Spectating the work of Lizzie Calligas, all these years, I could see that her images are one constant path, not easily deviating, although outside seemed different. When we met for the first time, three years ago, through our discussions I realized that what was interested me in her work, was the power of silence, the poetic and dialectic attitude to things and the diptych absence-presence that constantly alternates… In her body of works entitled “Creasing a Breath” on exhibition at the Gazi House in Amfissa, through a series of black&white photos she captures a personal relationship that simultaneously affects all of us and she faces with strength and courage the most difficult feelings, transfiguring them into artworks that affect and mesmerize all of us.
By Efi Michalarou
Photo: Lizzie Calligas Archive
Mrs Calligas, does the series of photos that you present at the Gazi House in Amfissa, has as starting point the relationship with your mother, and unfolds in the context of an armchair-throne? The immobilization process was psychoanalytic, did you scroll through the boundaries of your relationship in the time?
In the town of Amfiissa, I will present this work during the annual shows of “The Symptom Projects-07” with Curator Apostolis Artinos. I present 15 photographs and 5 drawings, from the series I call: “One Breath”. This work has as theme the death of my mother,12 years ago in 2004. My mother was fragile and unable to walk the last years before her death at 93. The fact that she remained immobile, sitting on an armchair most of the time, created slowly a new condition between us, a new connection started developing, different from what we had before, a situation that helped us both to accept each other with love and understanding.
Occasionally you make references to gardens, either through your own photos or through the work of other artists, does this choice is associatively linked to the chair-garden of your mother?
My mother loved flowers, being a painter herself, she painted them all her life, until the end. She also loved bright colors, she use to select for furnishing-curtains etc- materials with colorful flowers. The armchair on which she was sitting was printed with big yellow sunflowers and deep green foliage, like a garden. Never before, until vey late, I could make the connection between this and “My Gardens”. Maybe there is one, I still don’t know.…
Many times the semiotics of objects, the memories that they carry, but simultaneously the silence, the empty space and the interval, create a parallel universe between familiar and unfamiliar, existent or not, material and immaterial, what is the medium that helps you to reflect them in your work?
Memory is a very strange thing, a little bit like the dreams. It is full of silence but also sudden breaks. Memory has its own time and space, I think. When my mother died, 12 years ago, it was an impulse to go to her apartment and cover all furniture and elements with transparent plastic wrapping. Maybe, I was trying to preserve this that was vanishing, at that moment, after her death. Something that was part of my own life as well as hers. Photographing with two cameras and a video recorder, the enclosed furniture and her personal items, I thought I could preserve herlast breath which was still hovering around the rooms.
Although it seems banal, light and shade in this body of work, play a pivotal and influential role of significance. Your photos are free from color or any color suspicion, through a conscious poetic and dialectic process. There are autobiographical, but at the same time the viewer is emerging his own experiences, memories and relationships. Was it your primary goal or supervened in the procedure?
When I did this, I had no idea what I would do with the material. It was not an “artistic project” at all, at that time. A few months later, the armchair-throne was haunting me, so I started a series off drawings about it. Some of them are in the current exhibition. All that was closed-hidden in a drawer for years. Then came the time to release them and slowly became what we can call an “Artistic Project”. As for the experiences that you are saying, of the spectators of this works, these are inside everyone and just need a small hint to set them free and reveal them to themselves.
In your series “Metoikesis” with the wrapped statues of the Acropolis Museum before they move at the new Museum, as in your recent “Creasing a Breath” you engage with the delicate balance of the covered and what is contained in the intermediate space and time, the representation of the textured and its imprint, thus enabling the viewer to activate his imagination. How important is it for you? Identification or not?
It is not strange that you are connecting my work “Metoikesis” 2008-9 with this one. Now I can see myself too, the relation between them. They spring, both, from the fear of loss of something precious. For “Metoikesis” as well, I was urged by an impulse. The fear of loss of the Old Acropolois Museum, which I adored since childhood. When the decision was taken to remove all its content for the New Acropolis Museum, I went up on the Acropolis rock, with the urge to “save something”. Not the sculptures of course, since they would be moved to their new home, but something else. Some of the atmosphere and light and the memories I had from The Old Museum. The fact that most of the sculptures were covered wit white cloth, gave me an intense sense of mystery, and the need to try to see under the covers the details of the statues I knew so well. Photographing them, I was able to trace these details, and see them in a different way. Also, the very special blue color that covered the walls of the Museum, and the dim light, created an environment in which the white figures floated like in the Universe.
The psychologists believe that loss-moving-parting, form the fundamental triptych of the great shocks that play a catalyst effect on human existence. The covering of the objects in your mother’s apartment after her death and ultimately the denaturation of mourning in art had a redemption role?
I know what the psychologists say about loss-moving-parting and I believe it is true for everyone. The sublimation from mourning in both cases of my works, resulted absolutely as redemption. That way was possible to develop them into something that you can call: “artistic project”. Whatever comes to light, let us free from darkness.
Closing our discussion I would like to stand on the photo of Armchair-Ghost, which reflects me the path from life to disembodiment, the shadow that hovers like a ghost, the breath, the stimulus and ultimately the disappearance, the presence through its absence. This photo is the central axis that connects the entire exhibition?
The last photograph I did the one you are referring to. The Armchair-Mother that is like a ghost was taken many years later than the others. Was done in 2025, during the exhibition of some of these photographs, at the Benaki Museum, in Athens, during the Athens Photo Festival. This photograph was taken from my mobile phone, while I was photographing my display. This photograph kept haunting me about a year. It was blurred and had color from the surrounding space, but revealed something different than all the others. So I decided to print it in large size for this exhibition. Finally it became the central theme of the current exhibition. Placed above the old non operating piano, in the Gazi House, which also is vanishing-the inside of it- since now belongs to the Municipality of Amfissa and will be renovated for another use. Maybe this is also a “Last Breath” for this lovely old house that was so warm in welcoming me to present this work.
First Publication: www.dreamideamachine.com
© Interview-Efi Michalarou
Info: The Symptom Projects-07, Curator: Apostolis Artinos, Gazi House, Platia Hereon 1 & Panourgias Street, Amfissa, Duration: 7-23/10/16, Days & Hours: Daily 18:00-22:00, www.thesymptomprojects.gr