Jannis Varelas new paintings map a maximalist system that records and shapes the notion of absent-mindedness. Varelas intention is an aesthetic treaty outside of the rational commands of a production process, which is organized as an ensemble of notes, for the final result to be understood as the general imprint of a creative behavior.
Gianni Jetzer, Hirshhorn Museum’s Curator at Large, on this new body of work by Jannis Varelas:
“For couple of years Varelas has been collecting line drawings, theajority of them made by children or teenagers. As Varelas’ mother works with young people with ADD in Greece, there is a familiar source that never dries out. The teens draw extensively in an attempt to communicate. The images are almost automatic in their creation, building up presence around absent minds. It is not will power that directs the crayon. Rather, it is thoughtlessness that leaves marks mirroring the interior worlds of their authors… To use imagery from outside the established art-scene goes a long way back. Paul Klee drew inspiration from children’s drawings. Jean Dubuffet was fascinated by the images created by psychiatric hospital patients and extensively collected their art. He even considered them be more authentic than academic art… When Jean-Michel Basquiat, a self-taught artist, conquered the New York art world with drawings that were deliberately childlike, naïf became a genre. Today there is a younger generation of artists – Joe Bradley, Michael Williams, André Butzer, Katherine Bernhardt, and Jannis Varelas – who make use of an iconography that plays with the raw and unsophisticated as a means of undermining the concept of what art should look like. At a time when thousands of artists come out of art schools every year and ignorance is in effect impossible, unlearning becomes a form of counter-culture and is at once a fresh perspective.”
Jannis Varelas (b. 1977 Greek) lives and works between Athens, Los Angeles and Vienna and is a graduate of the Royal College of Art in London (MFA) and the Athens School of Fine Arts (BA). Selected solo shows include: “New Flags for a New Country”, The Breeder, Athens (2015); “Sleep My Little Sheep Sleep”, Contemporary Arts Center of Cincinnati, Ohio, curated by Xenia Kalpaktsoglou (2012); “The Oblong Box”, Kunsthalle Athena, Athens (2011) curated by Marina Fokidis. Selected group shows include: “Fireflies in the Night Take Wing”, curated by Robert Storr, Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, Athens (2016); “Ametria”, curated by Roberto Cuoghi, DESTE Foundation and Benaki Museum, Athens (2015); “Paper – works from the Saatchi Collection”, Saatchi Gallery, London (2013); “Hell As Pavillion”, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, curated by Nadja Argyropoulou (2013); “Skin Fruit: Selections from The Dakis Joannou Collection”, curated by Jeff Koons, New Museum, New York (2010); “Lebt und arbeitet in Wien III: Stars in a Plastic Bag”, Kunsthalle Wien, curated by Xenia Kalpaktsoglou, Raphaela Platow, Olga Sviblova and Angela Stief (2010); New Orleans Biennial Prospect 1, curated by Dan Cameron, New Orleans (2008); “Destroy Athens”, 1st Athens Biennial, curated by Xenia Kalpaktzoglou, Poka Yio and Augustine Zenakos, Athens (2007).