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Semiotics and the Everyday | Artists Talk: Tatiana May Kallergi

Updated: Aug 1, 2019

By Aigli Andritsopoulou

Tatiana May Kallergi, artist, art educator and independent curator on blending familiar objects with unfamiliar forms embracing semiotics and the everyday.

Tatiana Kallergi Dafne Iliaki Ferocious Urbanites Art Athens Ferocious Athens

FU: Can you tell us about the process of making your work?

TMK: It starts with drawing, always. The selected drawings, which are a product of research and experimentation, are then translated onto fabrics. Choosing the fabric is one of my favourite parts of the process. I have few dusty warehouses that I usually go to in Athens where I know the owners and I spend time talking with them and selecting the right fabric. Alternatively, I use fabric that I find in my travels or that has been passed on to me. I then embroider the designs by hand and stitch the fabric.

Embroidery, I find, is a slow, meditative process, best combined with podcasts and audiobooks. If the textiles are to be part of an installation, additional constructing is required which is usually done with the help of friends or technicians and definitely outside my studio which is, for the moment, quite small.

Tatiana Kallergi Dafne Iliaki Ferocious Urbanites Art Athens Ferocious Athens

FU: Weaving, knitting and embroidery generate references connected with our cultural past (techniques traditionally associated with women and craft). As a contemporary female artist, why do you choose thread as a medium?

TMK: I was searching for a way to translate my very linear drawings onto larger surfaces so working with threads started off as a test. It was a medium I never really thought about using because as you said, it has ties to folk traditions, crafts and a woman's dowry, which seems very far from a contemporary practice. The first designs were very sloppy as I'm really not used to working in such detail, but I felt there was something there so I let the materials guide the process.

Throughout history, textile art such as weaving, knitting and embroidery was to a means for women to reflect on the current social, political and economic state of their country through the use of symbols and therefore was so much more than a household rug, decoration or wall hanging. It was, and still is, a medium to tell a personal story and establish a connection with the past, present and future of the artist and their community. With a few exceptions, primarily women have been involved in these processes throughout different cultures, which brings forth a larger discussion on the role of women in arts and culture. I was also intrigued by the symbols and patterns used in weaving and embroidery and how they worked almost like a language within a composition. Through embroidery I further my interest in semiotics and by incorporating the finished textiles into more sculptural forms this approach becomes more playful, which I feel works in different ways than a wall hanging.

Tatiana Kallergi Dafne Iliaki Ferocious Urbanites Art Athens Ferocious Athens

Tatiana Kallergi Dafne Iliaki Ferocious Urbanites Art Athens Ferocious Athens

FU: By embedding designs of objects from everyday life, like bottles and ropes into your work you invite us to go beyond familiarity. What is the idea behind this?

TMK: I like the idea of blending familiar objects with unfamiliar forms in the same composition because it creates a play between the two. The viewer instinctively searches for a narrative within the composition and to attach meaning to the forms, which are interpreted as symbols. The use of everyday objects suggests that all forms in the composition must be recognisable and therefore must be titled. The significance of semiotics comes to surface and the ways we are accustomed to connect meaning to images, manners of operation, modes of communication, learning, language, and art. It is often the case that I am asked what a form is meant to depict and I usually reverse the question to ask the viewer what he/she sees. That said, I do sometimes add symbols to the compositions, as references to the history of embroidery and weaving.

FU: So, why stairs?

TMK: I took part in an exhibition this year with two other artists, Marina Papadaki and Niki Gulema at Notus studio. We all roughly knew what each of us was going to display but the day we all brought our work to set up the show we realised that coincidentally we all somehow had ladders in our work, which sparked the same question. Although in each work it had a different connotation, universally the ladder is seen as a link connecting too different states, a passage or a process that involves steps - it is a symbolism often used in films too. It is also a reoccurring image in weavings, so I mainly use it as a reference to the history of textile art and the process of art making which requires certain steps.

Tatiana Kallergi Dafne Iliaki Ferocious Urbanites Art Athens Ferocious Athens

FU: You live and work in Athens; does the city influence your art?

TMK: Athens is a city that is in flux and of course all artists living here are responsive to this on some level. As an archive for my work, I photograph the textiles amongst the juxtapositions of the city because it gives the work a very different angle than in an exhibition space. Placing the textiles in the center of Athens and its suburbs brings new, often amusing, interpretations to the work that diverge from its original intentions. I also find there is a very particular aesthetic to Athenian textiles used by older generations: curtains, sheets, sun-blinds are nostalgic, heavy and made with very resilient fabric - to an extent reflecting the mindset of the Athenians.

FU: Any future plans? Free space for adding thoughts.

TMK: I am very excited about a couple of upcoming collaborations, one of which is an artist series with the brand "Its a shirt" for some limited summer shirts. I continue the process of producing new work, some for upcoming exhibitions. A goal is to add a sculptural element to the work by incorporating the textiles in installations. I really like working with metal and the contradiction it creates with fabric so that will be the general direction. It has been a while since I last curated an exhibition and I have been preparing a proposal, but it still needs some work. I also work in education, so its all a balancing act.

Tatiana Kallergi Dafne Iliaki Ferocious Urbanites Art Athens Ferocious Athens

Tatiana Kallergi Dafne Iliaki Ferocious Urbanites Art Athens Ferocious Athens


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PH: Daphne Iliaki & Νatasha Killova

© Courtesy of the artist

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