CHATTING WITH AN ART FAIRY An interview with Berlin-based, Greek artist, Maria Salouvardou


Colours, a lot of colours blended together or simply… white. “Ingredients” of every kind. Soft textures inviting you to caress them but also unfriendly and rough textures that demand distancing. Headless costumes, not sure which head they should wear today, heads with sunglasses getting themselves into luggage because they long to travel despite the pandemic. Elegant sculptures, born in poetry and music, ready to be engaged in a dialogue with their viewers, especially the female viewers.

Complex creations exactly like Maria Salouvardou, the woman who gives them life.

I met Maria Salouvardou in one of the early meetings of “Téchne”. Her beauty could have crowned her a muse in earlier eras, but Maria is an artist herself, a female artist who accomplishes to give Art a powerful and elegant female voice.

She loves mathematics „and I am grateful for it because I need maths in my every-day life”.

Maria believes in superheroes. “Superheroes are those people with an exceptional ability to heal or to help. These people live among us, and we might recognise them, we might not. They are simple people with exceptional gifts, and it is indeed a great gift for us to accept their existence.”

“And what about guilty pleasures? Nope, no guilty pleasures, only pleasures! Why put even what we enjoy in a cage?”

Salouvardou comes from Andros-„Little England”-but grew up in Athens. She fell in love with Berlin during her her very first visit in the early 90s, when Berlin was indeed “poor but sexy”, and at the Art House Tacheles she felt the powerful freedom of artistic expression that only the German capital could provide at the time.

“in Tacheles I felt at home, and there on the spot I had decided to live in Berlin.” But her life in Athens had other plans so the move to Berlin happened almost 20 years later. “Of course, this is irrelevant for time is multidimensional and not linear. What it matters is that we finally moved to Berlin, and we are here.”

Like many women, Maria is a partner and a mother. An insightful artist who bears poetry, colours and theatre in every step of her path.

Her installations were described as “costumes” although they are a lot more than fabrics, their viewer feels their energy, their characters. So, are they installations or costumes? This question would make open our discussion:

-        Maria if you had to label your artworks how would you describe them?

-        These specific works are interactive installations, sculptures.They are entities, with whom you may engage in a dialogue. A costume is a fabric that you wear to be part of its story. But with a sculpture, you talk, you share your stories. The „Queen of Fucking Everything“ is a sculpture, unsure which head she should wear today, inviting us to a trip of self-awareness.

-        A queen, aware of her power who must decide which will be the next chapter in her life. But then the lockdown came….

-        During the lockdown, there was a lot going on inside the four walls we were confined in. But I sought for time to be alone with my art. One of the first installations I created, was made with kitchen paper towels, this good that turned into a luxury during the first weeks of the lockdown. A head. Sunglasses made of parts of an old strainer, a colander. I placed the head in a luggage. We were not allowed to travel. Containment in a foreign land while back at home you have loved family members and pending issues in need of our attendance. A much-needed holiday that has be taken away from us. Selfexplanatory things that suddenly were forbidden. I loved this work and I am planning to create a collection.

-        Is it because their appealing storytelling?

-        Yes, maybe. It does have a closeness to her viewers. And she is very direct too: “I want to travel but I cannot. I am confined.”

-        The lockdown has been quite productive for you, right?

-        Yes! (Her whole face Is smiling; her eyes light up with happiness.)

 I was very productive during the lockdown despite everything flooding our every day lives. Better said, because of this. Creating art, give me peace, and this confinement we have experienced gave me time to find the beginning of the thread…and to be more accurate, the beginning of the wire, which has become my favourite material.

-        How come you have chosen …wire?

-        I love how the wire takes any shape and form I want to. It is also such an interactive material. On negatively charged days, I don’t wear gloves and my hands work intensively, almost harsh with the wire, that pays me back by hurting my skin. On calm days, our “relationship” is harmonic, loving even. And the narrative of the wire… In the “Queen of Fucking Everything” the wire forms the basic structure, hidden under other materials and fabrics. During those first days of the lockdown, I felt the confinement like a cage closing us inside forever. The wire might be the best material to represent the experience.

-        And what other materials do you use?

-        I love paper and threads but also anyhing “old and useless”. I love to mend objects and fabrics, upcycle them and transform them to art.

-        Let’s talk about “Returning to Myself “, another installation created during the lockdown.

-        You see, every one of my installations is based on a poem. In this specific sculpture, which also has a voice, the inspiration came through the poem by Paul Eluard, a poetry I adore as much as surrealism because the latter allows freedom. Travelling through parallel dimensions, parallel expressions, and solutions to a question. It demands from us only to observe closely and to think for ourselves. This specific poem, returning to one’s self, to find one’s own pieces and rebuild. I speak with myself and at times, with its absence. I lose myself, and yet, I find me again. I finally arrive at the city, which is nothing but my own self. This sculpture is now in the middle of our living room, and for my family, she is an entity and a part of us.

-        You speak so poetically. Was poetry always something you liked?

-        Poetry is something I adore! I have worked a lot on poems, starting with the theatre school of Akis Davis, a favourite mentor. We had to choose a poem, learn it by heart, and then repeat the process until we exited the written words, and dived in the world the poem created. This same technique it is I apply with every new installation. But instead of my whole body like in theatre, I only use my hands. And Music. For every poem and every sculpture, I listen to specific music or a specific song.

-        Which music were you listening to when creating “Returning to myself”?

-        I listened to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. Over and over again, until I felt the sculpture was ready to tell us her story.  

-        So, depending on the music you listen to at the given moment, you dive in a different world, entirely created for and by your sculpture?

-        Exactly! A kind of fairy tales’ universe. It can be a gothic fairy tale. One of my favourite filmmakers is Jan Svankmajer and of course his “Alice”, based on the famous story by L. Carroll. I also try to give my own version of the story in every one of my artworks.

-        Like in your own version of “Lady Lazarus”?

-        Yes. A sculpture based on the poem by Sylvia Plath. A dialogue with Death. I had emotions, well buried inside me that I had to resurface and …confront them, in order to face Death itself. Of course, the wire is still my Instrument to curve this confrontation. A harsh artwork, the dimensions of life and death through the female psyche.

-        Is your art feminist?

-        No, I would never call it feminist. It is the complexity of being a woman, everything we, women, do. We mend lives and emotions to achieve harmony through a variety of roles: the woman, the mother, the wife, the employer, and the employee. The artist. I try to transport this “editing of life” we do, into Art.

-        And is this editing…a way of beauty?

-        Beauty! Multifaceted beauty like all women! The pattern I choose to work with the composition of colours and shapes has to do with beauty. And for me, something complex that includes contrasts it is the expression of beauty itself. This is what I want to show and share with my art; The beauty given by women through the editing of our routines and our dreams.


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