Building our own structures: 48 hours to the (first) finish line

platonic solids

Artists cannot afford to wait or look for someone to save them. They have to do that for themselves. I thought I was doing just that when I started applying to artist calls in January 2014, but I was not quite there. We have to defend our right to exist and to do that by applying to “opportunities” is not nearly enough. We have to go further. We have to build our own structures.

– From Back with a new idea and a call to action, The Artist’s Predicament

This passage is from an article written back in February recapitulating my effort over the past two years trying to get my work as an artist out there, and reviewing the course of this blog that was in a way the culmination of this effort. The Artist’s Predicament started when I felt I had some lessons from this venture worth sharing.

And, as I concluded in that same article, what seems to have been the greatest lesson learned is this: We artists have to build our own structures.

If we don’t like the way art is presented by the predominant channels in charge of bringing it to the public…

If we believe that rather than a commodity, art is a cultural product of high social value and as such should be presented outside the current commodity-oriented models, fit for all that is bought and sold but art…

If we believe that a portion of art lovers and aspiring patrons find the existing ways of connecting with artists too vulgar to engage in, and remain inactive in terms of supporting artists because of that..

­… then surely there is no time to waste.

We owe it to ourselves and to the part of us that is still the “dreamer” we started out as, having so far managed to resist to the cynicism threatening to take over even this last citadel of art, to defend this dream and create space for it in the real world.

My idea was to build an online patronage platform where artists and patrons would be able to connect in a way that is sustainable and dignified for the artist and respectful of the art lover’s appreciation of art and sense of taste.

The Be My Medici platform is now in the first stages of becoming a reality thanks also to artists’ enthusiasm and support.

After a fruitful period of connecting with artists and art lovers, in which a great deal of useful feedback was gained through our Artist and Patron Surveys, but also through interesting conversations with friends and colleagues, the first critical phase of this project is almost complete: The Be My Medici Open Call to artists is soon coming to a close. The number of submissions we have received from artists all over the world already allows us to call the call a success. We want to thank the artists who placed their trust in this idea by applying.

And with that, the Be My Medici project advances triumphantly to its next phase: The Open Call to Curators.

To artists who haven’t applied, there are still 48 hours to go before our Open Call to artists closes (deadline is May 15 at midnight EST).

To those who have already applied, please consider making the best of this 48-hour window by spreading the word to other artists in your circle: You will be giving them the chance to participate in something that could shake up the art scene’s stagnant waters.

Featured image: Illustration from the book “Perspective of the Regular Solids” (Perspectiva Corporum Regularium),  Wenzel Jamnitzer, 1568 (via BibliOdyssey)

Application Sunday, Part VII: Dealing with rejection


Every Sunday I share the weekly open call I submit my work to and the lessons I learned from a year of following a relentless application regimen!

This week’s open call: I submitted my work to the magazine Beautiful Decay.

What I learned from a year of artist call submissions, Part VII:

There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power or our will. _Epictetus (A.D. c. 55 – 135)

The taste of rejection and what is really at steak

If you have ever submitted your work to any kind of outside official judgment, and done it more than once, then you must have seen your work being rejected as well. Odds are, if you happen to have submitted your work many times over a certain period of time, in response to exhibition open calls, calls for artist residencies, grants, etc., you tasted rejection many times as well, and with it one or more of the following: Self doubt, confusion, anger, frustration, withdrawal from submitting any more work, symptoms of depression, feelings of hostility towards the “unjust” outside world and the kind of overall anxiety you cannot put your finger on and effectively deal with. Oh, did I mention envy towards other artists’ successes? Needless to say that what all these maladies have in common, is their ability to drain you from your energy, deprive you of your focus, sink you in negativity and ultimately incapacitate you in regard to the single thing most valuable for an artist: his/her ability to work.

What is known as an artist block can often be the result of a loosing battle with rejection. How then can we beat rejection?

Since the outcome here is one that is out of our control, we cannot beat rejection itself, that is, prevent it from happening. We can however overcome it, that is, rise above it and prevent it from destroying what we value most. The desired here is to render rejection powerless in inflicting us any kind of pain, psychological or other, and compromising our creativity.

Fixing our relationship with rejection

Like most problems of this nature, that is, of the kind that lie outside of our control, the solution lies mostly in our perception of rejection. To bring Epictetus, who opens the debate of this article, some fitting company, here is a dictum by Seneca: We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more from imagination than from reality.

What is imagined here is that rejection is indeed in and of itself an evil. Regarding rejection as a bad in and of itself we ourselves award it the ability to hurt us.

But how does rejection ends up being considered a bad in and of itself? A series of misconceptions seem to be lying on the basis of our distorted relation with rejection.  Seeing rejection for what it is would require that we identify these misconceptions one by one and neutralize them:

  • Mistaking rejection within a certain institutional framework for rejection of the work per se. Juries and committees of organizations, judge in reference to that organizations’ particular set of values and criteria. The rejection therefore is relative and should not be perceived as a rejection neither of a specific work’s value, nor of one’s entire artistic practice.
  • Ignorance about the real odds of succeeding. If there is one lesson I learned from my first year of rigorously applying to artist calls is that rejection should come as no surprise. Instead, it should rather be expected as the rule: 18 out of my 28 applications were rejected. That is, there was an actual verdict communicated to me, that usually went like this: “…I regret to inform you that your application has not been selected….” (this is actually from a fresh one received today in my mailbox!). From the 10 applications out of 28 that were not met with a rejection, 3 were never answered (these calls never materialized into something), 1 fell through because of an application error on my part, and only 6 were met with success. It took 28 submissions for 6 successful outcomes. That represents a 21% success rate coupled by a 64% rejection rate. Which means that the no’s I received were 3 times more than the yeses. Still, it seems I did pretty well: In “How to Survive and Prosper as an Artist: Selling Yourself Without Selling Your Soul”, a book that contains quite a good amount of practical advice directed to artists, the success rates that should be expected from such a procedure are quite a lot slimmer. Which goes to say that the disappointment that many artists feel after applying to only a handful of artist calls and been rejected is unsubstantiated.
  • Overestimating the actual authority of authorities: Disregarding that often the gatekeepers are wrong
  • Lending the application venture itself more value and importance than it actually has. If, when served with a rejection, it is the actual value of our work we are agonizing over, and not the loss of certain honors or benefits, then our agony is simply not justified. As I already tried to demonstrate, more often than not success is determined by the institution’s agenda rather than the work’s actual value.

Since rejection is outside of our control, and since it cannot be considered a determining factor of our work’s inherent value, it should be regarded as being indifferent.

This, essentially stoic, view may seem as an impossible one to adopt or even one not befitting to humans: Artists, after all, like everyone else, have the desire and the need to succeed in their careers. Therefore it is somewhat natural that every rejection would feel like a failure to march in that  direction (of success).

Nevertheless, it is also valid to maintain that if an artist is to achieve any real greatness, he/she should also be able to view the judgments about his/her work coldly and as being irrelevant to the work and to oneself in order to be able to continue with his/her mission. This must be almost impossible for someone that has made his/herself dependent on outside approval.

Having said that, the opinion of the environment is indeed a legitimate concern, especially when one is interested in impacting society in some way. But the usual place we look for approval is not always the right one.

An effective strategy in dealing with rejection

The pressures that are applied today on the artist from all sides, to a large extent due to the incompatibility in nature and objectives between the artist and the societal structure, are so great that a broader strategy is needed in order to deal with rejection. Seeing rejection for what it is is an essential first step of freeing oneself from its effects but it can’t be enough to triumph over it.

Rising above success and rejection (the former often being more harmful than the latter) especially when one happens to be particularly vulnerable to their influence, requires a positive set of actions as well the negative affirmation of what rejection is not. Here is a list of things I consider to be valuable:

  • Working on one’s projects with single mindedness, bringing them to an end undisturbed, and only then subjecting them to outside judgment.
    The Other’s view on an artist’s process should not get in the way or predetermine the creative process itself. This can be especially disorienting if this Other represents the art market.
  • Having said that, one should have people around them they trust, in their opinion and judgment. It is they who will provide him/her with the necessary outside support and reality check an artist often needs, especially when rejections seem to be falling down like rain.
  • Don’t let anxiety turn a waiting period into a dead period. One shouldn’t just wait for the results of an application to come in, especially if they are anxious. This will sink them deeper in their imaginary quicksand and make them a victim of something over which they have no control. I don’t usually quote Andy Warhol but here is something of his touching on the matter, that I like: “Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art”.No matter the verdict, you know that at least you are safeguarding your creativity and advancing in your work. This possibly sets the scene for a future success, even if all you get now is rejection.
  • Make the best of the successes you do have, no matter how scarce. You can find creative ways to use these successes as an opportunity to communicate your work and reach more people, in a more regular/consistent manner.

Some hands-on practical methods against rejection

Whether you are in the process of sending out applications and are finding yourself overwhelmed from the answers you receive, or are trying to bring yourself to start submitting work and are paralyzed at the prospect of rejection, here is an actionable set of methods you can start applying today that can make a difference in how you deal with rejection next time around:

  1. If you aren’t already sending one, start sending out an artist newsletter. When I started having some few but nevertheless consistent application successes, I began sending out a newsletter through e-mail to a list of contacts. This newsletter is now a standard, trusted, and personalized means of communicating my news in the workshop and my accomplishments and keeping my audience updated on my course. Also, it is a means of broadening this audience. And even though this method of communication would have never been initiated if I wasn’t doing work I felt confident about and wanted to share, the extra bit of wind behind my sails for the first newsletter to be composed was probably these first successes: They lifted my morale and gave me one more newsworthy element to share. There is a lot to be said about learning how to see the glass half-full instead of half-empty and leveraging your successes even if they come few and far in between.

    You are the one that can give courage to yourself by not letting your successes, no matter how scarce, run through your fingers like water. Turn them into something concrete instead.

  2. Document your application process and its results. Create a document in Google Drive, Evernote, or some other application and each time you send out a submission, note the date and the other basic information regarding the application. When the result comes in seal the respective application report with this final piece of information. This way you will be able to have an objective record of this process that over time will provide you with essential information about your actual success rates, and about whether or not your application frequency justifies feelings of disappointment.
  3. If you want to become immune to rejection, or the closest to that you can be, apply often. The fewer the applications, the more their importance gets blown up in our imagination. The more frequent the applications, the easier it becomes to complete them, and the smaller the perceived importance of each individual one. Simply put, by applying often we become better in it and we also mathematically increase our chances of success.
  4. Spare yourself from any unnecessary pain early on by choosing the right kind of artist opportunities.

Closing this report of what I consider to be effective when dealing with rejection I ‘d like to add: No matter how important it may be for an artist to have some successes of the kind discussed here, no submission goes to waste regardless of its outcome. The process one undergoes because of it and the particular kind of work involved always adds something valuable to his/her practice.

How do you deal with rejection? Is it something that can get in the way of your creativity? Do you have any strategies of your own or practical methods you would recommend to other artists?

Application Sunday Part V: The good, the bad and the ugly of a London show

Thirty-six blue moons_

Every Sunday I share the weekly open call I submit my work to and the lessons I learned from a year of following a relentless application regimen!

This week’s open call: I submitted work to the Open Call of the Looking at Painting journal.

What I learned from a year of artist call submissions, Part V:
The good, the bad and the ugly of a London show

December 25th, 2013 found me in the intensive care unit of a hospital in my home city of Athens, Greece. It was Christmas Day and there I was, instead of celebrating with my family and enjoying one of my mother’s delicacies, I was lying in one of the beds of the respiratory ward. How did I get there? The answer may not be what you expect: Art.

Sure, if I wanted to be more literal I should perhaps refrain from blaming art and instead blame it all on my frivolous behavior. But the fact of the matter is that it was indeed my precarious involvement with art that landed me this Christmas gift.

A recently adopted drawing method in combination with my failure to take all the necessary protective measures it called for brought this on me. Thankfully I came out of it unscathed (and wiser); What’s more, I had a “trophy” to show for what I’d been through: What I was working on when I got sick: Thirty-six blue moons.

This was the last work I finished in the year 2013, but it felt as if it were the first one in a long time, maybe because its creation coincided with a newly acquired sense of self-coherence that came after a long period of confusion (see part II). It was also the first work I submitted in response to an artist call after my 2014 new year’s resolution to get my work out there. My desire to take this particular work out of the workshop was probably what gave the final push for that first application to happen.

Not very long after the submission I received the news that it was successful. The opportunity had been posted by an independent curator and it involved participating in a group show in London.

When the news came I was overwhelmed. This was a huge morale booster, especially following a lengthy “exhibition drought”, and was interpreted as an early confirmation of my newly implemented strategy.

I found it kind of entertaining, and not lacking a generous dose of refreshing irony: The work that not so long ago had landed me in a hospital bed was now landing me an exhibition abroad. Things did come at a price, it seemed.

But, as I would find out, refreshing irony aside, I was also in for a generous dose of disenchantment.

This was the kind of artist opportunity that had all three: The good, the bad and the ugly. Let’s take it one by one because valuable lessons were learned from all three:

The good: My work was benefited in unexpected ways and, as often happens, the blessing came disguised as an insurmountable difficulty: Thirty-six blue moons, a work playing with the concept and form of the calendar, consisted of 36 drawings set in calendar structure. When news of its success came in, the individual drawings weren’t yet mounted on the surface that would carry them. The work was more or less still open. This proved to be a good thing. Faced with the logistics and considerations of transporting a 1.5 x 1 m frame to the UK from Greece I realized this was out of the question. The cost of transportation, all of which had to be covered by me, not to mention the potential cost of damage (it was certainly possible that the glass would break in transport), also to be covered by myself, all these added to the costs of travel and subsistence for over a week (thankfully a friend living in London had graciously offered to be my host) was turning the whole enterprise into a science fiction scenario. Where is the “good” in all that, you might ask. The good was that being faced with what seemed to be an impasse in the beginning forced me to find a solution that eventually led to the work itself evolving.

I finally flew to London with the work securely packed in my carry on. In the days preceding the exhibition, Thirty-six blue moons evolved into an artist book in a process that not only didn’t compromise the vision I had for the work but proved to be the continuation of its creative process. If one comes to think of it, there are always rules and limitations in the workshop, often set by us to function as catalysts during the creative process. In this instance it was this logistical problem playing the role of this limitation that had to be overcome creatively. The challenge was met not only by harnessing the best possible results for the work but also with the best possible outcome for my budget.

The bad: This was an international call for an exhibition held in London. Meaning that the artworks would come from all over the world. Therefore shipping the selected works to London and back was a logistical prerequisite for the exhibition to be held. This in turn makes the works’ shipping costs by nature an integral part of the exhibition’s budget. However, these expenses, which are considerable, were to be paid by the artists themselves.

When asked whether the works would be covered by an insurance the curator gave me no clear answer, other than that once she received them the works would be “under her care” and while in the gallery they would have “public liability insurance”. Reading the terms stated in the contract between the gallery and the organizers, I understood that this didn’t amount to much. There was no guarantee whatsoever that the artist would be compensated in the event of damage or loss of his/her work. The Liability section of the contract read: “…the Gallery shall have no liability whatsoever for any theft, loss, damage or destruction (including incidental losses) to or relating to, artwork, exhibition elements and personal property”. Doing some research I found out that the lack of insurance coverage in international exhibitions was not an uncommon occurrence at all. Quite the contrary, at times even prestigious venues left that aspect unfulfilled. This realization served as a kind of perverse reassurance for me to put this issue aside and go on with the show.

The ugly: I think one of the worst scenarios for an artist when his/her work is shown in a group show is for that show to take the form of something that doesn’t represent him/her.

Sometime after I learned my work had been selected I found out that the number of participants was no less that sixty. No indication of the show’s scale was given in the initial call, and combined with the fact that there was an exhibition fee of 60 GBP ($100) to be paid in order for the successful applicant to be included in the exhibition, that didn’t have a good ring to it at all: Was this some kind of predatory “opportunity” luring artists, eager to participate in a London show, into an exhibition that provided them with no essential career value, while incurring high costs that they would be called on to cover? I wanted to show this work and looked forward to experiencing this to the end regardless – this would be the first time I’d travel abroad on such an occasion after all – so I didn’t let these doubts deter me. Unfortunately, they were confirmed.

Walking in the gallery for the first time, when the works were being set up, was when I received the first actual confirmation of the negative signs I had been getting. There was no coherence in this assortment of works, no apparent connection between them or between them and my work.

I was under the impression I had walked into the wrong gallery, until I spotted the curator, whom I recognized from a photo posted in the initial artist call. I wondered if the other artists stood frozen like me when they first walked in. I snapped out of this pretty quick. I was there after all, Thirty-six blue moons was there, and I had to get to work. Plus, deep down I knew that what I was facing at that moment could in fact have been foreseen.

So I decided not to worry too much about the incoherence I found from that point on. But at the same time I knew that this was an indicator of the show’s questionable value and it also posed questions about the motivation behind it. I would have to be on my toes until this was over, since failure to provide for the show’s aesthetic and conceptual coherence made me think that a lack of professionalism would be demonstrated throughout.

And yet the lack of aesthetic quality, and the poor taste that was eventually demonstrated in all aspects of the exhibition, was something that had manifested itself months before I took my moons and flew to London. Early on, yet over a month after the fee to participate in the exhibition had been paid, a new element about the show emerged. The exhibition press release sent to us by the curator read that the show was being held “in aid of OCD UK”, meaning that somehow (it wasn’t disclosed how exactly) the show was connected to a charity organization. This alone should have probably sufficed for me to up and walk away from the event since it revealed the utter disregard of the organizers for the participating artists: It was obviously considered to not be their business to know about the exhibition’s profile and be able to make an informed decision about whether its overall profile suited them before they opted in. Adding insult to injury, this news was followed by an e-mail inquiring whether any of the participating artists who may have suffered in the past (or still did) from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (the condition connected to the charity), would be interested in providing a radio interview in the days leading up to the exhibition to talk about their condition. This I leave up to the reader to assess…

Regardless of the fact that this venture provided me with little to no value professionally, I do believe its overall effect at that time was constructive: I gained indispensable experience just when I needed it, I did something new that pushed my practice further leading to a breakthrough in my work, and, maybe most importantly, I met a couple of fellow artists with whom I have a valuable exchange to this day.

Lessons from this I will keep:

When something looks unprofessional it usually is all the way through. If the person in charge of the “opportunity” can’t use language correctly or is vague on essential issues, odds are there will be larger and more serious failures in their performance along the way.

Be skeptical, if not dismissive from the get go, of “opportunities” essentially funded by the artist. As I realized the fee the artists were paying for their participation was going to cover the gallery’s rent. One can’t expect any real career boost from these kinds of setups.

There are two kinds of opportunities: One-sided “opportunities” tailored to serve the organizers’ agenda, and true opportunities that benefit both parties. When the artist feels like he/she is only a means to an end, his/her opinion is not respected or even taken into account, or that they are part of something they didn’t opt in to, they should leave early and cut their losses.

If you are starting out, trust your instincts and read the signs. If you find yourself at the receiving end of this kind of opportunity, make some friends along the way, because this is one of the few valuable things that remains from any venture. And in the end, look back on the experience and evaluate.

Do you have the experience of a similar kind of opportunity? When was the moment you realized it wasn’t going to provide you with the value you expected? Was anything gained from this regardless?

Featured image: Penelope Vlassopoulou, Thirty-six blue moons, detail, Artist’s book/installation, accordion book in case, powdered pigment, handmade paper, abaca paper, 139 x 93.5 cm (open accordion dimensions), edition, unique, 2014

Application Sunday, Part III: Why to not give up

Trace A, Improvisation XV_HOME

Every Sunday I share the weekly open call I submit my work to and the lessons I learned from a year of following a relentless application regimen!

This week’s open call: I applied for the HORDALAND KUNSTSENTER artist residency.

What I learned from a year of artist call submissions, Part III: Why to not give up

Having a clearer view of myself (see part II) was as if a veil was lifted from my eyes and everything, my past works, the works of other artists, the skills I had acquired up until then, suddenly appeared in a new light.

It is hard to pinpoint the exact source of this brand new sense of clarity or the precise moment in time when it emerged. Perhaps the best way to describe it’s beginnings is by invoking a word from one of my favorite books, back from the beautiful age of eighteen, when one begins to delve into the wonders of knowledge, after the notoriety school has stained it with starts to wear off: Maturare. This is the word that Mr Test, the main character of A night with Mr Test by Paul Valery, used to describe the necessary process for a syllogism or intellectual problem to come to a resolution. Things have to mature, the stars have to align in a certain way, events have to play out, before something “suddenly” becomes clear.

But: This process and its fruition, as much as it lies outside of our control, linked as it is with the slow and painful process of maturation, also depends on our being there to see it through. Mr Test, an imaginary creature that had chosen the citadel of the mind, putting it in Markus Aurelius’ words, as his battlefield (or, had the battlefield chosen him?), was as much an object of his thought processes as he was their master, taking the steering wheel of the intellect when he had to and leaving the boat to its devices when the coordinates were right.

So I was aware of that logic. I believed in this law, one that is also rooted in our culture as Greeks: Things do come by the virtue of the gods, or, if one prefers, by the virtue of destiny, or chance, but they also come by virtue of our efforts. And so, as much as I despaired, feeling trapped in this vicious cycle, I never really believed that this cycle was all there was to it. Since the need was there, the question was there, there must have been a well grounded reason for it.

Eventually, another, more material law than the divine one described above made itself apparent. One often invoked by economists but having an extremely broad range of applications. That which refers to the transformation of quantity into quality. According to this dialectical law known from antiquity, small changes, that are incapable of bringing a qualitative change by themselves, reach a point where they do exactly that. They change quantity into quality.

At some point the quantity of our efforts (not disregarding the importance of their quality) is bound to turn into a qualitative change in our condition, whether it be our material condition or that of our consciousness. In other words, our efforts must amount to what in scientific terms is known as critical mass. They must reach the point that will allow for that qualitative leap to happen.

All we have to do is not give up, keep listening to our desire and be attentive to anything that sounds like good advice from our surroundings.

Is this process something you have experienced in your work? Has there been a turning point that seemingly came out of nowhere but in reality was the result of a consistent effort on your part? If the answer is yes, contribute with your version in the comments section below.

Featured image: Penelope Vlassopoulou, Metamorphosis/Athens, Trace A, Improvisation XV, detail, 28 x 34.5 cm, powdered pigment on handmade paper, 2014

Application Sunday, Part II: The value of knowing one’s self


Every Sunday I share the weekly open call I submit my work to and the lessons I learned from a year of following a relentless application regimen!

This week’s open call: This week I submitted my work to an exhibition: The Telfer Gallery Open Call 2016.

What I learned from a year of artist call submissions, Part II:
The value of knowing one’s self

Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.

Ah me! how hard a thing it is to say
What was this forest savage, rough, and stern,
Which in the very thought renews the fear.

Divine Comedy, Inferno, Canto I, Dante Alighieri, translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

For a long time the word that could best describe my relationship with my work, and my “artist” identity was agony. Fortunately not in the sense of a maniacal crisis, but more like the silent, paralyzing agony that takes over one that is lost in a dense forest, or tied by an undecipherable riddle. That is not to say that love and desire, in the way Plato means it when he uses the word eros (it’s meaning can’t be fully translated in English), weren’t also there. But this desire to give birth within beauty, recalling Plato’s definition of his love, had become too elusive, too vague, and thus too unfulfilled. Typically I would start working on an idea, or an impulse, only to abandon it, feeling no strong commitment, no strong desire to complete it. And despite the fact that I managed to get into the flow of creation several times and complete some series of works over the years, I still didn’t have the feeling, or the understanding of continuity in my work. I didn’t feel I was building something. All these were more or less perceived as fragments, sparagmata (in Greek), failing to form a picture of self.

Either in the form of incomplete works or as what I perceived to be series of works disconnected to each other, the vicious cycle would repeat itself again and again paving a path of unfinished works, fragments of an unfulfilled desire. A desire that was there, but only to torment me and make me feel trapped. It existed, but it was weak, lacking in direction, clarity and focus.

This landscape of torment and despair (as if the myth of the tormented artist needed any further reinforcement!) makes it sometimes hard even for myself to understand how I reached the point (described in part I) where I began to actively take steps towards getting my work outside the confines of the studio. It would seem that I would have had a lot to deal with before any concern about showing my work would be legitimate. And this is exactly where the key out of that vicious circle lied.

I don’t think that things would lead up to that first artist call application in January 2014 that marked the beginning of a drastic shift, if not in my overall position in the art world, at least in my psychology and sense of control, without the necessary work within.

As much as it was several factors that came into play, the basic prerequisite for a change to happen was the untangling of the mess inside. I had to realize what I wanted, where my heart and mind were as an artist, who I was, or, if this seems rather unattainable considered in absolute terms, what certain fragments of myself looked like and how they connected to each other. This may sound dramatic, and I know I have the tendency of being that sometimes (a friend once told me I have a weak spot for the tragic, which of course I took as a compliment) but I believe there is something there.

When this transition started to happen, from my confused state to a sense of self-coherence, things started falling into place. A newly acquired confidence set in, hesitation and fear started to recede, the paralyzing self-doubting started to dissolve. This allowed for me to act more readily on my impulses in the studio and defend my work more naturally outside of it. The connections between my past works started to become obvious and my desire could at last be traced. I could eventually make out a picture of myself, or rather a rough design (how could it be compete since a proper picture of one’s self can only emerge through a life’s work?). It seems that a rough design was all I needed to begin.

What about you? Was there a point where confusion had taken over your practice and your desire to create failed to liberate you (in fact, it did exactly the opposite)? Does any part of my experience resonates with you and what you might have been through or facing right now? In what ways it is the same and how is it different?

Featured image: Penelope Vlassopoulou, Metamorphosis/Belgrade, Trace A, Improvisation IX, detail, drawing, 33 x 23 cm, powdered pigment on paper, 2014