THE OLIVE TREE A ROOSTER CALLED HOME

Catalogue of the textile art exhibition by Loukia Richards 3-29 May 2011 at Coco-mat Antwerp, Amsterdam, Rotterdam. The Olive Tree A Rooster Called Home Under the auspices of The Theocharakis Foundation was sponsored by Coco-mat, Superfast Ferries, Pireaus Bank, Domaine Skouras, Sarah Mesritz Jewellery Design. Communication sponsors: The Needle Files, Berthi Web-log, Findart Information Bank.

Catalogue design: Sophia Kounia Photo copyright: Studio Kominis Athens/Loukia Richards 'The Olive Tree A Rooster Called Home' exhibition production and design: Loukia Richards and Coco-mat My special thanks to Paul Efmorfides, founder and owner of Coco-mat, who gave me the chance to show my textile work and demonstrate my interactive teaching in the Coco-mat stores in Antwerp, Amsterdam and Rotterdam, while he enriched the project with new ideas. The Theocharakis Foundation for believing in this project, endorsing it with its auspices and promoting it. The sponsors: Coco-mat, Superfast Ferries, Piraeus Bank, Domaine Skouras, Sarah Mesritz Jewellery Design for trusting in this project and making it happen through funding and moral support. The Communication sponsors (The Needle Files, Berthi Web-log, FindArt Information Bank) and the editors: Joanne Haywood, Berthi Smith and Malik M. Lloyd for their encouragement, commitment and solidarity. Anastasia Hassiotis for her assistance and readiness to implement Plan B, C or D in the final stages of the project. The authors of this catalogue: Dr. Georgia Chroni, Coco-mat, Sophia Cousoula, Anastasia Hassiotis, Joanne Haywood, Georgia Loukina, Francoise Mallias for their wonderul writings on modern Greece, contemporary art and eco-thinking. Costas Galanis and the Coco-mat team in Greece and Benelux for their assistance, enthusiasm and advice. I would also like to thank personally for their great help: Niels, Thijs, Gursel, Annika, Diony. Dear friends Dr. Georgia Chroni, Mirella Bousboura and Caterina Logotheti for their valuable financial aid and strong psychological support at a very crucial moment of the show, when failing was indeed an option. Sophia Kounia for the wonderful exhibition catalogue and her great help. Sotiris Syrmakezis, a friend from the 'old days', for his support. Francoise Mallias for inviting me to give a textile talk at the Greek Embassy in Washington, DC three years ago. The preparation of this talk challenged me to turn Greek Embroidery 'pictograms' into a universally appealing language. Demetrios Tsigounis for endorsing my efforts to revamp tradional crafts and for sharing his knowledge with me. The Fulbright Foundation Greece for funding my research at The Textile Museum, Washington, DC in 2008. Dr. Aleksandr Golozubov of Kharkiv University, Ukraine. Our friendship and theological discussions have influenced my work decisively. Nikos Haniotis of Studio Kominis Athens for his excellent photographic documentation of my work in the last 7 years. Nicos Symeonides, architect, for his consulting on design issues regarding this project. Carla Meijsen of Stitch 'N Bitch for her valuable advice, as well as the Athens Stitch 'N Bitch group for helping me understand group dynamics and teaching me new techniques. My mother and cats for their company and affection in hard times. Loukia Richards

THE OLIVE TREE A ROOSTER CALLED HOME LOUKIA RICHARDS A solo textile art exhibition and interactive Greek Embroidery and Greek Knitting Workshops 3-29 May @ Coco-mat Antwerp De Keyserlei 11 + 32 (0)3 2316 806 Coco-mat Amsterdam Overtoom 89 +31 (0)20 4892 927 Coco-mat Rotterdam Westblaak 25 +31 (0)10 2829 807

COCO-MAT is a world leading force in the production of advanced sleep systems. For COCO-MAT, what prevails upon all aspects of the production chain is quality in balance with sustainability. From selecting and harvesting raw materials, to shaping and creating the final products as well as from distribution to meticulous recycling. Our raw materials are nature’s gifts: coconut fibres, natural rubber, horsehair, pure wool, cotton and even cactus fibres or camel hair. After all COCO-MAT, like poetry, belongs not to its creators but to those who appreciate it. To you.

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'NO - A Sampler of Greek Embroidery Motifs', 2010. Embroidery on old Greek flag. 108cm x 150cm 'No' is an important word in Greek history - a history of resistance against foreign invadors. The motifs were sketched after the Greek Embroidery collection at the Textile Museum in Washington DC.

MY WORK IN KEY WORDS: TEXTILE: As an ephemeral and perishable material, textile is correlated to the human fate in many traditions. I work with embroidery, weaving, sewing, knitting; their 'pseudo-naivité' serves me as a Trojan horse to make statements on politics, gender issues, illusion: like in the fiber book 'Holy Bitch' embroidered with sex workers' portraits. I am interested in the common traits of urban culture such as: the acceptance of violence, the biased tolerance, the vulgarity of achievements leading to fame, the dead end of spiritual remedies, apathy. How one deals in this context with the so called eternal human experiences like love, intimacy, pain, loss, sickness, shame, separation, celebration is also a question for my work. DETAILS: The devil is in the details. In my work, details hide more observations: like the lace skirt of the 'Transvestite-prostitute-smoking-and-teasing-passers-by' is reminiscent of the lace curtains in the brothels' windows of the Amsterdamer Bloedstraat;details bring closer and repulse at the same time. FREEDOM & PLAY: Every day, 'fossilied' thoughts engraved in the mind during childhood fight for victory over the disillusionment life offers in abundance: like the silver toy soldiers in the micro-installation 'Waiting for Joseph Cornell' fight for the possibility to turn their weapons into priapic phalluses. I try to retrieve the freedom of thought children experience while playing: things do not have to happen in a certain way. Opposites can happen: like cartoon-oid figures can be simultaneously tuned in and out of step in the 'Washington Diary' tapestry; and things can happen by ignoring standard physics: like in the 'No' tapestry where the embroidered animals and flowers of Greece merge time and space into an eternal Here And Now. EROS - THANATOS: Sigmund Freud defined 'eros - thanatos' as the driving forces of human existence and annihilation. I am interested in the most vulgar and violent versions of eros-thanatos: paid sex and politically motivated murder. Objectification of the female body is a dominant motif in popular aesthetics. Murder motivated by hate for the victim's views is also possible in a democracy, like Theo Van Gogh's murder in Amsterdam in 2007 or the killings of three bank employees during a demonstration in Athens in 2010. LES DESASTRES DE LA GUERRE: Goya's 'Les Desastres de la Guerre' has been the main influence of 'Death Dolls'. In my variation, the invador is systemic: atrocities against human life and dignity are committed inside the existing social network through the eruption of a civil war and the rule of misery. I use dolls -- originally funereal objects -- because they are both an effective means of socialization and objects invested with love by those who carry them, thus ideal to question presumptions on security. As big segments of the population are driven to extreme poverty, hate ideologies flourish. Civil war means destruction of the familiar; remorseless uprooting of social taboos and civilized conventions. My dolls are intended to be 'role models' for a pitiless future that some foresee and others feel as a present happening right now. LR

'Pornodoll - Transvestite prostitute smoking, teasing passers-by', 2009. Embroidery, weaving, sewing. 8.5cm x 30cm x 7cm Doll inspired by the sex workers of Bloedstraat in the R L D, Amsterdam.

The conundrum of textiles Textile as an art medium Domesticity, preciousness, function and protection. Textile is a material that is sewn into every aspect of our lives. Wrapped neatly in blankets as we enter the world, humans are quick to form relationships with textile objects; a favourite teddy or blanket, progressing to the garment worn on our wedding day. Within our environments we are also surrounded by textiles of utility; towels, carpeting and socks. Textiles are so intrinsic to our everyday lives that it might seem peculiar to perceive them as having the status of an art material. Logically it is just a material in the same sense as oil paint is just a material, yet textiles have so many emotional connections for us as humans, that perhaps it overshadows the material itself. Can textiles really be removed from its human associations and used as a media in its own right? Can textiles be considered art?

Intention is the key to answering this question and perhaps it cannot be answered wholly as it has wide perimeters and drifts. There are many people who make objects with traditional textile craft at its core, with the sole intention of making something beautiful or useful, they do not intentionally set out to make a piece of art, so where is the point in which it becomes art? When looking in particular at textile “crafts” in art we need to ask ourselves what is the artist intending to communicate when they select their materials and processes.

The end product for an artist using textiles can be read differently by different audiences. The interpretation that differs from its intended meaning can be an annoyance for the artist when their ideas are misunderstood however this dialogue is also an important aspect of using textiles in art and our own self reflection as artists. There is perhaps a difference between an artist using textiles in a piece of work compared to a textile artist.

It is generally a western ideal that has decided art work produced in materials such as textiles and ceramics are seen differently to painting and traditional sculpture. In other areas of the world, textile art would be revered as much as a paintings and sculpture. Is the western world slow to understand the same ideals, have we forgotten them, or was it never there to begin with? It is interesting to analyse why we place importance on some materials more than others.

For some textile artists domesticity and traditional “female” pursuits are part of the work, perhaps questioning its relevance today. Gender plays a role in our appreciation of textiles. Specifically textile “craft” can be seen as a female pursuit and thus could be read by many as a lesser art form. In renaissance times the important artists were male and worked with sculpture and painting. This legacy follows us into the 21st century and few artists using textiles techniques would be able to work detached from this notion. Even if it is not an intention in the work, they would have to be aware of it and thus it becomes part of the conversation.

It would be naive to think an artist uses textiles in their work for one sentiment alone. Most artists’ intentions will encompass more than one strand of thinking. It is not merely to say “I am using a textile in an art form, what do you think”? There are always crossings of conversation and meanings in the work. Loukia Richards’s work has many layers of meaning and methods of application. The history of textiles in

her own culture plays an important role and it is interesting that when travelling to Washington to study textiles, she was drawn towards Greek textiles, so imbedded in her perspective. Some of Richard’s objects are made to be worn close to the skin and others are made to adorn an interior. All her work has layer upon layer of tradition, new interpretation, personal account and self reflection, each time recording her progression as an artist. The garland bracelets in particular are an embodiment of this feeling, a celebration of tradition alongside new ideas, a resurrection for the materials and symbolism while respecting the past. Joanne Haywood Joanne Haywood is a leading studio jeweller, writer and educator. She has worked and exhibited in the U.K. and Internationally. She holds a BA (Hons) in Jewellery Design from Central Saint Martins and is recognised for her individual voice and skill in Mixed Media making. Selected bibliography includes: 2010 Promopress. Essay for “New Rings” 2009 Quarto. Design chapter for “Contemporary Jewellery Making Techniques” 2008 A&C Black. Chapter for “Jewellery Using Textile Techniques” 2007 A&C Black. Commissioned to write “Mixed Media Jewellery”

'The Washington Diary', DETAIL & BACK SIDE, 2008. Embroidery. 48cm x 65cm A tapestry inspired by the 'embroidery notes' at Washington DC.

'When women in rural Greece finish their work in the house and fields, they take up another kind of work: they spend their spare time embroidering. Embroidery is not only for passing their time. Women embroider to decorate their house, their clothes and the clothes of the loved ones, e.g. table clothes, tea towels, baby wear and linen. They also express their feelings with symbolic embroidery motifs like love (heart), care (hands) and nature (flowers). At the same time they express their love to their husbands by decorating their handkerchiefs, to their children by decorating their clothes and they show their respect to their parents-in-law by giving them embroidered bed linen as a gift. And then comes the custom of the Greek wedding that obliges every mother to work hard to embroider housewear for the new house of the daughter or son in the village. The women in the neighborhood will then gather together and exchange patterns, stitches and ideas about the embroidered 'dowry' of their children. Embroidery has always been an experience that women in the villages share. They share their skills, patterns and feelings. I know well what is happening in the Greek villages because I have been brought up in one of them and still visit it. I had never thought that I would experience the same setting in a cafe in Athens during 'Stitch 'N Bitch' meetings. I hadn' t thought either that I would touch a needle and thread again and enjoy embroidering so much'. Georgia Loukina, Employment consultant

'Murdered civilian - Girl with Red Beret', 2010. Embroidery, sewing. 10 cm x 27 cm Doll inspired by the atrocities commited during the Greek civil war, 1944.

, 'Murdered civilian - Red Cross Nurse Killed by a Sniper', 2010. Embroidery, sewing. 7.5 cm x 37.5 cm Doll inspired by the atrocities commited during the Greek civil war, 1944.

'Murdered civilian - Half naked Woman Shot in the Head', 2010. Embroidery, sewing. 8 cm x 30 cm Doll inspired by the atrocities commited during the Greek civil war, 1944.

Loukia Richards Black: Deathdolls, Pornodolls, Holy Bitch Kandinsky understands black color as the nothingness after the dying out of the sun, or as something that has ceased to exist, more or less like an extinct pyre. Nonetheless, he considers that total discontinuance is followed by another continuity, equal to the beginning of another world; furthermore, while black is a soundless color, all other colors echo louder on it, even those with the “weakest voice.” This standpoint on black color may very well be said to represent the work of Loukia Richards in its total, and especially the sections: Death dolls, Pornodolls, Holy bitch. The artist, who has studied Greek embroidery in depth, knows very well that black, the color of mourning in Greek tradition, is at the same time the color that highlights the multifarious sounds of all the other colors as seen on many traditional Greek costumes. Despite black being only sparsely seen in Loukia’s work, it is somehow present in it, because her point of departure is discontinuance, silence interrupted, an extinct pyre, that only she can reinvigorate. In her Death dolls series, black and death are her starting points. [Death dolls] is a series dedicated in the memory of Thaleia Lekkou who was killed in December 1944 in her valiant effort to transfer the patients of the Red Cross hospital to a more secure haven. Her means of expression –wool among them - connect her even more with this heroine, since Thaleia Lekkou used to organize numerous knitting gatherings for the “Vest of the Soldier”, and moreover, herself knitted frantically. The “obituary” that Loukia offers, lies beyond any notion of intolerance, brings out selflessness, generosity, dedication to timeless values, thus finally becoming a work to honor those who give their lives for their fellow-men, throughout human history. Furthermore, her dead dolls, in this particular installation, are being shrouded by the “OXI” flag (“NO” flag), which, embroidered as it is with small human figures, animals, birds, flowers and plants, illuminates life and renounces death. In her Pornodolls, Holy bitch series, black color becomes once more the point of departure. Black stands for death, this time a kind of death which people experience while still alive. This series was conceived and came to life in Amsterdam, in May 2009, at the Red Light District of the city. Within the frame of the efforts of the City to upgrade the area, the artist worked during an artist residency at a brothel-turned-to-atelier, next to brothels still in operation. Her work Holy bitch was inspired by the exclamation of a frenchspeaking client at the view of an oversized prostitute (Sacree Salope!) However, the concept of the “Book of the Holy Whore” recalls the Christian tradition, the legendaries/”synaxaria” (lives and deeds) of the saints and of the sinful women in particular, who are led to self-consciousness, and while they live in the dark (black), they are “enlightened” by their faith and follow the way of “good”. Loukia gives visual form to her concepts with materials (plant fibers, wool, cloth) and techniques (embroidery, textile, stitching, knitting) that are renown for being perishable: perishability, “black” and death are their inherent characteristics. She renews techniques and materials which have run full circle especially within popular tradition, through the medium of modern art, retaining her connections with both the Greek tradition and her sense of a broader, “universal” identity. She records “black” through techniques and colors that highlight it, bringing together rationalism and skill with the peculiar inspiration of the popular artist, always through the prism of her own sentimentality that keeps reacting and denouncing prejudice, violence, vulgarity and apathy; she furthermore brings forward the painful question of the search for a way of dealing with human timeless values in the shadow of a grim present and future. To Vincent van Gogh, the night is much more live and colorful than the day. To Stephen William Hawking black holes are not entirely black, but occasionally emit a little light, since several photons may elude them. It is this light that encases black that Loukia Richards tracks and reveals with her work. Dr Georgia Kakourou Chroni Curator at The National Gallery of Greece Translation from Greek into English: Anastasia Hassiotis

'Though Loukia introduces herself as a visual artist, I consider her much more than that. She is a keeper of tradition, a story teller, a risk taker, as she takes a traditional craft, a product of both necessity and leisure, and elevates it into a new form of art. She takes joy in an art that can be both communal and private, cherishing both its feminine and liberating aspects. In her fluid, free and colorful compositions, I can see the challenges of our contemporary world, grounded in the simplicity of tradition, through the humble needle and thread. As needlework has been part and parcel of Greek life, Ms. Richards inevitably expresses the rich heritage of her mother’s and grandmother’s village, which could very well vanish if it were not for artists like herself, who breathe new life into deceptively vanished traditions. Her work is obviously the product of a curious scholar, with a deep respect for history, sociology, geography. Ms. Richards is not only a weaver of images but also of ideas. '

Francoise Mallias A woman in awe of Penelope's crafts

'Holy Bitch', FIBER BOOK, Page 5: Prostitute I, Page 6: Prostitute II', 2009. Embroidery, weaving, sewing. 8cm x 12 cm x 4cm The book plot is inspired by the Red Light District in Amsterdam: Under the spell of hallucinatory mushrooms, a prostitute experiences her metamorphosis into a saint. The story of a repenting sinner turning into eternal light is a common feature of the Christian Orthodox 'life of saints' booklets.

Prostitute A, 2011. Weaving, embroidery 12 cm x 17 cm x 1.5 cm Non treated lamb wool, cotton and silk threads, loom yarns. The portrait is inspired by the Amsterdamer sex workers and the cubist techniques of orthodox icon painting.

Prostitute B, 2011. Weaving, embroidery 16.5 cm x 20 cm x 2 cm Non treated lamb wool, cotton and silk threads, loom yarns. The portrait is inspired by the Amsterdamer sex workers and the cubist techniques of orthodox icon painting.

Transvestite prostitute, 2011. Weaving, embroidery 20 cm x 21 cm x 3 cm Non treated lamb wool, cotton and silk threads, loom yarns. The portrait is inspired by the Amsterdamer sex workers and the cubist techniques of orthodox icon painting.

Of Life and Death in Greek Culture: A Short Note Greece has no architectural traces of affluence of the scale of the big Western cities. It is a mountainous, quite dry piece of land. On the mainland and the islands we still find, intact or in ruins. marbles whitened from the centuries that have elapsed since the great glory of the city-states; castles built by invaders; and churches of a small scale that stand much closer to human needs rather than conveying an epic view of the divine, Our land has no traces of great affluence but it has a strong culture and one of the stronger characteristics of this culture is the negation of death. Death is unwelcome, unfair, undesired. Religious and folk tradition agree on this and convey the message that it is not purgatory that should be feared, but death itself, because it is the greater punishment of all. Losing one’s life, one’s family, one’s loved ones is considered to be the worst that can happen to a human. To counterbalance mortality and the fear it inspired, ancient Greeks turned to immaterial beauty and the teaching for an ethical stance in life, both of which could and would guarantee posthumous fame, a powerful weapon in the hands of the mortals seeking to conquer death. Three great men descended to Hades and returned back to Earth again: Odysseus, the great brain, Hercules, the great hero with the superhuman strength, and Orpheus the great soul, the great artist. Their transgression of the forbidden territory of the “shades”, was recounted in Homer and on other occasions, and formed part of Greek culture; these characters even transformed and mixed with popular heroes of later epochs. Loukia Richards is an educated, skillful contemporary urban artist; nonetheless she voluntarily “subjects” her modernism to the long tradition of her art, that is embroidery, thus creating a dialogue with the “anonymous” women all over Greece who have also excelled in this very art, and have helped to sustain tradition, while managing their homes, and have furthermore co-worked to give this country its everchanging identity. Anastasia Hassiotis Art Critic-Promoter

'The Phallic Hero', 2010. Silver amulet 10cm x 15cm The phallic hero is inspired by Greek Carnival fertility rituals

'Lovers meeting', 2006. Embroidery. 10cm x 12 cm

BLUE When the fierce wind blows around Kastro in Sifnos or when the summer heat burns the rocks in Volax in Tinos, a constant remains. The blue of the Greek sky and that of the Greek seas. Where ever you are in Greece blue engulfs you with a powerful force. Blue and grey pebbles in the beaches of Northern Evoia. The soothing stillness during a cold morning in the Messolonghi lagoon. Silver doorknobs of stonebuilt houses in Zagorohoria in Ipirus. Blue windows and shutters in whitewashed houses in Patmos town. The blue hue of the train line in Amyntaio, Florina during dusk. Waves of crystal blue water crashing on white pebble beach of Myrtos, Kefalonia. Olive and cypress trees in an imaginary slide towards the Messinian bay. The morning mist fighting weak sun rays over the Lake Kerkini. Pine trees whispering at the Afaia Temple in Aegina overseeing the Saronic Gulf. The smell of freshly baked bread loafs in a bakery in Filopappou. Purple-bluish sheets of violets in the fields of Santorini during Easter. Whitewashed staircases in the medieval castle of Folegandros town. Old windmills standing in Amorgos town gazing the big blue. The austere sandstone rocks of Meteora hosting the monasteries staring the sky. The Methoni castle being slapped by ferocious waves. The salty taste of grilled corn on the cob during the Ikaria summer fairs. A street peddler selling cold raki and fresh figs in the sandy beaches of southern Crete. The blue dome of St. Georgios church inside the Astypalea castle, in rivalry and in total harmony with its white walls. The sense of blue in Manos Hatzidakis’s “When the clouds come” The blue and white cross in the Greek national symbol. Greece is blue!

Sophia Cousoula A constant traveler

LOUKIA RICHARDS I work with textile, a material of sacred character in my hellenic heritage, for about a decade. During my studies at the Hochschule der Kuenste Berlin (1988 - 1993), funded by the Onassis Benefit Foundation, I have experimented with various techniques including print, photography and film. The design of an Anatolian kilim and its history of travel from the East to the West, fueled my desire to study fibers more thoroughly. A Fulbright Foundation Artist grant facilitated a research at The Textile Museum's Greek Collection in Washington DC (2008). There, I understood textile's multiple layers of meaning. A year later, as an AIR at Ted Noten's Atelier in Amsterdam, I created tapestries and dolls inspired by the Red Light District sex workers. This work has enforced my belief that traditional techniques can express contemporary agonies. Participating with a 'Hillary Clinton' doll in the 'I Care A Lot' exhibition on the Middle East conflict (Trier, Stockholm, Lisbon, 2010), I realized 'toys' can talk politics. In summer 2010, I curated the first Greek municipal AIR program in Leonidio, a 19th century town under monument protection in SE Peloponnese. My concept was to use 'female crafts' like knitting, cooking, collecting the harvest etc. to express mourning, civil war, family traumas, uprooting of traditions etc. The visitors' feedback on the AIR participants' work has justified my efforts to cross art with craft. In all cultures textile is understood as an allegory for life. Mastering the 'textile esperanto' is the biggest challenge of my work.

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