- Eleni Kyriacou
GROWING UP IN A WORLD OF ART
I feel immensely privileged and blessed to have grown up in the artistic environment in which I grew up. Growing up in a world of art was my world, it is the world I always knew and I can’t imagine how my life would have turned out if I had grown up in a different world.
My mother always proudly recounts the story of taking me to The Tate when I was a young toddler, and how I immediately pointed to the corner of Matisse’s infamous collage and cried ‘snail’. She tells me that from the time I was an infant, I was taken to every gallery and museum in London, and as I got older, all over the world.
Growing up in the 80s my parents started out as antique dealers and my father was also a sculptor. I remember wondering though their antique shop in Athens when the shop was closed, when the lights were out, feeling as though I was exploring a treasure trove. My favourite memory was opening up an antique jewellery box and looking at wondrous antique jewellery. Even today, I don’t know what it is about antiques, particularly jewellery that has me immediately enchanted, maybe I am transported back to my memories as a child, so there is the element of nostalgia. Or maybe it is knowing that someone’s hand has lovingly carved that piece of furniture or embroidered that textile, or carved that marble statue, and that is how the soul is immortalised, through our creativity. The soul is never lost when the workings of it have been materialised, you can run your hand over the craft and trace the love that was in that artist’s soul. I think the most valuable gift an artist can have is a limitless imagination, which of course we all have as children, the trick is maintaining that. I think to some extent, growing up surrounded by art meant that I was always immersed in a fantasy and I always remained a dreamer and that has given me quite a precious artistic attribute.
In the 90s my mother shifted from antique dealing to contemporary Greek art and opened what became the most prominent art gallery in the UK representing Greek and Cypriot artists. Every major artist from Greece and Cyprus, of this period, passed through their gallery in one way or another. With it came parties in our home, and with the parties came the collectors, artists, art critics, curators and the VIPs who often inaugurated the exhibitions. So I grew up meeting the likes of Terry Frost and Anthony Caro to name a few.
Our home at this point was often called ‘a museum’ by those who visited it. It was. There was a gorgeous set of French stained glass doors at the end of our study which, still to this day, is one of the most stunning art works I have ever seen. Not only was art work built into our home but our home housed a vast collection that my parents had accumulated at this point. The thing about our collection though, was that it was never fixed, but transient, as my parents were dealers, so something you might have fallen in love with would have to part, but then something new and wondrous would make its way in and introduce itself. And a collection of art work is a collection of personalities and energies, so growing up with it all around you is quite incredible, from antiquities to orthodox icons to contemporary paintings. The energies of objects that are old, for me, are something quite particular, it is almost holy, it isn’t quite the same with contemporary art, that energy for me is more about the artist’s energy, it doesn’t have the added element of the amount of time it has passed through.
It was also in the 90s that my father had one of his best creative phases as a sculptor. The studio was in our home. For a period, every day when I came home from school I saw another ‘being’ come to life at the hands of my father. So our ‘museum’ home was now also housing the creative process of art being made. So I was immersed in every aspect of creativity. Obviously my favourite subject at school was art.. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be, I just knew I would be creative, that I would be some kind of artist myself.
Antique French Stained Glass Windows by J. Dumez. Lille, France c1900