Join us for the opening of Agape on Wednesday 29 November
Agape presents the latest body of text-based neon artworks by Artist, Writer and Psychotherapist Noula Diamantopoulos.
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself you have built against it.”
Noula Diamantopoulos’s latest series of cryptic neon artworks employ the poetry of the Greek language to explore one of art history’s most enduring and universal themes – love.
Initial creative stirrings and the ideas behind these works, were inspired by a recently completed public art commission, in which Noula was asked to create an enormous 60 sqm mosaic installation. Pieced together from over 20,000 jar lids, the commissioned portrait features the face of Felicity Cook, a survivor of domestic violence. Towering above the cityscape at 182 George Street in Sydney, the work forms part of the Love Shouldn’t Hurt campaign, drawing attention to domestic violence.
Continuing the dialogue launched with this public art project, Noula has created a neon work loveshouldnthurt. The soft glowing pink of the looping neon tubing evokes the colour of love. The words run together. There is no space for debate or questioning when it comes to this topic….
Initially, when working with the phrase ‘love shouldn’t hurt’, Noula found it difficult and challenging to speak in the negative in respect to the concept of love.
Typically when ruminating on the nature of love and what it means we focus on what love is. Love is unconditional, love is compassionate, love is inclusive. All of these qualities combined add up to one simple fact – love shouldn’t hurt.
It is a forceful statement. Both in relation to domestic violence and in the broader context of all relationships. For when we do hurt each other, whether by our words or our deeds, we are often too quick to accept this as being inevitable. We refer to the ‘ups and downs’ of love. We accept the idea that love is complex and not always easy. There is a school of thought which sees pain as being inextricably linked to love and unavoidable. For Noula, this is inherently wrong. Love shouldn’t hurt. Only when the hurt is unintentional can it be accepted. The accident is the exception.
Responding to this theme of love, the rest of the works in Noula’s solo exhibition Agape explore what it really means to love, “how to be love”, and like all of her work, challenges us to contemplate and question how we define love.
In the Greek language, the word ‘agape’ represents the highest form of love. It is an unselfish form of love based on recognition of our mutual affinity or sameness as human beings. From this word, Noula has created a series of poetic neon works, with the elegant Greek letters of each word, based on the artist’s own handwriting. Each of these works can be read and deciphered on multiple layers. Hidden within each word are a myriad of symbols and personal meanings, all exploring the power of love – in all its forms and guises.
In the artwork after which the exhibition is named, Agape, the Greek letter Pi (π) is symbolically highlighted in pink. Representing the infinite, the mathematical associations of this letter reminds us that love is infinite and unknowable. It is endless and boundless. In mathematics, the Pi (π) sequence seemingly cannot be stopped, calculated or fully understood. Just like love, it is a force unto itself.
Translated from the Greek, Agape me confronts the viewer with a statement. Love me. It is not a request or a plea. It is not a question. It is a calmly stated assertion of self worth. It is the expression of a human right. We all have a responsibility to fellow mankind to show each other love. It is the state of being that we should all be aiming for when interacting with those around us.
Agapo mou is harder to translate in all it’s complexities and nuances. In the Greek language it is a common term of endearment used to refer to loved ones. The closest translation in the English language is ‘beloved’. But it is so much more than this single word encompasses. It highlights that those we love are love themselves. Artist Noula Diamantopoulos explains…”Agapo mou is the way that I witness you. The way that I witness your state of love – rather than your doing. The way in which you embody love. I witness therefore your vulnerability, your kindness, your struggle, your notwithstanding-ness to BE love. Perhaps Rumi put it best when he said Love is the whole thing. We are only the pieces.”
Presciently, the last two text based works in the exhibition are a loose diptych. Sagapo translated from the Greek to English, communicates those three little words which say so much. I love you. Written twice, once with a double symbol for the female, and again with a double symbol for the male, these two works remind us that love does not judge or discriminate. Love doesn’t choose. Love doesn’t label. Love embraces. Love is unconditional. Love is our life force – like breath. Love is a state of being.
The final neon work in the exhibition is an abstract drawing translated into neon. It is a gesture captured by the artist in a moment of love. Spontaneously captured on paper following a meditation, the gesture embodied the spirit of love in which all of the works in the exhibition were made. The abstract lines were unintentional and unplanned.
The artist, compelled to capture the state of love in which she found herself, has created a work which represents her own understanding of ‘agape’. Looking at the lines and marks translated into neon, there are multiple images which can seemingly be glimpsed within the work. The muscles and arteries of a human heart. The double helix of the DNA sequence. Love is in our blood and in our bodies and in our very nature. This final work is an abstract representation of the embodiment of love.