Nina Papaconstantinou


21 April - 18 June 2016

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Press Release: Typo


As Clare Gilman (curator at the Drawing Center, New York) notes in the catalogue of the artist?s solo show at the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens "Instead of Writing", Athens, 2011): Nina Papaconstantinou's drawings offer a novel take on the use of language in art, a practice that, although now commonplace, has its roots in an unexpected linguistic turn c. 1960 as artists sought to recover a direct, sensory experience of the world outside of symbol and representation.  [...] In Papaconstantinou's drawings, however, language is not something to be broken down, taken apart, moved around and rebuilt, or at least not primarily. It is above all something painstakingly rendered".


The title of the exhibition, "Typo", refers as much to typography as to the typographical error. In the works that are presented in the show - and which were created during, but also as a continuation of, her recent research fellowship at Princeton University (September 2015-Janaury 2016) ? writing conceals instead of reveals, either by erasing, or accumulating, or else by codifying, with the intention to reveal another dimension of communication ? that which is disclosed through abstraction, traces or errors. At the same time, the artist investigates the role of typography as 'signifier' and as 'signified'.


In the series "Piles of Books" (drawings with imprints of writing on black carbon paper), Papaconstantinou 'records' the colophons of books dating from the beginnings of typography in Europe to the present day. The artist gives emphasis to the book as an object, focusing exclusively on information regarding its production, its typographical identity. The stacking of the books refers at the same time to the way in which knowledge, information, is 'embedded' in layers, but also to the history of European culture through its typographical production.


Sixteen drawings which comprise the work titled ?Pericles, Funeral Oration? will be presented in direct dialogue with the series "Piles of Books". Papaconstantinou uses each page of the ancient text: she cuts it into strips, 'destroys' it in order to re-constitute it in a random way which makes the text indecipherable. The choice of text and its deconstruction-reconstruction refers to the uses-methods of human perception while the artist investigates how we define our identity and historical past, its essence and image.


The deconstructed drawings of the "Funeral Oration" are juxtaposed to the work titled "J'accuse'"which is based on Emile Zola's open letter of the same title that was published in the newspaper L'Aurore, and concerned the Dreyfus Affair that stirred public opinion in France in 1898. The text of Zola?s letter remains impenetrable in the work, leaving as a clue only the image of the printed front page. Zola's manifesto is transferred on the wall in order to solidify the writer?s opinion, emphasizing the power of the Press but also the political stance of an individual in support of justice.


The empirical relationship and contact with the text and the physical-printed nature of the book could not be absent from the exhibition. The visitors are invited to leaf through "Mourning Diary", which consists of transparent pages that indicate the gaps between the words in the book of Roland Barthes of the same title. The black marks on the tracing paper create images but also assert the position of a new language, one that reveals and records what cannot be said. At the same time, during the exhibition, an artist's book will be presented as an additional comment and springboard for the re-consideration of questions regarding the printed word. This book will be based on the "Polemic against Printing" of Filippo de Strata (15th century).