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Image archives go through a metamorphosis

The upcoming solo exhibition by Sergis Hadjiadamos at the Annabelle Hotel in Paphos encompasses new works that balance the real and the imaginary, bringing back to life echoes of the past and introducing the viewer to an entirely unknown world of bygone eras filtered through a contemporary lens.

The story embarks from an archive of glass negative plates produced by the artist’s uncle, Spyros Haritou, stored untouched in the basement of his Paphos home for decades. Haritou is known today as one of the first photographers of early 20th century Paphos and this represents a major assembly of his work. The studio that he opened in 1925 became the epicentre of artistic activity during the period.

Haritou captured portraits of high-profile citizens as well as other individuals with their families, concurrently developing a keen interest in aspects associated with the town’s daily life such as national celebrations, religious festivals and local fairs. After being granted permission from his relatives to use the archive in any way he desired, Hadjiadamos accessed the basement for the first time in 2006. What he witnessed was a time capsule containing Haritou’s photography apparatus along with 1,653 boxes, each containing at least 10 glass plates.

Humidity has caused some of the plates to deteriorate and Hadjiadamos decided to decipher whatever trace had been left of the images by processing them through high-resolution scanners. The results were unprecedented and unexpected. A whole new world emerged with distorted and disarticulated human figures; often with missing limbs and altered facial characteristics, and sometimes all merged into each other, creating convoluted multi-layered images.

The creation of brand-new imagery is what stimulated Hadjiadamos. Over the passage of time, the elements of memory and identity inevitably change or are forgotten. Hadjiadamos’ first body of work inspired by Haritou’s archive was a triptych entitled Paphos Souls. It was presented at the first Larnaca Biennale in 2018 and received the Award of Excellence.

The works on view in the latest exhibition embody a further investigation into the enticing world of Haritou. It comprises an amalgamation of imagery that has been meticulously scanned and printed on aluminium composite sheets rendering a material juxtaposition between the frail nature of the glass plate and a new sturdy surface that is widely used today for archival printing and framing and has progressively become an ideal medium of conservation practices.

Going a step further, the artist selects a series of particular photographs and interferes with their surfaces by carefully adding rough brushstrokes and eventually layering the subject’s face with a new coat of coloured acrylic material.

 

Metamorphosis

Solo exhibition by Sergis Hadjiadamos. June 8-30. Annabelle Hotel, Paphos. Tel: 26-885473

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