THE BREEDER presents Socratis Socratous first solo show with the gallery entitled “Six Open Gates and a Closed One”. The exhibition consists of new cast bronze sculptures that refer to the National Garden in Athens and the symbolisms it bears as a microcosm of Greece.
Socratis Socratous’ emotionally charged experiences and trauma in his motherland Cyprus immediately following the country’s violent division and forced internal migration have profoundly affected all aspects of his artistic practice. In its diversity, his work is characterized by a strategic employment of artifice, even beauty, to negotiate hard issues of loss, displacement, and destruction.
A recurring theme in his work since the 1990s, the garden – nature ordered, transplanted, and delimited solely for human purposes – has, for Socratous, political parallels. The series of works Stolen Garden is sourced from the National Garden of Athens, itself the symbol of enduring national, cultural and territorial integrity against foreign attempts at coercion. The Royal Garden, commissioned in 1838 by the German Queen Amalia, showcased the imported monarchy imposed on the new Modern Greek State. When it was renamed the National Garden in the 1920s, it confirmed a new Greek identity in the wake of the Asia Minor Disaster. Now the perceived new external threats (the Troika, “illegal” migrants) are only superficially different and the internal reactions are but resurgences of traditional myths and latent fears.
For Socratous, the National Garden is the field on which the contemporary narratives of Athenian civic life play out. Exploring its paths and corners, he takes the role, alternately, of a crime scene investigator, an archeologist, and a pilferer, harvesting specimens of indigenous flora, such as such as pomegranate, citrus, olive and laurel – symbols of honor and fertility since Greek antiquity – but also the opportunistic weeds, encroaching on native soil. The Garden’s contemporary vegetation is an allegorical microcosm of current Athenian society: native Greeks living alongside recent foreign migrants. Depending on one’s point of view, this new (bio)diversity can be as seen as an enriching element of multiculturalism, modernity and progress or as an economic and cultural threat.
Socratous casts his fragile cuttings in brass, plating some in gold and silver, thus transforming the humble leaves, seeds and twigs into objects both everlasting and precious. For the exhibition “Six Open Gates and a Closed One” Socratous lets his imagination wander beyond the seventh closed gate of the National Garden in Athens. He employs the sculptural tradition of cast bronze while at the same time he interferes throughout the process at the mould in the foundry, often eliminating elements from the compositions. The resulting sculptures are like plants with their tangled branches resembling a nightmarish haunted forest full of carcasses from prehistoric creatures. Simultaneously the color pallet of the cast bronze – that ranges from dark black to sparkling gold – is like an allegory to the present reality with the hope of a brighter future shinning through the seeming dark present.
Socratis Socratous (b. in Paphos, Cyprus, 1971) is a graduate of the Athens School of Fine Arts in Athens. He lives and works in Greece and Cyprus. Selected solo exhibitions include: The Breeder, Athens (2015), DESTE Prize Award Shortlisted artists exhibition at The Cycladic Museum Athens (forthcoming 2015), “Inviolable Refuge”, Omikron Gallery, Nicosia, Cyprus (2011) and “Rumours”, Pavillion of Republic of Cyprus, curated by Sophie Duplaix, 53rd Venice Biennial, Italy (2009). Selected group exhibitions include: Focus MENAM, Special Projects at The Armory Show, curated by Omar Kholeif (2015), “This is not my beautiful house”, Kunsthalle Athena, Athens (2014), “Mapping Cyprus Crusaders, Traders and Explorers & Mapping Cyprus Contemporary Views”, BOZAR, Brussels, (2012), “Gestures in Time”, Riwaq Biennial, Palestine, curated by Katya Garcia-Anton and Lara Khaldi (2012), “Restless”, part of the Αdelaide International Festival, curated by Victoria Lynn, Anne and Gordon Samstag, Museum of Art, Adelaide, South Australia (2012), “Ηow to Make a Garden”, curated by Elena Parpa, Nicosia, Cyprus (2012), “A Rock and a Hard Place”, 3rd Thessaloniki Biennale, curated by Paolo Colombo, Mahita El Bacha Urieta, Marina Fokidis, State Museum of Contemporary Art, Thessaloniki, Greece (2011), “Uncovered: Nicosia International Airport, Project #7”, curated by Pavlina Paraskevaidou and Basak Senova, Ledra Street/Locmaci Buffer Zone, Nicosia, Cyprus (2011), “Farewell”, curated by Themis Bazaka and Marina Fokidis, Kunsthalle Athena, Athens, (2011), “Expanded Ecologies”, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens, curated by Daphne Vitali (2009), “Personal/Political”, Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art, State Museum of Contemporary Art, Thessaloniki, Greece (2009), “Where Do We Go From Here?”, Nicos Chr. Pattichis collection, Nicosia Municipal Arts Center, Nicosia, Cyprus (2008), “The Garden”, Greek participation, Tirana Biennale, Tirana, Albania (2001), “Spring Collection”, DESTE Foundation, Athens, Greece (1996).
With special thanks to Prisma Bloc