Stella Sevastopoulos of ‘Art Scene Athens’ talks to Greek-Australian artist Chrys Roboras who has managed to spread her wings and exhibit around the world, with great success.
CHRYS ROBORAS loves to place the human figure in vast, colourful semi-abstract landscapes. In some works her figures are depicted as an outline which has been filled in with various colours and shapes – as if the human form is a ‘container’ – of emotions, thoughts, memories. In other works, there is a more realistic representation of the human form, yet a dreamlike atmosphere most often still pervades. The human condition – its isolated sense of being – is a central theme in her work, and stems from her own experience as a Diaspora Greek, in limbo between two cultures, always seeking a place to call home. “It is important to recognise the natural need of a human being to find a place to belong to, a place where one can find peace”.
At the same time, from an artistic point of view, Roboras is a roaming spirit, based in Greece, but who has exhibited around the world. In 2018 alone, she had 4 solo shows, in Los Angeles, Thessaloniki, Lugano and Toronto. Add to that her already long list of other solo and group shows, one gets the picture that Roboras, has been a busy art bee, ever since she graduated from from art school in 2008. Nevertheless, she found the time in her packed schedule, to answer some questions about what it takes to be an artist these days, in Greece, and more.
When did you move to Greece from Australia, and why?
I moved to Greece in 1998 because I wanted a better life for myself, strange isn’t it, as my parents had done the opposite in the ‘50s.
When did you realise you wanted to become an artist?
I kind of always knew, but it was in high school in Sydney that I realised that it was my passion.
What do you consider to have been pivotal moments in your artistic career?
I believe when I was applying for exhibitions abroad and that I was being accepted. For example the Biennial of Beijing and Scope Art Fair Miami.
Being a child of the Diaspora myself, I can totally relate to your series 'No Man’s Land’, and the feeling of displacement you have felt as an Australian-Greek, and the sense of not belonging to either country. The sense of isolation and loneliness comes across very strongly in your works, with solitary figures pictured in vast abstract landscapes. They could also stand as symbols of the human condition, and that existential angst we all feel. This is what makes your work so attractive to a wide, international public. Do you agree?
Yes, totally. Many people connect with this series in many different ways. They see themselves in the paintings and find a connection.
Personally I feel that the children of Diaspora Greeks basically belong to that ‘grey zone’ between cultures, and will always feel in limbo between them. However there are benefits to being on the fence too – for example you can have a better perspective on things, not being influenced so much by one dominant culture. Furthermore, I would say that countries like Australia, and England, where there is a mix of many cultures, make you feel more at home. In countries like Greece, where the multicultural society is a relatively new thing (last few decades), you can feel more of a stranger. There are many other advantages of course. What has your experience of Greece been?
I’ve had various experiences, like every time I open my mouth people will ask me where I am from. As soon as I tell them Australia, it’s either “Oh I have a relative there” or “what are you doing here? we are all trying to go there” I’ve been called ‘kangaroo’, ‘Afstraleza’, different funny things. The worst experience is once when I was told that I’m not Greek because I do not know the language. That was hard, mainly because I am a proud Greek and love my culture. I have found that Greeks have that fighting spirit, but opportunities are limited. Greece for me is my home, as you said at times I do feel like a stranger but feel accepted here more now, than 20yrs ago. It is also true that we do have the benefit of knowing two cultures, we can appreciate things more I believe.
What would you say are the main differences between the Greek and Australian cultures?
The main differences are the people. The Greek culture is focused on the family unit and not really allowing or wanting to let the children leave the nest, providing and nurturing. Keeping them in the family business. The Australian culture is more focused on the individuality of the children, pushing them to take risks and find themselves. Living their dreams and creating their own paths in life.
The blood moon, oil, pastel, pencil on linen, 50 x 70 x 3cm 2019 800euros
Purple haze, oil, pastel, pencil on linen, 150 x 120 x 3cm 2019 3200euros