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Marianna Katsoulidi
  -  Reviews   -  «Expressionist Recordings»

Raised in a refined and creative environment, daughter of Takis Katsoulidis – an exceptional engraver and important painter, and of Sonia Ieronymidi-Katsoulidi – a graphic designer teaching in Athens Technical Institution, Marianna Katsoulidi found herself on fertile ground for developing and expressing her talent. She made a dynamic start in 2006 with Tentative Hikes. Marianna Katsoulidi creates her own, personal dialect, expressed through explosions of color. A colorist, she is deeply influenced by Marc Chagall – something that follows her in all of her works; she remains close to the sensorial experience that lies next to that of the soul. She moves her images on an imaginary stage like a director would position and move his actors.
She illustrates on one hand an experience of inner recording pertaining to her own feelings but on the other hand she pores over the behaviors and different stages of the animal kingdom and wild nature, deriving her information from exploring the living of wild goats at the heights of Messenian Taigetos. The nature and the animals are rendered through the prism of her personal processes: of the subconscious, memory but also her objective recording. It is worth noting that this is her only work devoid of the human element.
Marianna studies up close the social structure and hierarchy of goats in order to illustrate them. She proceeds in field work, hiking for days in the animals’ hideouts. She is fascinated by nature’s wisdom, by its beauty, by the life of goats. Through direct contact, she studies her material and creates the designs from videos. This work is vitalized by an intense dynamism of form, and renders exquisitely the feeling of freedom, of the highs and lows.
The colors that she chooses to use are not in the least realistic. She mostly uses red in designing the animals. This color is by definition intense and extroverted while it recalls life itself and the dynamic of nature.
Katsoulidi places symbols and allegories within her works. The faces of the animals are reminiscent of archetypal masks: 150 years before Aeschylus appeared in ancient Greece, the dancers of the Dithyramb were transformed into buck-looking satyrs, in order to prove their worship for god Dionysus. From these buck-looking satyrs comes the term tragedy, namely tragon ode [“the song of bucks” in ancient Greek].
The compositions are complemented by geometrical motifs that create whirls of color; the forms consequently emerge through color. Forms and colors intermingle, participating in an intense conversation. The realistic aspects are reinforced by her expressionist style, which is not redeemed in colorific explosions alone, but also renders the inner atmosphere of the subject.
In 2007 she presents her second solo exhibition entitled “BITTER END”, continuing on her artistic path.
Katsoulidi expresses herself within the spectre of a vivid expressionism in this work too. The choice of human figures that participate is purely sentimental. Figurative expressionism uncovers the emotional grading, the expressiveness of the soul. So, the human face of suffering takes specific form. Katsoulidi makes these particular choices motivated by the emotion that floods her. The color vibration, the dynamic imagination in the composition which exudes mystery, surface through the conflicting reality the painter lives.
The artist processes the shower of stimuli and images she receives, while she ends up discussing through her works issues that vividly engaged her at that period, such as the interpersonal relationships of women within a family, succession, the agony over stereotypes and mentalities potentially moulded from generation to generation, the dipole of life-death. Red hot anger emanates from the first works of the series but in time she embraces this emotion, as her mourning had begun long before the actual death of her beloved grandmother, in the four years she had spent immersed in silence.
In the paintings, the past is expressed with photographs of the past (hers, her mother’s, her grandmother’s), the present in painting, and the future with metaphysical painterly aspects she places on her canvas. The silk screenings and prints are done exclusively by her. The widespread elements of kitsch are party to her ironic mood. On closer look, we spot pills on the crowns, and role-playing through the photographs.
Her indirect irony is widespread, as are the contradictions and the muted fear of death. The creator is delivered and sanctified through this work, exorcising a large lump of pain.
In 2008 Dissociation, Marianna Katsoulidi worked for two years to create and complete this installation, in the context of her MA project. It is an installation of constructions made of the same materials (bubble wrap, adhesive tape, pieces of watering hose, silicone, toys, plaster cloth, tulle…). All was white and plastic. In this work, she uses easily discernible symbols, some mythical but almost realistically made in relation to the idea they represent (an elephant, a unicorn, a prince, a princess, a chandelier, a gondola-carriage, a fountain…).
Indicatively, we shall refer to the semiological interpretation of three of the symbols that the artist represents. In the middle ages, the elephant symbolized wisdom, modesty, eternity and mercy. It is moreover an animal with a strong memory, a fact which serves the scope of the installation as memories are the subject around which it revolves. In fact the elephant is one of the few animals that can be captivated by love. Here, it is specifically used a Trojan horse since below it is to be found a pram with a key. Consequently, it functions as the guardian of a gate, according to the interpretation offered by M. Katsoulidi.
The unicorn, a being of myth, is said to never have been captured alive, only dead. A symbol of solitude, purity, freedom, and justice, it has always inspired awe. He also hides a key. So, both these animals await he whom will win both keys with pure intention. Namely, that of the elephant: the key of birth and creation, and that in the mouth of the unicorn: the key of goodness.
The fountain is identified with the source of life itself and represents man’s center, the soul. The source of life is placed at the center of the installation and in this manner all four elements coexist: earth, fire, water, air, completing a non-realistic but imaginary world.
There was no sound in the installation, just silence clothed in the color white. However there are some remnants of color, which possibly coadjute in rendering cooler or warmer shades of white. It is an experiment in memory and forgetfulness and in the end also an attempt on behalf of the artist, to preserve values. At this point emerges a serious question, that of the ephemeral in art… None of these works survives to date.
A frozen world – reminiscent of a fairy tale without being one – made its appearance. Nevertheless, white here works as a white cinema sheet where different projections occur. In this manner, each person viewing the constructions can make his own projections, depending on his experience and character. In consequence, he may see something optimistic or romantic or even repulsive.
In 2011, Marianna Katsoulidi presents her work entitled “Human Toys”.
In the show human toys, the artist explores a dear and familiar subject of all cultures and civilizations. The toys, children’s favorite objects and part of life’s teaching, utilize creative imagination. In her paintings however, they take on human shape and size. She had loved, observed and collected toys since she had been a child. Some of them served as models for this work. Toys escape their primary dimensions and take on roles, maintaining serious facial expressions.
In this manner, the painter examines several pairs: the mother with the ten children, the child with his pet, the couple… Familiar images invite the viewer to identify with them, or search his own identity and singularity. An imaginary narrative unfolds. The painter uses metaphorically often stereotypical or allegorical figures. She personifies and individualizes different elements beyond the logic of space and time. Precisely as it happens in fairy tales.
The power of the painter’s imagination is combined with the understanding and use of color – mixed media on canvas – and the expressiveness of the figures and shapes. She is also adding emotionally charged aspects (feathers, Legos…). The artist is “winking” at us following a more optimistic approach to life and poses the question of whether, in the end, human beings “are not but toys in the hands of a grander child”…
2013 Innocence – Restart, The latest work of Marianna Katsoulidi, with black and white retro themes albeit worked in a rather contemporary manner, is the product of the painter’s maturing and setting in. They are works of introverted painting, lacking the drama and the corniness.
The figures, some of them in impressively large size, are like stills of large sketches. They are worked with oil based paints and painting rolls on white canvas. The absence of color does not stop us from seeing her evident Marc Chagall influence, she remains close to the sensorial experience that lies next to that of the soul. She moves her images on an imaginary stage, like a director would position and move his actors.
In these paintings, she examines the relationship between man and animal and furthermore between man and ideas, through the intense symbolism that is assigned to the specific choice of animals. In this way she creates her own dreamlike world. She uses small porcelain bibelots as models in order to create nostalgic and humoristic images on the canvas, images created with clean and austere lines.
The black and white in these works can, in the end, be the same as bright as a colorful painting, the resulting syntheses are powerful. The outlines are well-studied and solid. Katsoulidi works black and white in the same manner she would work color. The figures that emerge from the use of the black and white palette create beautiful images brimming with existential tension as they move in the precipice between dream and matter.
It is a potentially optimistic show; the title that the artist chooses is not randomly selected. Return to innocence so that a restart in life may take place. Marianna Katsoulidi then: an artist worth noting.

Dr. Maray Georgousi
Art Historian