Text | Photos: Clare O’Hagan
When our art takes us abroad, we seek out art and artists who work outside the gallery system. We discover and document outsider art installations, transient land art, folk art objects and artifacts. Through these activities, we are often rewarded with surprising insights into the culture of the countries we visit.
The rich artistic and cultural heritage of the island of Paros is world renowned and well documented. It is a delight to discover that not all of the island’s artistic endeavours are historic, static, set in stone or marble. We see artists at work today outside of the formal gallery and museum setting in a series of intriguing, witty, transient land art installations. Being ephemeral – a Greek work for something that lasts for a short time – they may or may not be seen within the «The Environmental and Cultural Park of Paros» on the Agios Ioannis Detis peninsula across the bay from Naousa.
In the Land Art we document here, we observe that the art installation and landscape are linked for a short period of time. In keeping with the genre of Land Art, they follow the tradition of sculpture. The artists use material found within the immediate landscape – stones on a beach, prickly plants on rocks, a coastline pocked with cracks and holes. The art installations are well considered and executed, respecting the physical site they inhabit. Materials are assembled, shaped, and re-presented to the viewer.
They do not disturb or take material away from the site, nor do they leave a scar. The artworks hold the capacity to change shape with additions from viewers. They will change with time, and may eventually perish by the effects of the wind and the water that surrounds them.
Their memory will remain, and we, in turn, will be changed by the experience of them.
We discovered three installations – beach sculptures in stone, coast figures in plant material, and birds in rock. There may well be more, but they are for someone else to discover.
Beach Sculptures in Stone
A series of three stone figures ranging in size from half to one and a half metres in height stand sentinel on a small beach, overlooking the bay of Naousa. The abstract evocation of the figures here shows careful forethought in the selection of material employed in their construction. The arrangement of slim rocks and angular stones makes the figures appear elemental in form. With the sound and movement of the sea’s ebb and flow around the figures, one becomes fully immersed in the landscape. The figures’ scale and lack of facial features leave us, the viewer, a space to project our thoughts onto. Through experiencing this intervention in the landscape, we consider our own humanity.
Bird Sculptures on Rock Coast
The heads of two large birds appear in outline form on the North West rock coast of the Environmental and Cultural Park. Reshaping the landscape is a common feature of land art, however, this intriguing artwork poses the question – has an artist’s hand been at work here? Is it our imaginings or the effects of erosion that has made the bird like shapes on the rocks? Our flight of fancy soars high in wondering if these birds are descendants of the Seirenes. These sea nymphs, given bird form, settled some considerable time ago, on a similar flowery island.
Plant Sculptures on Rock
A Topiarius – a creator of topia or “places” – is seen at work in the plant sculptures at the lighthouse of Cape Corakas. Two 40 centimetre live shrubs have been teased into the female form. These land art sculptures are not simply placed there; they have taken root, from a few grains of soil atop the craggy rock of the coast of Paros. An artist’s mind has imagined them; an artist’s hand has shaped them. The prickly pair’s commanding presence, with arms outstretched, suggests mythic tales of women warriors. They shake and dance in the wind, in their elevated position looking out over the Sea. The small, whimsical art intervention heightens awareness of our presence in the land and seascape. It is a delight.
By documenting these accomplished art installations, we try to capture a moment in time. We do this to honour the artists who made them, to say thank you for the precious moments of delight experienced in the discovery of their work.
In common with the world-renowned historic art objects of Paros, we see that these contemporary artists’ names are unknown. We feel kinship and enjoy a sense of lineage with artists, who work in the landscape, unheralded and unafraid to make art. As artists we are compelled to do thus, and will continue to do so.
London based visual artists and filmmakers, Clare O’ Hagan and Denise Wyllie, form the artist partnership of Wyllie O’ Hagan. Together, the two artists tackle and deliver huge art projects and exhibitions. These are ambitious in scale and concept conveying complex aspects of the human condition. With their wide professional experience, they utilize a range of media within their moving image film work, using paintings, prints, textiles and land art.
Clare O’ Hagan is a frequent visitor to Paros. She is a visual artist and filmmaker, living in London.
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