FOTINI HAMIDIELI is an artist of rare breed in our era; one that assimilate all and every step of her existence into a new form, though keep walking at the same path she has chosen. Her strong personal style combined with a self – referential context within her art, makes her work distinct. Through our co-operation in Myrό Gallery we did not just meet a great artist, but a great lady as well, having the chance to discus on various subjects and aspects of the artistic experience. This interview was then set up, concluding our discussions and giving birth to others.
Interview to Paris Kapralos
- How did your journey in art begin?
My stay in New York and my teenage years was a determining factor in my choice to deal both with art as well as to find my place in it. I was fortunate in visiting great exhibitions, like one of Cezanne, organized by the Museum of Modern Art in New York when I was 16 years old, and a little later a retrospective exhibition of prints by Goya, another with drawings and sculptures of Giacometti... These were the initial experiences that triggered me to seek my position for many years I tried to find where I belong, a procedure that helped my first attempt to assimilate foreign environment, to feel that "I belong. I moved to America at the age of 12 – 13 and that's something that marks you for life at that age..
- What's the focus in your artworks and how they have shifted during your life?
My work is mainly man-centered and turns around human figure. I have also created some landscape works, due to a personal requirement that I had to work the human figure in the presence of a natural model, a condition I was not able to fullfill at all times. On the other hand, the landscape was lways there for me, so, I did many landscaped lacking a human model. Then came a period that I worked intensely with portraits as well as with abstraction. However, when you re very young abstraction is a bit difficult style to manage; as a matter of fact its an extremely demanding style that requires experience and a maturity that can not be found at an early age. The truth is that I do not wish to have a specific goal when painting. I seek for no direction apart from that the work itself as it develops can provide and I prefer not to rationalize..
- An element ever present in your works is very distinct sketching...
There was a period that I had abandoned sketching, though it still was significant within my works in a substrate layer. En route I re-discovered it through crayons and charcoal and the vigor of the simple line; I begun utilizing the sketch once again. I wondered “how much can the sketch be developed? I how many things can I do with it?” Through the process you find out things....
- So determinant in your new series of works is not the way, namely the fact that the project is more intense and "hard"....
My designs may have a specific image and figure, but often when I create my paintings thinking about masses, concentrated forms and existence contrasts: the mass of white paper and through the mass to arise or emerge figures. You can see for example "black" from my new projects included in the last report in my Myrό gallery, within which a mass of lines through which flow into faces and forms is illustrated clearly. In those works the feeling is not only cleared, its appearing in a profound manner. When painting I had a definite image in my mind. I started to paint a smudge, somewhat inevitably, automatically and spontaneously. I saw the smudge like an explosion went up, stretched. The existence of the head on top of the mass, cut off from a complete figure was a shocking episode for me..
-From the viewer's point of view, your art till very recently seemed to belong to the figurative area; only recently abstract elements have are found in your work, seemingly with a renewed perspective... Truth is I'm somewhat feared of abstraction. When I younger there was a period that the only thing I was working on was abstraction. Although I started very well, the ending was not good. Very soon dried up, because when you are young you do not have much to say in this way. I think you have to have very good foundations firmly inside you to do abstraction. All these happened at my 22. Since then there are times I attempt to go back to abstraction not to forward towards iit, bbut carefully, little step each time; I must feel assured I can manage well. Abstaction is not just aligned lines, impressive colours and patterns: it requires comprehension, structure and maturity. Otherwise it feels empty.
-Are there people with a key role in your route?
The most significant thing that really marked me was the death of my sister and not a meeting with someone. Since then, painting has been a mean of communication and continuing relationship with my sister, as somehow already constitutes an alternative way to communicate with my mother who is currently not in a good condition. Actually, I think what turned me to painting was my attempt to communicate..
-What was the part that leaving for the States played in the development of your special artistic sight?
I completed my studies in a highly innovative school. Our training is not based on the acquisition of knowledge, but experience did not emphasize the refinement of a given mode and route learning. However the way we were taught, was extremely free, open-minded and certainly effective. We had the chance to study sketch with models as much as maybe no other school of art worldwide. We had so many options to explore, we were assisted to choose the path that suits us really by the end of the day, it was possible that we experiment with a lot, without having anyone telling us that “this the right thing to do” and something else is not. Every artist must have strong foundations to build on, but the way you acquire knowledge is never unique, in the same way there is no single road to the truth for everyone!
-Tell us about the times you've worked together with Dinos Christianopoulos....
The first time I took part in an exhibition was in 1982, at “Mikri Pinakothiki Diagonios”, which belonged to Dinos Christianopoulos. It was a lifetime experience for me, not only because it was the first time to exhibit but moreover because of the co-operation with Christianopoulos himself, and many other artists, writers, poets, musicians, all the Christianopoulos' personal circle who had embraced his attempt to bring a new kind of cultural style to the city of Thessaloniki. Great help, but grave, rigorous severity. Every fortnight I would get him some of my newest paintings to take a look; he would criticize them with sternness, no matter who would be present. He used to put it with an elegant humorous spice everytime he did that, so that the aftereffect was not bitter: “This should be the perfect ornament for sheep; it certainly will become them”, “Oh that would be a marvelous addition for my sheepfold in the village”... Comments like that could be outspoken in front of anyone!
-Your path is somehow double, after working for many years in education. How consistent is the one object to the other?
I work in education for 20 years. I work at the school and also organize workshops for children. My path is not merely parallel but complementary. You can experiment with another way I can express myself more, and, ultimately, learn and gain a lot from my interaction with the children. It's amazing to me that breathe through these children. Its something to do with their carelessness that renews me, while creativity and their joy in being able to create things can “re-charge” the artist in a unique manner. You feel that you really communicate with someone who understands and feels deeply the way you do whhen creating your works. The school and the teaching used to frighten me for very long time before I make up my mind and start teaching. I thought I would run out soon, and I avoided it for several years; I was just teaching English for 11 years before I try teaching art...