Still Alive

The Project Gallery presents the group exhibition “Still Alive”

Curated by: Alexandros Maganiotis, in collaboration with Yannis Bolis.

Duration: 16-02-2019 until 30-03-2019

The skull has been an emblematic theme throughout the history of art. It can be traced back to the sculptural decorations of Middle Age Gothic churches and the vanitas of Baroque still-life painting – works celebrated for their masterfulness and naturalistic precision. The skull also features in the works of several 19th and 20th century artists, including Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cézanne –who exclaimed “how beautiful a skull is to paint!”, referring strictly to the plastic potential of the specific theme–, Pablo Picasso and George Braque, Otto Dix and Max Beckmann, René Magritte, Paul Delvaux, Salvador Dali and Diego Rivera, Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst, with his out-of-this-world diamond-encrusted skull.

An archetypal and mystical symbol in both paganism and Christianity, the skull has appeared as an artistic motif in different eras and cultures, serving as a mnemonic reminder of the transience of life, of human vanity and perishability, of the ephemerality of worldly pleasures, of melancholy and repentance, of man’s primeval fear of his inescapable fate and imminent last judgement. The thousands of skulls and skeletal remains at the Capuchin Crypt in Rome are a unique architectural-sculptural monument that reminds and emphatically warns visitors: “what you are now, we once were; what we are now, you shall be”. Skull figures (called calacas) are also a main ritualistic feature of the Mexican Day of the Dead, recalling pre-Columbian cultures, while seeking to achieve a sentimental connection and spiritual contact with all those who have “passed away”.

At other times the skull has come to represent power and the imposition of authority, violence, terror and horror, as well as the immersion and navigation into the dark and uncharted territories of the unknown and the metaphysical. In more recent times, the skull has emerged as a powerful visual symbol, usually bereft and cleansed of its allegorical connotations, moral conceptualizations, religious undertones and emotional power – thereby becoming a popular and “attractive” image, widely used in fashion, decoration, advertising and pop culture.

The skull is a favorite subject to most of the artists taking part in the exhibition Still Alive. The works exhibited here include compositions in which symbolic elements are connected to aesthetic values, the critical gaze to a subversive approach, references to art history and modern reality. The artworks presented vary greatly in their style and form, in their preferred sensitivity and aesthetics. But they are all bold, imaginative compositions that prompt us to reflect upon primary concepts, leading us through an unexpected path to this original and multifaceted artistic “environment”.

Yannis Bolis, Art historian