Bringing the Past to New Horizons, 2019
Oil, wool and acrylic yarn on linen
175cm x 115cm x 2.5cm (height 220cm including yarn to floor)
Courtesy of the artist
More than two metres in height, this supersize, mixed-media portrait, with its striking subject, bright colours, distinctive patterns and skeins of yarn coursing to the floor, is a captivating work.
Whilst visiting Cuba, British figurative painter Athena Anastasiou encountered Merwin, a young Afro-Haitian. A musician, he told Anastasiou about his strong connection with the music of his West African (Yoruba) roots. Anastasiou had heard similar sentiments articulated by young people during a trip to South America: working the land, weaving and sending their merchandise to the cities, the youngsters had expressed their pride in having an affiliation with the customs and traditions of their past.
Reflecting the past is a theme of Anastasiou’s artworks. Through mark-making, the inclusion of symbols and the application of bright, modern colours, she reinterprets and reinvents the old to create contemporary compositions that acknowledge the importance and the impact of history and heritage.
In honour of Merwin’s culture, Anastasiou sewed Yoruba patterns into the subject’s clothing. It’s inspired by the traditional textile aso oke, a fabric usually woven by men for ceremonial occasions. She explains: “This piece is also about possibility: bringing Cuban families into a new space of hope for a freer lifestyle whilst keeping their culture close and wearing it with pride.”
For more information athenaanastasiou.com
Hedge, issue 57, pp68-73, February 2020