In a brave exhibition at Cyprus' Diatopos Contemporary, model-turned-artist Efi Spyrou uses her own body as a canvas, acting as both the creator and the creation.
Shifting focus from model to artist was a natural step for Spyrou. 'The truth is, I've been working in the fashion industry for several years and considering my body as a medium-object,' she explains. 'Now, as an artist, I use the same anonymous medium-object to deal with social phenomena – whether this has to do with race, origin, age, sex.'
In a series of what curator Charis Kanellopoulou calls 'repetitive photographic surfaces', Spyrou's torso is captured in dynamic poses – naked but for poetic phrases printed on her skin. Mottos like 'Older Younger', 'Authenticity In Question' and 'Exotic Not Exhausted' relate to Spyrou's interest in the politics of the art and fashion scenes. They offer a refreshing irony often lacking in po-faced contemporary exhibitions. Drawing from her personal experiences, the portraits unapologetically borrow a high fashion aesthetic, but, the faceless pin-ups use contemporary artistic techniques – tattoos projected in LED lights, for instance – connecting them to their interactive gallery setting.
'Storm Bird and Other Animals', 2016. Photography: Emma Louis Charalambous
These oversized photographic posters form a backdrop to a series of animalesque sculptures collected in the centre of the space, that blur the boundary between art object and costume. Little Black Bird (2016), for example – made from latex, copper and PVC – makes use of the same materials and jutting pipes as an elaborate outfit Spyrou is wearing in one of her photographs. She considers the dual sculptural and photographic elements of the exhibition completely intertwined. 'They're like animals in the same field,' she explains. 'All of the works invite the viewer to experience them as part and as a whole of a self... a plural singularity.'
Spyrou's decision to include herself in the works is a courageous comment on how today's creative talents are expected to be both art-personality and artist – a manifold figure, continually available for comment; being prodded and poked by a media-hungry public. As Kanellopoulou says, 'she aims to move dynamically as well as flexibly, sometimes in spaces of internal operations and sometimes in areas of public display'. Through her raw, effecting self-portraits, Spyrou forces the viewer to assess their own interaction with the work, and also the person who created it.