Kalliopi Lemos

Kalliopi was born in 1951 in Greece. Lives and works in London.

Inspired by the area of Canakkale, the overlaying and the crossings of
many different civilizations from the eastern shore of the Dardanelles
Straits to the Mediterranean, the installation ‘Pledges for a Safe
Passage’ is concerned with undocumented migration, a global issue
that most nations have to deal with increasingly over many years. It
is also dedicated to the struggle and hardships thousands of people
endure in the hope for a better life. This work marks the process of
a passage, a journey from one place to another, from one situation
to another, from life to death, from hope to despair. It features an
abandoned, worn boat found in Canakkale and numerous votives
carrying the names, date and place of birth of migrants that entered
illegally Greece’s borders, as well as votives expressing pledges for
safety during this precarious attempt.

The motif of the boat has been central in Kalliopi Lemos’ practice. Its
recurring use both in her sculptural work and her drawings expresses
the narrative of passage, a continuous universal human quest. The
tamata, ex votives, that are used extensively in the Greek orthodox
tradition, act as individual prayers for the safe journey and the
realization of the dream. Simultaneously, however, the votives also
become witnesses of the drama of those people. Each pledge expresses
the fear, the agony and the uncertainty that each refugee experiences
in his/her effort to cross to another border.

The artist expresses her intention:
“My work doesn’t claim to know better nor does it offer a solution to
this problem. It generates feelings of empathy and makes us confront
the issue. We cannot ignore and hide away from this tragedy that
increases day by day as country after country becomes unable to
sustain its population. The use of the soft drink cans, which are
abundant in the Western world, to create the votives points to the
causes of the problem e.g. consumerism and greed; this leads directly
to the creation of divisions between rich and poor. It casts an unerring
gaze at reality, while at the same time, it gives us the courage to be
true to ourselves, recognizing our responsibility and the fact that we
all share the same hopes and wishes for survival and well-being.”

Kalliopi Lemos’ practice during the last decade has focused on the
creation of sculpture and site-specific installations that explore
psychological and physical passages, the latter in the form of
migration and forced displacement, as both are for her a manifestation
of the human being’s effort to go through life, enduring all the
behaviour of the social body as it inflicts abuse, pain, hypocrisy, even
cruelty. Lemos’ work focuses on the common feeling for humanity,
but also on the quest to explore personal identities, lost and found;
reconstructed. Having herself migrated, been cut off and drifted away
into the unknown, Lemos experienced the reshaping of identity; in
order to adapt to a new environment, one is reborn, and what was
earlier perceived as the other now becomes the self.

I am standing upright, with my feet firmly on the ground.

The ground that I have trusted, my home, has been there for me forever!

It ... isn’t stable?

I am anxious as I struggle for balance!

What is happening around me?

The place that I depended on, the principles I was living by, my home, now a raft in the open seas!

Darkness is surrounding me.

I shudder.

I am losing control of my space, I am losing my memory, I am losing all that I knew!

I must try to stand up again to understand which direction I need to take.

But it is dark all around me and the ground is shifting and falling beneath my feet!

I feel threatened!

I am trying to hold on to what I have.

I must find my bearings and regain balance!

This moving ground … I fall again and again.

I have to accept what is happening.

Unknown conditions, overwhelmed with fear.


Accepting loss!

A changed world!