Camden Arts Centre is pleased to present the first major UK institutional exhibition of work by the celebrated Cypriot artist Christodoulos Panayiotou (b. 1978, Limassol, Cyprus). This major solo exhibition will survey the breadth of Panayiotou’s practice, bringing together works made over the last 10 years, many of which have not be shown in the UK before. Informed by his interest in anthropology, archaeology and cultural histories, and drawing on his background in dance and theatre, Panayiotou will activate Camden Arts Centre with a series of poetic spatial interventions, as well as a number of new commissions.
Encompassing a wide range of media, including sculpture, painting, photography, found objects and installation, Panayiotou reveals hidden narratives held in the visual and material records of history and time. Like an archaeologist, his works uncover obscured and forgotten stories of places, objects, traditions and events, transforming the world into a theatre in which the myths that unite and divide us are acted out. Panayiotou engages with the ancient and the modern to explore the ways in which simple gestures can act as subversive counterpoints to homogeneous narratives. Natural stone mosaics, gilded icons, paper-pulp, mineralogical curiosities and the photographic archive of a Cypriot newspaper; all become materials and motifs for his seductive, affecting and highly charged works.
The exhibition’s title Act II: The Island is taken from one of the oldest works in the show: a folded theatrical backdrop that depicts a tropical island – an archetypal, fantastical place. For Panayiotou, the act of concealing the image of an idealised landscape, alluding to it in name only, opens up a space of potential narrative in the imagination of the audience – one that might evoke associations of paradise, escape and solitude, as well as isolation and fear. In the context of the exhibition’s location in London, it might seem also to touch on the turbulent status of the ‘British Isles’ as we approach Brexit, with all its attendant discourses of nationalism, identity and self-determination; as well as the complex political history of Cyprus as a previous British colony and a still conflicted zone, caught between the cultures and histories of so-called east and west.
These concerns are touched upon in other works, including a series of large-scale, monochrome paintings produced from thousands of demonetised, pulped, Euro banknotes; and Independence Street (2012) – a monumental work consisting of dismantled electricity poles which once supported the powerlines that supplied power to the island; remnants of the British colonial infrastructure left behind after independence, uprooted and returned to the UK. Despite addressing more universal themes of politics, nationhood, religion, imperialism and oppression, Panayiotou’s work also speaks through the most personal and private of gestures and interventions, returning again and again to the lost, the overlooked, the marginalised and the neglected.
The exhibition is on until 5 January 2020.
Photo: Christodoulos Panayiotou, Act II: The Island, 2008, Folded theatre backdrop. Courtesy the collection of Nicos Pattichis.