is possible.
“A line is a circle. Well, it could be.” It is with this logic that the artist describes her work; anything is possible. Every moment, every object, every element connects to the next; whetherit makes sense to the viewer or not. Such is life and our daily landscape. One movement, one decision leads to the next choice. Karayannopoulou’s works teach us to be fearless, to be strong, and to have fun. Explore what you want in life and see what results. Don’t be afraid. Take the issues and problems in your life – or in your work – and deal with them. Explore all the possibilities. Work through them and see what happens. Allow ideas, subjects, objects to flow freely. It may make logical sense or perhaps it will be completely disparate. Go ahead and allow some magic fairy dust to come into contact with the elements of your life and see how it all comes together. You might be surprised with your interpretation.
Heather Felty, February 2010