Invites Focus: Athena Papadopoulos

Invites Focus: Athena Papadopoulos
Athena Papadopoulos, installation view at Zabludowicz Collection, London, 2015. Photo: Tim Bowditch
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Ahead of the imminent release of our new publication Invites Vol.2, marking 50 Invites exhibitions since the series began in 2012, we’re delighted to share some exclusive material from our archives and from the artists. Each fortnight we will be focussing on one Invites alumni, giving access to interviews, installation views, and links to recent and upcoming projects. Also check out the Zabludowicz Collection Instagram for some gems from artists’ back-catalogues and some behind-the-scenes work in progress.

Invites Focus: Athena Papadopoulos, 4 – 17 May

Athena Papadopoulos's multidisciplinary practice encompasses a range of processes, including painting, collage, drawing and stitching, and unusual materials such as mustard, red wine, Pepto-Bismol and shoe polish. Existing as layered wall-hung objects and paintings, oversized cushioned, propped, wrapped or embellished sculptures, Papadopoulos's objects are part of riotous narratives where fact and fiction are uncertain, and where protagonists remain mysterious and motives unclear. Empathy and criticality are key to her wild and ambitious art works and for the past few years she has brought language and literature front and centre in her work.

For this Invites Focus we are delighted to present a number of specially produced music videos: each one a combination of documentation of her sonic-sculptures from The Apple Nun her stand out solo show at Lieberts Projects (2019), and for two weeks only we will be making the A Tittle-Tattle-Tell-A-Tale Heart, her first published novel, available as an audio book. We also bring you an illustrated mini interview between Papadopoulos and Elizabeth Neilson, discussing the development and use of narrative and literature in her work.

Papadopoulos's Invites exhibition took place between 29 January–8 March 2015 and was featured in Invites Vol.1. That exhibition featured a group of headless torsos sculptures gathering, seemingly enthralled, in front of a large painting inspired and containing images of the artists father and his bacchanalian lifestyle. As part of the exhibition Athena hosted a conversation with then independent curators Jasmine Picot-Chapman and Leopold Thun (who has gone on to represent her via London gallery: Emalin), which involved them all eating hot dogs with their hands whilst discussing her practice.

In June 2019 the collection facilitated an Art Night event where Athena Papadopoulos’ book, A Tittle-Tattle-Tell-A-Tale Heart, was read from start to finish by the artist herself. Inverting the way in which we often consume novels, serialised in excerpts and chapters; this performance delivered the experimental narrative of the artist’s first book in one fell swoop. A recording of this performance is available for a limited time only during this Invites Focus. The novel itself is variously a diary, a detective narrative, a love story, and a collage, the book is an artwork comprising two parts. The first composed in eyeliner, and the second a frantic retelling of the previous. The live event furthered the ‘Russian-doll’ effect, shifting meaning, both in the narrative, and in how the book is experienced by an audience. For two weeks only you can listen to the full performance as an audio book here and if you are feeling peckish, why don’t you make Athena’s Aunt Marous’s Greek Yogurt Soup and eat it whilst you listen?

Her last two exhibitions; The Apple Nun at Liebaert Projects, Kortrijk, Belgium (2019) and Cain and Abel Can’t and Able, Llandudno, Wales (on now but temporarily closed for obvious reasons), have both been structured as installations with books at their centre, in Belgium it was a Hymn Book, and in Wales a bible of sorts. Each book written by the artist and hand made in an eccentric and labour intensive manner. The Apple Nun featured five central sculptures (Leaves that Talk Dirty Making Curlies Stand Straight), figurative abstractions installed as a choir around The Apple Nun (Book of Hymns) and each singing a song written in the same book. The artist in partnership with Burgess & Beech has made short music videos of IGTV with images of the sculptures that ‘sing’ each song. Thinking about the temporarily of the exhibition and the challenge of documenting these sonic elements in exhibitions (especially at this time when we are not able to see real artworks in the flesh!), how does one get a sense of the whole work without seeing or hearing it in person. These will be released over the coming two weeks, look out for them here.

Her most recent writing project became the inspiration, content and curatorial device around which her current exhibition at MOSTYN is centred. The yet to be published book - Cain and Abel Can’t and Able - the pages of which can be seen exclusively in the image gallery below – can also be heard in the gallery with the sculptures. In this body of works Papadopoulos considers the story of Cain and Able and explores personal experiences of sibling rivalry and competition within romantic relationships and - of course - the struggle between good and evil.

Athena Papadopoulos b. 1988, Toronto, Canada. Lives and works in Hull, UK.

Papadopoulos holds an MFA in Fine Art Practice from Goldsmiths College, London, and a BFA in Contemporary Art Theory and Visual Art from the University of British Columbia, Canada.

Solo exhibitions include those at MOSTYN, Llandudno, Wales (2020), Liebaert Projects, Kortrijk, Belgium (2019); Kunsthalle Lissabon, Lisbon (2019); Humber Street Gallery, Hull (2019); Emalin, London (2017, 2014); CURA Basement, Rome (2017); Shoot the Lobster, New York (2016) and Supportico Lopez, Berlin (2015). Recent group exhibitions include those at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), Los Angeles (2020); JANA, Turin (2019); Berthold Pott, Cologne (2019); Allegra Projects, St Moritz (2019); Zabludowicz Collection, London (2019); Drawing Room, London (2019); October Salon, Belgrade (2018); Casa Studio, Palermo (2018); Castiglioni Fine Arts, Milan (2018); Galerie Sultana, Paris (2017); Audain Art Centre, Vancouver (2017); COMA Gallery, Sydney (2017); Carl Kostyal, Stockholm (2017); L’Inconnue, Montreal (2017); DRAF, London (2016); Peres Projects, Berlin (2016); Herald St, London (2016); Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach (2015); 6817 Melrose, Los Angeles (2015) and Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2014: ICA London & World Museum, Liverpool (2014). Papadopoulos is represented by Emalin, London.