.Thekla Papadopoulou is an artist currently living, practicing, and teaching art in Cyprus. She was one of the three artists included in the exhibition Sender/Recipient at the Cyprus House in New York. Thekla works on the boundaries of painting, exploring the medium as well as the concepts her works address including natural landscape and memory. Since then, Thekla has been working on a new body of work that is highly introspective mapping her life and how she came to be who she is today. It is one of those rare opportunities an artist explicitly gives you the opportunity to look at their inner world, perhaps calling you to look at your own and reconnect with who you are. Below, we talk about her work starting with her most recent works, and I am beyond excited to share them with you all. And so we begin.
I love this new series of works Traces and would love to hear more about it. Art is already so personal. To me, looking at artwork feels like sharing something very deep from inside an artist’s mind, or heart. Traces is even more personal as you say you are exploring your journey to who you are today. What led to undertaking a subject as delicate as this?
This series is indeed mostly about me, my life and the people around me. I’m exploring the journey of my life until now – the factors that affected it, the elements that altered it and the influences that are still echoing in this growth process. There is a strong sense of memory in my life and so with Traces I specifically explore the trajectory between the past and the present.
This new body of work also includes some paintings that are self-portraits that I did as a process of personal discovery of my influences and how they shaped me into who I am today. All in all, in a simple sentence the work is a narrative of who I am and how I became the person I am today. All these came out of my need to go on a personal journey of exploration of my memories from the recent and most distant past.
In a way, I feel like this is very brave of you, it requires a lot of vulnerability. How did it feel exhibiting these works?
I think I would not have been able to undertake this subject at a younger age. At this point in my life, however, it feels right. I feel confident enough to be vulnerable and to explore my existence, achievements as well as failures. Interestingly, though, Traces gave me the opportunity to delve into more general topics like the position of the woman in our society as witnessed through my own personal experiences up until this given point in time and place.
Getting to know the medium
You mention that you used a number of different materials including old journals and photos of loved ones making these works stray a little more from traditional painting. Traces seems to incorporate multiple layers of time, and history (your history).
Previous works you have made, nonetheless, seem to reflect this practice of layering materials as well. What is the role of time in your artistic practice?
I’m so glad that you brought this up because both memory and time function as strong creative powers in Traces. You can say it is Traces of Time. Memory takes the form of sensations, images, and emotions. The work arises not in response to an event, but to a combination of memories, like telling a story or stories through personal memories that are open to interpretation.
Your art in general, but especially the works that constitute Traces often incorporates different materials and is, as a result, wonderfully textural. What are some of your favorite materials to work with and why?
I mostly use oil paints, pastels and incorporate collage by adding pages from my old sketchbooks, from journals and photographs of myself and people who are close to me. The process of incorporating old sketches and notes through collage is organic and flexible. The process of repurposing these objects and the removal or addition of such elements is decided in the course of creation in a spontaneous way. Though unseen and very personal, my process is, in a way, generated by the paintings themselves as they progress.
The art of landscape
The textural aspect of your art brought to mind landscapes, and for some reason, especially Mediterranean landscapes. Has where you lived and traveled influenced your practice?
I believe that memory, our cultural background and the place we live play a significant role in how we interpret places. These factors also influence the meanings and the values we attach to place.
For example, for tourists, who have been to an island for vacation, the Mediterranean Sea is a peaceful place and their recollections of it are filled with happy memories. The Syrian refugees coming through the Mediterranean Sea may see it as an escape to the unknown, for others, it’s a scary journey that can lead to death. As for me, the Mediterranean Sea is within me. It’s a combination of memories and emotions and that’s why my paintings are complicated in terms of composition but also quite textured. Texture evokes feelings of pleasure and familiarity and simultaneously of crudeness.
What about emotion?
Aside from Traces that is by definition a deeply personal series of works steeped in emotion. I believe that other works like Fragments, Faros, and Mindscapes also evoke or trigger emotion. In a way, and correct me if I am wrong, aside from evoking the idea of landscapes, these works also point to the concept of internal landscapes, like the landscape of the mind, the heart, or the soul even. Was this intentional? It is such a tricky thing to accomplish, and it has been beautifully done. The works are captivating.
In these series, I use motifs of the landscape and landscape images as starting points to generate personal dialogues with the natural world. These transitory evocative images are not representational however but seek instead to elicit the sensations, memories, and wonder associated with our experiences and encounters with raw nature.
Your CV is very impressive – you have participated in so many creative and cultural initiatives and events.
What do you enjoy most about selecting the artwork that the audience experience? Such artistic events as competitions and exhibitions have the capacity to create a community (even if temporary) centered on the experience of your art.
I feel blessed that my work was selected and exhibited on many different occasions and places around the world. This is a great opportunity as you pointed out, especially since I am from a small isolated island, for networking and partnerships, but also for traveling. These experiences opened my mind to new ways of thinking. It’s not just about being abroad, it’s the critical process of multicultural immersion, engagement, and adaption that’s very important in my creative process.
I also feel compelled to ask, how you began your path as an artist, and what led to you creating these deeply emotional works?
The answer to this question is quite simple; I have always wanted to be an artist as far as I can remember myself. I don’t ever remember dreaming of wanting to do something else in my life. I’m very lucky to have people in my life that supported me and still support me at my every step.
My works are deeply emotional simply because I myself am a very emotional person. I believe this reflects in my work.