Bold colors, symbols, abstract and realistic elements, figures and creatures merge and are blown up as if applied by a giant hand in a gestural performance. Doodles become large-scale elements and what previously would be easily overseen is now the focus of attention. His work explores the complex relationship between self and identity within the context of social restrictions and impositions. He is making use of an iconography that plays with the raw and unsophisticated as means of undermining the concept of what art should look like.
The new body of work from the contemporary Greek artist explores the concept of "obsessive self-determination" as well as the culture of "inflating human identity" in the context of the production process. The exhibition is divided into four sections and consists of both painting installations and video and performance works.
As Gianni Jetzer, curator at Large at the Hishhorn Museum in Washington points out: "The works of Jannis Varelas share an electrifying energy. They forgo any one-point perspective in order to produce a flat vision of multitude rather than concentration, stressing diversity over singularity, equality over privilege. His paintings function as a lingua franca between generations. They overcome questions of origin, power or social status in order to create common patterns for identification. Highly inclusive by nature they groom a way for societies to come that recognize Outsiders as valuable members of society…"
Jannis Varelas (b. 1977) lives and works between Athens and Los Angeles. He is a graduate of the Royal College of Art in London (MFA) and the Athens School of Fine Arts (BA).
Selected solo shows and projects include: Black Frames
, special commission for Onassis Foundation, New York, Olympic Tower Atrium (2017); New Flags for a New Country – Destroy Elvis
, Onassis Cultural Centre, Athens (2016); New Flags for a New Country
, The Breeder, Athens (2015); Sleep My Little Sheep Sleep
, Contemporary Arts Center of Cincinnati, Ohio, curated by Xenia Kalpaktsoglou (2012); The Oblong Box
, Kunsthalle Athena, Athens, curated by Marina Fokidis in collaboration with Jannis Varelas (2011); Brandybell Series
, Autocenter, Berlin (2010); Blue Soldier – Opera Costumes
, The Breeder, Athens (2009).
Selected group shows include: Fireflies in the Night Take Wing
, curated by Robert Storr, Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, Athens (2016); Ametria
, Benaki Museum, Athens, based on an idea by Roberto Cuoghi, organized by the DESTE Foundation in collaboration with the Benaki Museum (2015); Paper - works from the Saatchi Collection
, Saatchi Gallery, London (2013); Hell As Pavilion
, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, curated by Nadja Argyropoulou (2013); DESTE Prize 2011, Museum of Cycladic Art, Athens (2011); Skin Fruit: Selections from The Dakis Joannou Collection
, curated by Jeff Koons, New Museum, New York (2010); Lebt und arbeitet in Wien III: Stars in a Plastic Bag
, Kunsthalle Wien, curated by Xenia Kalpaktsoglou, Raphaela Platow, Olga Sviblova and Angela Stief (2010); Cairo Biennial, curated by Ehab Ellaban (2010); New Orleans Biennial Prospect 1, curated by Dan Cameron, New Orleans (2008); Destroy Athens
, 1st Athens Biennial, curated by Xenia Kalpaktzoglou, Poka Yio and Augustine Zenakos, Athens (2007).
Works by Jannis Varelas are in prominent private and institutional collections among which are the Saatchi Collection, London; the Dakis Joannou Collection, Athens; the Zabludowicz Collection, London; The Onassis Foundation Collection, New York and The Hort Family Collection, New York.
Jannis Varelas is represented by The Breeder, www.thebreedersystem.com