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Picture 411

Jannis Varelas, Beach House, 2006
Mixed media on paper
225 x 150 cm

Jannis Varelas
“Caliban Case”
Opening April 21st from 5-8 pm.
Exhibition period April 22nd - May 31st 2006

Kirkhoff is proud to present the young Greek artist Jannis Varelas’ first solo exhibition in Denmark. Varelas was born in Athens in 1977 and lives and works in Athens and London.

The exhibition “Caliban Case” presents painting, life-size drawings, sculptures and a mural. The name Caliban refers to a character in William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” and is an anagram of the word “cannibal”. As a native living on an exotic island Caliban experiences a colonial domination from the shipwrecked Prospero who enslaves him. The savage and deformed monster Caliban tries to rebel against the exiled Duke Prospero but fails his attempt.

The Caliban character has been adopted as a cultural icon. During the twentieth century it became a symbol for oppressed native populations especially in the West Indies in their fight for liberation from European colonization.

Jannis Varelas works include a gigantic hybrid figure which is portrayed as a delicate mixture of man, woman and beast. The bearded and peculiar character wears high heels and animalistic masks. In an environment of palm trees, tropical fruits and colourful parrots you discover a man who moons in front of a school or people reaching for and worshiping a mighty deity equipped with an umbrella functioning as a symbol of power or feminine attribute.
Staring eyes and impressive masks show up everywhere. A massive house turns into a disturbing and sinister mask when added big dark eyes. The well-known become strange and unsettling. The use of the mask and the animation of objects have a symbolic and spiritual value in many colonized cultures.

Varelas appropriate elements from diverse sources including cut-outs from magazines and imagery deriving from children’s drawings, primitive masks and a stereotyped paradisiac universe. The religious, historic and mythic narratives are combined in a contemporary comment on everyday life experiences of hierarchic divisions.

Varelas works can be seen as a humorous rebellion against different kinds of authorities. The power relations found in church, school, cultural meetings and between genders are questioned. His exotic character is placed outside society and its current norms. The surprising and powerful depictions deal with the paradoxes of being a stranger unable to fit in with the commonly accepted cultural categories and fixed female and male identities.

Jannis Varelas is educated at Athens School of Fine Arts and the University of Fine Arts, Barcelona and will graduate from Royal College of Arts, London in May 2006. Varelas has participated in a group show at ICA, London and at The Absolute Summer Show at Kirkhoff, August 2005. Future solo shows are with The Breeder, Athens, and Krinzinger, Vienna. Jannis Varelas is represented in the collections of Benakis Museum, Frisiras Museum and the Dakis Joannou.

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