Oxenius points that, filtered through verses of the ancient Greek poetess Sappho, Kalliopi Lemos, with All is to Be Dared, explores and unveils the thin space occupied by our most intimate obsessions, our objects of desire; a space that Lemos questions in all its complexity leading us from a soft and tender embrace to its sharpest and most dark edges; a space in which we find our psyche cut open by the burning arrows delivering their erotic drive. Lemos presents us with an intimate juxtaposition of sensuality and pain, desire and constraint, love and death, rendered universal and timeless through the inspiration of Sappho and her capacity to capture the human psyche in all its facets, in all its complexities. In this new series of work, Lemos introduces linen bandages, woven with fragments of Sappho’s poetic verses, used as an apparent healing for the wounded body and psyche, which quickly turn into suffocating constraints delivering the harshness of those inner borders we are unable to overcome.
Lemos elaborates, “At this very interesting and important time in history, with women celebrating 100 years of having the right to vote in the UK, while having summoned the courage to talk about abuse and seek justice, I use my new body of work to introduce the magnificent verses of Sappho, the celebrated ancient Greek poetess. Her immediacy, sincerity and eloquence have established her as the symbol of feminine discourse for almost 3,000 years and I find the surviving fragments of her poems extremely powerful and poignant. Her humanity, her love for life, as well as the passion and frustration when desire is not reciprocated, makes one feel very close to her.”
Professor of philosophy Simon Critchley comments on this juxtaposition, “The Greekness here lies in the proximity to darkness, the openness to a reality that is complex, violent and ambiguous…
I find Kalliopi’s work intensely erotic, fiercely and strangely erotic, where eros is understood as a deep, subterranean – indeed terrifying – force that moves behind and beyond puny human forms, something that is human and more than human at once. There is an erotic intensity in Kalliopi’s work that reminds me of Sappho when she writes of eros, ‘Sweat pours down me, I shake / all over, I go pale as green / grass. I’m that close to being dead.’ Contact with eros can be fatal and devastating, which is why so many ancient traditions see eros as a deathly god or a goddess. Even little cupid’s arrows pierce the flesh.”
Kalliopi Lemos’ work continues to participate within a visual sphere of knowledge, perception and awareness into a global narrative. Approaching women’s issues with an acute sensitivity, All is to Be Dared opens up an important contemporary discourse about the role of femininity – both historically and in today’s world.