A visit at the art works of ECHO II Traditions in Transition

From September 2020 to June 2022, the “ECHOII Traditions in Transition” program, organized by ProProgressione, Open Space Foundation, Inter Alia, Post Scriptum and Balkans Beyond Borders is continuously welcoming artists from North Macedonia, Bulgaria, Greece, and Hungary to participate in Art Residencies that focus on the local traditions of certain places i.e. Prespa Lake (North Macedonia), Sofia (Bulgaria), Spetses island (Greece), Győr (Hungary), Smolyan (Bulgaria). The focus on local traditions is aiming to show that cultural customs are dynamic in that they’re not only part of the past, but also always evolving as we walk years into the future. With that in mind, ECHOII provides artists with the opportunity to showcase local traditions and further their existence, and residents to rediscover their roots in the context of a culturally European backdrop. 


During the Prespa Art Residency, which took place in May 2021, the participants, Yiannis Selimiotis, Nikolay Marinov, Panni Marosi, Djoshkun Alievski, stayed in the area and visited many places to draw inspiration from them. From cultural sights to Nature, they were encouraged to familiarize themselves with the locals and understand their way of life and worldview. 


Yiannis Selimiotis created three paintings demonstrating that exact point. His last painting, “The Second Death of the Painter Keraca Visulčeva” is a tribute to the painter Visulčeva (made crystal clear through the artwork’s title). With this portrait, inspired by photographs and self-portraits she painted, Selimiotis salutes Visulčeva for helping him see what he calls his “second death”, the eventual decomposition of his work, and the inescapable end every person is walking toward. People are connected through common life experiences – there’s always the thread of destiny and Fate may cut the cord at any time. Nikolay Marinov’s sculpture/installation titled “Interconnections” consists of stones, symbols of different ethnicities, that are held together through a metal rope – a thread. The message communicated is none other than the undeniable fact that humans are both individuals and part of a common history at the same time, and that all of them influence each other. Lastly, the installation is placed in an apple tree to point back at the moment of creation. Another artwork influenced by religion is Panni Marosi’s “Still Life With Shreds of Memories’. It carries cultural notes such as patterns of the frescoes from the orthodox church of Bitola, Saint Demetrius and a ceramic plate that’s pointing back to the significance of the Ceramic Art Colony of Resen respectively. Besides its universal significance, the piece is essentially an ode to the places the artist visited and the personal meanings it reflects. Last but not least,  Djoshkun Alievski focused mainly on Nature and displayed its awe-inspiring aspects through digital illustrations. His artworks are divided between “survival of the fittest” moments and atmospheric details of Nature. The piece selected for the exhibition was “Breeze (Umbrellas)” which belongs to the second category and demonstrates the serenity of spending a few moments at the beach. 


Besides the Prespa Art Residency, the Sofia Art Residency also took place in May 2021 with the following participants: Remzije Lloga, Ennios Eros Giogos, Marcella Papp and Yordan Mihalev. Sofia is not only the capital of Bulgaria, but also its cultural center with an immense historical value from Prehistory to Antiquity and the Middle Ages, and from Renaissance to Modernity and New Age. That said, the artists found themselves in a rich environment of inspiration where they created their projects.. 


One of the projects that were chosen for the exhibition is Remzije Lloga’s “The Touch”. It’s a drawing that refers to an old traditional dance during which young men and women held their belts. It was the only time they could express their interest or even love. Next, Ennios Eros Giogos “As Above so Below” is an installation representing the infinity of evolution, according to the artist. For him, humankind is always going through the “process of becoming” i.e. a manifestation of its corporeal entity that is ever changing by adjusting to its environment. It’s not only the human body and identity that have layers. Marcella Papp’s painting “Layers” talks about the multifaceted existence of the city of Sofia. By using different painting techniques, she brings to the fore the diversity of the capital of Bulgaria and the importance that it holds. On a similar note, Yordan Mihalev designed a dress with the title “It Would Have Been a Lovely Evening”. The dress, with its nine layers, also demonstrates the influential nature of Sofia and the changes it may trigger within. The dress, almost always one step away from dissolving and leaving one exposed, talks about the essence of vulnerability. 


Next up was the Spetses Art Residency that took place in June 2021. The selected participants were: Balázs Kontur, Martina Spasovska, Katerina Karatzaferi and Deyana Stareva, who stayed in Spetses for a month and worked in the Three Spetsiot Martys Church in Aghios Nikolaos (Saint Nicholas) – a location that relates to the tradition the residency focused on. 


Beginning with Balázs Kontur’s “Wavelines I,” the artist portrays his fascination with the sea and the formation of waves, and what he calls the “chaotic order” of Nature. The hidden meaning behind these paintings is the repetitive nature of everything that’s natural and how one influences each other in a circular recycling of energy for eternity. Next up is Martina Spasovska, an artist who has chosen the female figure and numbers as the major themes of her art. “Blue” aims at creating associations between a specific place and numbers. They’re about an unnamed heroine of Spetses, and the artist is purposefully using combinations of numbers that connect to locations of the island. That said, she’s determined to bring into the fore personal memories and experiences of viewers indirectly.  Katerina Karatzaferi focused on life on the island and especially the residents. “Locus et Homines III” is displaying different parts of Spetses that are characteristics of its identity. Using fabric, Karatzaferi embroidered different patterns on it that are reminiscent of the sea and of specific knots and ties that are linked with the local, folk tradition. Lastly, specific colors were used, familiar to visitors and residents of the island to mimic the island’s atmosphere. Recording her experiences in the island, Deyana Stareva created the project titled “Visual Diaries” divided into four notebooks with notes and sketches, and thirty drawings the number of whom points back to the thirty days spent on the island. The first diary named “Flowers”, the project that has chosen for the exhibition, consists of the island’s plants that have been dried up and catalogued. It’s alluding to the fact that Spetses is also called Isola di Spezzie i.e. the island of spices and flowers.


Moving on from a Greek island, the next residency, Győr Art Residency, focuses on an industrial city. The participants accepted to the program were: Kinga Enzsöly, Nanda Mentesheva, Konstantinos Koronaios, and Boglár Peruzzi. The artists worked and subsequently exhibited their projects in Torula Art Place, a new community and cultural space in Győr that aims at supporting artists at the early stages of their careers.  


Kinga Enzsöly’s “Different Clouds 3/3” is a piece inspired by the very area surrounding the Torula Art Place. Specifically, the painting refers to the times the artist spent looking at the sky while taking a break. It’s a certain type of beauty that belongs to Nature and how that immersive feeling can be emphasized by the power of Art. Nanda Mentesheva’s “Factor Y” instead focused on the beauty and inspiration one can find in an industrial environment i.e a factory. Her work is about a human’s role in said environment, and that’s why she has given control to spectators “in shaping the perception of space” as the exhibition curator Adrienn Mária Kiss has stated. Next, Konstantinos Koronaios’ “őr.819“ is about reinterpreting the space of the distillery the participants experienced. Displaying different and important parts of the city, the artist offers a complete vision of Győr from a plethora of perspectives by associating memories of a real place with real people. Having an immense respect for the traditions and the history of the factory, Boglár Peruzzi created “Synthesis1/3“. It’s essentially a heartfelt imprint of her overall experience of the residency which, coming after lockdown, had a profound influence on her. 


Finally, Smolyan Art Residency closes this cycle of programs. The participants that were accepted were the following: Burim Ajdini, Galina Abadjimarinova, Maita Chatziioannidou, and Beáta Méry. Burim Ajdini’s “Rhodope and Smolyan, 1 and 2” is a painting through which the artist is conveying an emotional journey of discovering new places by day and by night. It’s about that excitement to learn about different traditions and the fulfillment one feels when such a dream has been realized. Also inspired by tradition, Galina Abadjimarinova created “The Colours of the Rhodopes”. This painting essentially brings to life the experiences the artist gathered while staying in Smolyan. It’s a mixture of elements that relates to all of the senses forming a complete picture of the city’s character and atmosphere. Moving away from the effect the city and its traditions have on people, Maita Chatziioannidou’s “Rodopa” demonstrates the artist’s fascination with a woman created by her imagination. She embroidered this female figure surrounded by all things Smolyan just to shape an identity made from the parts of the city she experienced. And for the end, Beáta Méry’s “The Red River / Initiation (2/3)” is a painting connecting an abstract version of the conflict between modernity and tradition. A deep exploration of the color red and the specific meaning it carries for Méry is realized via the shaping of flames and depicts that which she defines as the “eternal” and the “transient”. 


Despite the fact that every place has a specific geography and an aesthetic identity, it means different things for different people. At least, this is what the very existence of these art pieces demonstrates. The  beautiful works created by the twenty artists that participated in the Prespa Art Residency, Sofia Art Residency, Spetses Art Residency, Győr Art Residency and Smolyan Art Residency will be exhibited in Pristina from Oct. 29th to Oct. 30th.