Maro Fasouli at City of Athens Visual Arts Centre / Athens

Maro Fasouli / From the Elbow to the Wrist

curated by Christoforos Marinos

6 October – 8 November 2020

City of Athens Visual Arts Centre

Parko Eleftherias, Vassilissis Sofias Avenue (Megaro Moussikis Metro Station)

From the Elbow to the Wrist

Fasouli’s work is closely related to defence and protection. From the beginning
of her career, in 2009, the artist showed keen interest in building structures
and typology, such as a series of shells inspired by anonymous folk
[1] The
concept of reconstructing structures, not only of buildings but of institutions
as well, also concerned her in the activities of Under Construction artist
group, of which she was a founding member. Her main mediums being drawing, constructions,
and sculptural installations, in which she uses wood, yarn, stone, and –
sometimes – archival material and readymade objects, she has thoroughly
explored the nature of habitation, residence, and the limit.

Through her
participation in relevant thematic exhibitions, including Unknown Artist
and Folk Songs, Fasouli’s interest shifted towards folk art, folk tales,
and folklore.[2]
In the former, she showed an installation based on a wall calendar, titled Our
, published by the National Bank of Greece in 1983, featuring
nostalgic photographs of traditional Greek home interiors. In the latter, she
contributed a zoomorphic apotropaic sculpture –inaugurating, in effect, her
latest series, on view today at the Art Centre.   

In the artworks on
view in From the Elbow to the Wrist, Fasouli employs traditional weaving
techniques, using her own body as a measuring unit and her lower arm as her
main tool, around which she rolls the yarn. The artist points out that she is
more interested in the practice of weaving – its physical nature,
anthropological aspects, and metaphorical connotations – and less in the
predominantly decorative outcome of the process. Seemingly incomplete by
design, Fasouli’s handwoven fabrics propose a rather personal and eccentric style,
notably deviating from a traditional weaver’s work.

A cheerful,
celebratory mood is evident in Fasouli’s exhibition, which transforms the Art
Centre’s ‘white cube’ into a multi-level, psychedelic collage that dazzles the
eye with its riot of colour. Yet, the artist’s references also betray a darker
side. Her totemic sculptures, which antedate the tapestries, have been produced
‘as a nod to the so-called xoana, apotropaic figures that served as
protection against all fear,’ the artist reminds us. Made in woven yarn and
fabrics, polyurethane foam, bamboo, and reed, these anthropometric artworks are
inspired by the well-known Daidala in Boeotia – pieces of wood adorned as brides
and ritually burned. They also converse with ritual figurines of female deities
(Hera on Samos, Ephesian Artemis), which, according to Walter Burkert, were ‘involved
in a ritual of disappearance and retrieval.’[3] These
female deities ‘disappear and must be brought back;’ their lavish jewellery
(the ‘pectoral of affluence’) symbolises fertility.

Since none of
these wooden sculptures have survived to date, xoana belong to the realm
of mythology and folk tales. Apotropaic sculptures, however, are found in other
civilisations, as well – a characteristic case in point is Congolese Fetishes.
More precisely, according to Alfred Gell, ‘Apotropaic art, which protects an
agent (whom we will take to be the artist, for the present) against the
recipient (usually the enemy in demonic rather than human form), is a prime
instance of artistic agency, and hence a topic of central concern in the
anthropology of art. The apotropaic use of patterns is as protective devices,
defensive screens or obstacles impeding passage.’
Similarly, the apotropaic patterns in Fasouli’s tapestry, in which she uses
yarn, cloth, spray, and pastel, ensnare the demons (of which not a few haunt us
every day), or serve as ‘potential weapons in situations of conflict.’[5]
Paradoxically, then, these intensely decorative artworks operate also as
‘spreads of defence,’ to use the title of an older work by the artist.[6]

Other themes
explored in Fasouli’s exhibition are the
proximity between weaving and
architecture –
a relationship that goes back centuries – and the
function of textile as a fixed or portable protective screen. It suffices to
consider the pioneering female Bauhaus artists, most characteristic amongst
them Anni Albers, to grasp the importance of weaving for modernist abstraction
and to comprehend the changeable nature and adaptability of this physical
practice that brings to the fore tactility as the principal sense. Writing
about Albers’ work, art historian Briony Fer remarks on another aspect, which
becomes evident on looking at Fasouli’s work: here ‘weaving becomes more than a medium – say, like
painting – and much more expansive, much more structurally embedded in its
[7] Indeed, at times
Fasouli’s tapestries are reminiscent of the graffiti that abound in Athenian
streets. This is further highlighted in the monumental (3×7m), especially
produced for the Art Centre, which is comparable to a wall painting.

Fasouli’s work does not gain meaning only
through its relationship to the work of other artists and thinkers – the oeuvre
of Alexis Akrithakis springs to mind, as do the writings of the scholar of
anonymous architecture Bernard Rudofsky, the late paintings of Frank Stella,
especially his Shards series (1983). The psychological structure of her
textiles, their inherent ambiguity, makes evident something more substantial:
that artifacts, also according to the anthropologist Alfred Gell, ultimately
encapsulate complex communicative intentions and are able to influence our


Christoforos Marinos

Art historian, OPANDA curator of art exhibitions and events



Translated by Dimitris Saltabassis


[1] One such shell, made in vitex
agnus-castus and plastic, was shown at the group exhibition Apolyti
(curated by Alexandra Oikonomou and Anna Hatzinassiou), held,
incidentally, at the Art Centre in 2009.

[2] The exhibition Unknown
(curated by Christina Sgouromyti), in which Fasouli showed her work The
Nature of the Limit
(2015), was held in 2015 at Stegi S. Tryfon at Molyvos,
Lesbos. The exhibition Folk Songs (curated by Apostolis Artinos) was
held at the Panourgias Residence in Amfissa, Phocis, in 2018 and the following
year travelled to Athens, to the Angeliki Hatzimichali Museum of Folk Art and

[3] See chapters ‘The Plank and
the Pectoral’ and ‘Daidala,’ in Walter Burkert, Structure
and History in Greek Mythology and Ritual
, University of
California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London 1979, p129.

[4] Alfred
Gell, Art and Agency. An Anthropological
, Clarendon Press, Oxford 1998, p83.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Fasouli’s
eponymous installation went on view in 2013, in group exhibition Afresh. A New
Generation of Greek Artists
, curated by Daphne Dragona, Tina Pandi, Daphne
Vitali, at the EMST in Athens. 

[7] Briony
Fer, ‘Anni Albers: Weaving Magic’, Tate Etc 44, Autumn 2018.