After photographing Poly Nikolopoulou’s workshop back in February, I told her that I wanted to visit Greek painter’s Yiannis Adamakos’ exhibition at the Benaki Museum that day. Before leaving her house, she told me that I should also visit Akis Goumas‘ exhibition who was giving a presentation at the museum’s shop the same day.
I decided to see Adamakos’ work first. His big-scale paintings were breathtaking but I was saddened by the fact that besides me and another visitor, the exhibition was absolutely empty, and on a Sunday, mind you…
Anyway, I took my time examining his work and then decided to go to Akis’ exhibition next door. I have to admit that at that time, I knew nothing about him besides catching a few glimpses of his work on Facebook. At first, not knowing what to expect, I thought that I would have to sit in a room and possibly look at slides while listening to him talk about his work. Instead, I found him in the museum’s shop, surrounded by a group of people who seemed to be fascinated by his narration. I started clicking away with my camera but his stories on ancient jewellery craftsmen were so interesting that I had to stop clicking and start listening.
The exhibition was called “Diadromes P138” and it was part of a series of exhibitions entitled ‘Material Quests’. Akis had put together a display of objects based on elements, observations and drawings gathered during his quest of experimenting with traditional techniques, which he then applied in his work.
Besides teaching at the Art Workshop of Chalkida, Akis has been working together with archeologists and other scientists who discover jewellery and jewellery-related artifacts at various excavations in Greece for many years. His passion is to do research, re-create and share with his audience the creating processes of metalsmiths and goldsmiths of ancient times. On that Sunday, he spent more than a couple of hours telling us stories about how people created jewellery thousands of years ago and showing us tools he had made himself. He uses these tools to make jewellery the way craftsmen used to do back then.
If you would like to have an idea of his vast knowledge on the subject, visit his blog Diadromes (‘Routes’ – sadly only in Greek for the moment) where he tells the story of a traveler who treks around Greece back in 4.500 BC, searching for workshops of famous craftsmen. In this fairytale-like narration, Akis describes the techniques and the tools they used to create jewellery with and explains how the masters of different crafts (ceramists, metalsmiths, goldsmiths, etc.) collaborated with eachother and shared their knowledge and skills to develop new techniques.
While listening to his stories and being surrounded by so many people, for such a relatively small exhibition, I suddenly thought about the big, empty showroom with Adamakos’ paintings next door. I am not aware of any art schools where storytelling or presentation skills are an essential part of their curriculum but in my naive perception of the subject I am willing to suggest that if artists decided to get out of their studios and develop such skills, no museums or galleries would remain unvisited.
Finally, I realized that charisma is also very important. Akis is the teacher we all wish we had had at school: passionate about his work and about sharing his knowledge with everyone.
During the presentation I was a bit afraid that my clicking away with my camera might distract Akis or his audience but I was very glad to hear it did not. Not only that, but I also got an invitation to visit his workshop and take some pictures!
Akis told me that after graduating from highschool, he went on to study business administration but soon realized that it was not what he wanted to do with his life. He is self-taught and learned the basic skills of jewellery-making by working at the workshops of various goldsmiths in Athens.
Over a cup of herbal tea, we discussed the possibilities of teaching people about the origins of jewellery-making and of connecting these ancient stories with each and every piece that sits in storage rooms of museums or behind the glass of hundreds of showcases, while visitors casually pass them by, never realizing how much work or how much of the artist’s soul were put in their creation. It was clear to me that his journey in jewellery is also based on trying to answer questions such as: How can artists discover their inner voice and transfer it to their pieces? How can we maintain the knowledge on ancient techniques that seems to be fading away? How can young Greek jewellery artists use this knowledge of their ancestors as a basis of further developing their working processes and perhaps even giving birth to a new era of Greek contemporary jewellery?
If you are lucky enough to be in Athens this weekend, do not miss his next presentation at the Benaki Museum on International Museum Day tomorrow!
International Museum Day 2013
The Museum “Out of the Box”: 35th Anniversary of the Benaki Shop
Saturday, May 18, 11:00-20:00
Sunday, May 19, 11:00-15:00 – 1 KOUMPARI ST
Thank you Aki for sharing your thoughts and your workshop with us and for inspiring us with your stories!
Thank you for reading 🙂