Interview by Afke Zwierzina for „Textiel Plus“ published in the December 2011 issue.
For original text in Neerlandes please go to the following link:
English transcript follows:
„Everything has a meaning“
Inspired by the deeper meaning of folk art motifs and symbols Loukia Richards uses textile in a renewing and contemporary way to talk about love, life and death.
Visual artist Loukia Richards studied economics in her native country Greece, followed by applied arts and photography at the Berlin Art Academy and an internship at auctioning house Christie’s in New York. Back in Greece, she combined journalism and art. Nowadays, she is a full time visual artist, exhibiting in Greece and abroad.
You cannot express what her artwork is in a few words. There is the jewelry with the folk-art inspired motifs, the dolls, the embroidered tapestries, the portraits and a fiber book. Loukia is happy to explain a lot about the ideas and goals she strives to express with her art work. We had the chance to meet this year, when she stayed a few weeks in Belgium and the Netherlands exhibiting her work.
As a visual artist Loukia works with textile in the last ten years. Growing up in a family of textile merchants, between the smells and colors of hand-woven Kilims, it was perhaps a predestinated choice. It’s a fact that she always was highly interested in the history of these rugs with their inwoven motifs full of symbolic meanings and hidden stories. Coming across the joyful colors of Greek embroidery in the London Victoria and Albert Museum she felt she was definitely attracted by textile.
Loukia: ‘Of course, I knew these traditional motifs on ceremonial clothes and household cloth from my childhood. These motifs inspired by nature, daily life and mythology do not only serve as decoration, they tell a story. Everything has a meaning. I wished to discover the background of Greek embroidery and in 2008 I had the opportunity to do that, thank to a Fulbright Foundation scholarship. In The Textile Museum in Washington I fully experienced the diversity and various layers of meaning in textiles. ‘
In Loukia’s own art there are also many layers to discover. She mixes Greek traditions with her own experiences and feelings into new interpretations. The colorful and unconventional results do remind us of Naive Art. Her techniques: a mixture of old netting knots, stitches and her own inventions. Her materials: silk threads, acryl, cotton, lace, beads, buttons or whatever she has on hand. Everything has a reason; all details are supportive to what she wishes to communicate.
In 2009 Loukia was ‘Artist in Residence’ at the atelier of jewelry artist Ted Noten, who participated in Red Light Design, an Amsterdam art project to force back window prostitution and criminality and to attract a different kind of visitors to the Amsterdam Red Light District.
During two weeks Loukia lived and worked at the Oudekerksplein in the midst of brothels.
Loukia: ‘It was a peculiar experience sitting and embroidering my fiber art book with my personal impression of this neighborhood. The atelier where I was working was just next to a brothel with huge African prostitutes in very small lingerie. The title of my fiber book was a sentence a passing by Frenchman said. Looking at these imposing women, he made the sign of the cross and exclaimed in admiration the words: sacree salope (holy bitch). The book is about sinners and saints, a well-known religious concept. For example, Maria from Egypt, a prostitute from Alexandria, experienced a divine encounter, prayed to be forgiven for her past, converted to Christianity and found enlightment in an ascetic life.
Loukia developed some of her impressions from The Red Light District on a bigger size. Three portraits refer to the traditional painting techniques of Icons. Color, subject, posture and the transparent layers of paint which create a radiant light have a special meaning in iconography.
By using self-spun lamb wool and a simple loom she has woven the textile on which she embroidered her portraits following the style guidelines of icon painters. The red colors for hair, eyebrows and mouth, refer to, as in many cultures, prostitution.
Loukia explains: It’s a play with threads and light, the purifying light. It’s about sins and enlightment; it’s not about condemning but about love, forgiveness, a second chance in life and respect for all people. ‘
The special dolls Loukia makes are another way of expressing her views and feelings: like her emotionally moving ‘Death Dolls’, influenced by Goya’s Disasters of War and inspired by the death of three innocent citizens during a demonstration in Athens (2010), as well as by the death of innocent people in the Greek Civil War (1944 – 1949).
The ‘Death Dolls’ are about violence, atrocities and meaningless murders; about the grief surviving relatives feel, about wounds that never heal and bleed once more when reminded of the past.
Loukia: ‘Children talk much easier about death than grown ups. They invest their dolls with love. My dolls are role models for the deaths of innocent people whose memory survive in these objects of love.’
Loukia Richards prefers to show her work in an accessible way, for example in commercial stores, as she did this year in Antwerp, Rotterdam and Amsterdam. Loukia: ‘An art gallery or museum often raises a barrier to people. My intention is to express and translate social and political themes into textile, a language that everyone understands, and to make my art work accessible to everybody.’