Brigitte PolemisIn her new collection “Just a number”, Brigitte Polemis questions with humour, issues of conformity and standardization as the effects of industrialisation and globalisation are seeping every aspect of our lives. After years of a semi-utopic state of euphoria fed by the material trappings of economic prosperity, young working men are coming to terms with a new great depression. Her artwork portrays this generation of individuals as faceless figurines, reminiscent of Yiannis Gaitis’s, men in suits, who are dispensable, devoid of their value as unique humans, now posing as numbers within economic units struggling to survive. The theme of repetition adds to the objectification of the human figure in her images and creates a mood of senseless reproduction reflecting our consumer society.
The use of multiple layers of Perspex, become the vehicles for a simultaneous background, middle ground and foreground that enable the artist to switch back and forth with reality and illusion. The use of lined backgrounds, similar to Bridget Riley’s op-art paintings, create an optical illusion as the viewer moves closer, further or along the images. As the eye wonders on the lined patterns, a sense of dizziness is conveyed echoing the feelings of confusion and helplessness in these men appearing static in the outer layers of Perspex. If the viewer’s eye perceives the image as a whole, the male motifs seem surreal as they appear to float in space or create a new image altogether. But as the eye focuses on the outer layers of the image these object like motifs reveal themselves for what they are, men in suits. This constant play with reality and illusion has been associated with Rene Magritte’s work that has informed Brigitte’s recent body of work.
Her kaleidoscopic wheel compositions, remind us of scenes in romantic films of the 60’s, such as the ones directed by Busby Berkley, in which human formations would create moving shapes of opening and closing flowers. These theatrical images with their multiple layers, although still, are full of movement as if they are the documentation of a meticulously staged performance that took place elsewhere, at another time. The subtle use of colour serves as traces of hope for a better future amongst the grays and blacks that represent sentiments of desperation about the prospect of an uncertain future.
Born in Syria and growing up in a war torn Lebanon and later living under a totalitarian communist regime in Poland and a military dictatorship in North Cyprus, Brigitte has an inverted experience of the comfort that her contemporary peers in Western Europe and North America lavished in for decades. Drawing from her own personal experience, the artist is able to relate, through her artwork, to the struggle of a young generation facing challenging situations. At the same time her minimal aesthetics of colour, line, form and composition aim to leave the viewer with a sense of hope and optimism that this is a just another storm that will pass. After all, “there wouldn’t be joy if it wasn’t for pain”, as Bennie Pete, sousaphone player of jazz band, Hot 8 Brass, reminds us, when asked how he maintains such a sunny disposition.
Denise-Chloe Alevizou Dr. art historian
cv / exhibition history / awards
1966 – Born in Syria
1984 – 1986 – Meyer School of Fashion, New York
1985 – 1987 – Fashion Institute of Technology, New York
1998 – 2002 – Chelsea School of Art, London
2013 – ATHENAIS CULTURAL CENTER Desmos Charity Silent Auction
2012 – THE SS HELLAS LIBERTY SHIP MUSEUM – Solo Exhibition Athens, Greece
2011 – VRYSSAKI GALLERY-Group Exhibition, Plaka, Athens, Greece
2011 – ATHENS FRINGE FESTIVAL, Gazi District, Athens, Greece
2010 – DESIGN DISTRICT-Group Exhibition, Miami, USA
2010 – ART MIAMI, Michael Rosen, Miami, USA
2009 – ENIGMA GALLERY-Group Exhibition, Athens, Greece
2007 – ENIGMA GALLERY-Group Exhibition, Athens, Greece
2004 – UNESCO PALACE-Group Exhibition, Beirut, Lebanon
2002 – THE GALLERY AT OXO-Private Exhibition, South Bank, London
2002 – REBECCA WORDWORTH CONTEMPORARY ART-Private Exhibition, Bath
2002 – THE NUNNERY-Private Exhibition, Bow Street, London
2001 – REBECCA WORDWORTH CONTEMPORARY ART-Private Exhibition, Babington House, Bath
2001 – GALLERY K-Private Exhibition, Hampstead Village, London
2000 – BONHAMS CHARITY AUCTION, Knightsbridge, London
2000 – GALLERY K-Group show, Hampstead Village, London
2000 – GASWORKS-Private Exhibition, Fulham, London
1999 – Barkston gardens -Private exhibition, South Kensington, London