Foretold: Stories That Draped the Body – An International Collective Art Project

In the beginning, the Women of Japan were the Foretold ones. Time was their Garment of Body and Soul.

I am honored to participate in a global collaboration of artistic works promoting peace and global cultural understanding. Together we are like a bundle of sticks – one stick alone breaks, but together united as a bundle of sticks are strong to preserve cultural diversity abring art to the world for the greater good. I am delighted to share this news of a collective art exhibition by some dear friends of mine who are the founders, heart and and core of this collaboration. – Sydney Solis

The creation of a traditional mythical Kimono made of Japanese Washi paper by Greek Artist Maria Papatzelou bears an Obi belt made of paper and gold foils. It attempts to project the deeper relation with the woman wearing it. It is a cultural bridge of Japanese society’s past through the modern era. It’s deep historical symbols are inherent as integral benchmarks of spirituality and  strength of the relationship between  
the two sexes.

Maria Papatzelou's Washi Kimono Photographed by Everett Kennedy Brown.
Maria Papatzelou’s Washi Kimono Photographed by Everett Kennedy Brown.

This original artwork is part of The Foretold Ones, Stories That Draped the Body, an international, collective art project of artistic research of female mythological archetypes at the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki, Greece.

In addition to Papatzelou’s Kimono, the exhibit features the works of Greek Artist living in France Vaya Politi, American Photographer and Kyoto Resident Everett Kennedy Brown, Exhibition Director and Greek Photographer Stavros Parkharidis, and Masashi Nakamura of Kyoto, Researcher and Author of The Japan Code: The Structural Philosophy of Japanese Spiritual Culture.

Archaeologist in charge of the Museum
Aggeliki Koukouvou is the Principal of the Museum.
Exhibition Curator Styliana Galiniki stands next to Vaya Politi’s exhibit of art books “Aphorisms” as she gives a guided tour.

Their collective effort creates an open dialogue between and in relation to mythological archetypes as they emerge in history, signaling female presence as a strong point of reference in its universal dimension.

Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki Acting Director Angeliki Koukouvou said, “The project illuminates how much power is hidden behind beauty, how a piece of paper can contain the ‘body,’ how the material substance of a book acquires artist’s weight, and how the eyes of people in a photograph convey stories and experiences of a lifetime.”

Maria Papatzelou's Washi Paper Kimono.
Maria Papatzelou’s Washi Paper Kimono.

The two female artists and writers Politi and Papatzelou give body, matter and space to those old, almost primitive, stories about Woman.

Japanese Mythology inspired Papatzelou to create the original Washi paper, female Kimono that is painted with mythical flowers in white, representing purity, blue representing the sky and sea, and gold representing the eternal. This unique multidimensional work indicates the power of art to create safety for the continuation of intercultural civilization.

Vaya Politi's Pandora's Box art book.
Vaya Politi’s Pandora’s Box art book.

Politi created handmade artistic books starting from ancient and modern representations of the female. Politi’s art book Pandora’s Box is a dialogue with the Kimono, inspired by the Forbidden Collection of the book-loving collector Louis Médard On the Hell of Women. The work accounts female otherness, recycling female archetypal images from art history. Printed in the  monotype method, it features 12 original plates of manual and digital processing techniques.

Exhibition Director, Videographer and Photographer Stavros Parcharidis in front of the Exhibition poster.
Exhibition Director, Videographer and Photographer Stavros Parcharidis in front of the Exhibition poster.

Three more of Politis’ art books are on display, one section with the title
Aphorisms, which, through drawings and texts of the artist, presents the female desire for self-determination as an offense to the community.
Aphorisms were made using a Japanese method of folding paper and staining it with tea.

The female body is perpetually created by myths and traditions that ‘drape’ it with social roles, prohibitions, commands, supernatural forces or that ‘unveil’ desires, dreams, doubts, needs, possibilities. It is a body on the border, where transitions are usually judged, art is born and stories are created.

This claim is narrated in the photographs of Male Artists Parcharidis, Nakamura and Kennedy Brown. They approach Papatzelou’s Kimono placed in different environments as a dreamy vision in the forest, as a deity in a Kyoto temple, as the clothes of a young Japanese woman who wants to keep her country’s traditions alive by ‘draping’ her body again with the stories. 

Parcharidis’s photograph of Papatzelou’s Kimono hovers cinematically,  drenched in the Greek light of the Amadryas, Filiro forest in Greece. Nakamura’s photo of the Kimono art installation inside the Hougonji Mountain Temple in Kyoto that he curated in April 2020 relates Washi, Kimono to Japanese culture.

Masashi Nakamura
Yamabushi ceremony at Hougonji Mountain Temple photo by Everett Kennedy Brown.

Kennedy Brown’s photographs masterfully converse with Japanese culture and history, and its continuation in modern times. His atmospheric images incorporate the patina of time by using archaic photographic techniques of the past. His dynamics of image and technique are perfectly connected to an ideal orientation of an indelible past, which is experienced as a continuation of the present united with the future.

“The Greek-Irish writer Lafcadio Hearn published a collection of his essays, called Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan in 1894. The book was both a record and lament for the rapidly disappearing culture that he observed in Japan in the late 19th century,” said Kennedy Brown.

“Japan is a place, not unlike Greece, that is renowned for its ancient stories and spiritual landscapes of outstanding beauty. Both countries also have old families, artists and writers that honor and share with us the spirit of these ancient traditions that still inspire the heart. In fact, the disappearing world that Lafcadio Hearn wrote about still exists today in Japan.” 

“In this series of images I am presenting in this exhibition are special people— the “keepers of the soul of Japan.” Many of these people come from old families that continue traditions that date back over one thousand years. These people provide us a connection with the past, and with the future,  through their efforts to vitalize the continuity of culture.” 

Authentic silk kimono made in Kyoto 1920 given for this Exhibition by ms Magda Karagianniotou Mystikou
Authentic silk kimono made in Kyoto 1920 given for this Exhibition by Magda Karagianniotou Mystikou.

Kennedy Brown makes glass negatives using the wet collodion process. He embraces the technique’s inherent flaws in order to express the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi, an aesthetic sensibility that finds beauty in the “imperfection, impermanence and incomplete.” The final images are printed with the edges of the glass plate to show the brushed on emulsion. The use of old imperfect glass adds to the work having a “patina of time,” he said. 

Kennedy Brown continues, “The monk and poet Thomas Merton wrote, “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose our selves at the same time.” My aim is to provide through my art the ability for the viewer to both find and lose themselves, to journey to the past while remaining rooted to the present, and to experience a new and profound relationship with the images.

Exhibition Papatezlou and  Politi art.
The Exhibition featuring Papatezlou’s Kimono and Politi’s art books.

The use of the hands is also vital in attaining this intuitive connection with time. When my hands, eyes and heart join in harmony, a deep subconscious connection occurs in the creative process. Sparks of serendipity occur. Marvels of natural beauty emerge in the images that resonate with open and sensitive souls, regardless of their place on this earth and this journey across the pathways of time.”  

Archaeologist Aggeliki Koukouvou is Museum’s Principal, and these various artistic narratives coexist in the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki, which is constantly being constructed as a place of knowledge, stories and meetings, highlighting the importance of cultural heritage as a source of creative learning.

The exhibition is part of the museum’s activities for the international celebration “European Heritage Days” with the theme for 2020: “Heritage and Education.” It runs through November 15, 2020.

This exhibition will continue its global journey in 2021 to The Kyoto City International Foundation’s Kyoto International House in Japan, proving that art is a solid bridge connecting ideas and cultures, especially in such critical times as these.


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