Gareth Stevens previews an exhibition of works by Monika Veriopoulos at the blackShed Gallery, Robertsbridge – 12 February – 5 March.

Monika Veriopoulos was born in Athens in 1956.  She moved to London where she studied Fine Art at the City and Guilds of London Art School, 1979-1983.  It was here that she met the artist Michael Buhler who was one of her most valuable tutors and later became her husband.  She now lives in Hastings.

Recently she was awarded the ‘Hastings Open’ prize and, as the winner, she was given the opportunity to complete a research residency at Hastings Museum Art Gallery and this solo exhibition at blackShed Gallery.

The selection was a complicated process because of lockdown. A panel – consisting of Ellen Prebble, an Artist-maker from Project Art Works, Hastings; Kate Adams, Artist and CEO of Project Art Works, Hastings; Patrick Jones, Project 78 Gallery, St Leonards-On-Sea; Kenton Lowe, blackShed Gallery, Robertsbridge and Ben Urban, artist and curator, Flatland Project, Hastings – initially selected a longlist of 91 artworks. These works represented 74 exhibiting artists, some from the local area, and some from London and the south east, plus three from overseas including Germany, USA and Canada.

Although unable to pursue a full version of her residency at Hastings Museum and Art Gallery because of the pandemic, Veriopoulos has used the Durbar Hall as a focus for some outstanding drawings over the last year.

Essentially this show sets a precedent. It is very much a three-way collaboration between two galleries and a solo artist. Panellist Patrick Jones says, ‘I think that the eclectic nature of the Hastings Open is a great way to follow on from last year’s Tom Hunter exhibition in attracting a new audience. Hastings Museum is our museum and we should use it more!’’

Whilst dominated by larger work, inspired by the iconic large hall at Hastings Museum and Art Gallery, the exhibition contains other work depicting intimate and forgotten corners of Hastings. Veriopoulos painstakingly creates veils of pitch black charcoal to the point where the surface has a mass and texture that has its own gravity. 

Veriopoulos talks of her childhood growing up in Greece, “where one is always very conscious of the world of shadows.  They become part of life, following one, undulating over the terrain, merging with other shadow shapes to form overlapping patterns across the different surfaces.  Although clearly defined they remain fleeting and translucent”.

A shadow is in essence an indication of the existence of something. Shadows are evidence of solidity – they imply presence but only give a partial insight into what that presence is. Monika Veriopoulos’ obsession with them is analogous with her creative process. She is in search of the elusive and focuses on that twilight moment when light is failing and it becomes diffuse and luminous as it dies.

In the same way that Plato used the allegory of the cave to suggest that our perception of reality is partial and illusory, Veriopoulos pushes us to accept that, to some extent, we all live in darkness. 

These sumptuous drawings pull us in and insist that we look intently to find recognisable forms and digestible content. The work goes beyond words to celebrate that which is at the edge of our peripheral vision. Ultimately, they are a celebration of the overlooked recesses of the world out there as well as those in the deepest part of our psyches. 

The Private View is from 1pm – 4pm on Saturday 12th February and all are welcome.
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