© Panos Sklavenitis. All Rights Reserved.

The White Cockroach - A charcoal drawing class

A collaboration with artist Michalis Zaharias
Action and mixed mdia installation in the context of the Back to Athens 10 International Art Meeting 2023 | Geometry of racional 'Glorious elements' exhibition, curated by George Georgakopoulos, Athens, 2023


“Not long before I quit, the students and I saw a white cockroach in the kitchen. It was such an impressive find that it interrupted the class and made us forget all about the exams, the school of Fine Arts, the sculpture casts, and charcoal. We closed it in one of those containers where we put water for the brushes and we were examining it throughout almost the rest of the class. When I got home, I looked for information on cockroaches with albinism and found that they didn’t exist; its whiteness was due to a phase that cockroaches go through, for a few hours, when they change their exoskeleton. Because it lasts only for a short time it’s pretty rare to see.”

The project “The White Cockroach - A charcoal drawing class” by Panos Sklavenitis and Michalis Zacharias is taking place at the Back to Athens exhibition, in the building that until recently housed a well-known drawing school where the latter worked as a teacher for about twelve years.
Today the two artists, while in their personal work they make use of contemporary media and practices, continue to make a living mainly through their capacity as drawing teachers; they are colleagues in a tutoring school that prepares candidates for the entrance exams of the fine arts schools of Greece, and they make turns back in time to teach their students “charcoal”, intensively training those candidates in an outdated subject which is necessary for their admission to the Greek university but which has nothing to do with what they will be asked to deal with immediately after their admission.
The project consists of a “drawing lesson” that the two artists conducted together in the exhibition space - a final lesson for Zacharias in this space – and its outcome and remains are exhibited together with recorded material, as an art installation.
For the needs of the course, the space was transformed into a drawing workshop again; there were easels, boards with drawing papers, charcoals, erasers, pencils, etc. The composition that was used as a subject for observational drawing was consisted of the traditional elements used in tutorials for this reason (such as sculpture casts, textiles, vases, etc.), but all these were synthesized in such a way as to create an in situ sculpture: a monstrous creature with an animal body and heads made of plaster casts of ancient Greek gods.
The “students” who participated came from a selection of current students of the artists as well as older ones who are now students, post-graduates, graduates of fine arts schools in Greece, and even well-known visual artists. Among them, other friends and close collaborators of Sklavenitis and Zacharias assisted to the course. In reality, of course, it was not about a lesson but about an action that was an attempt to weave a mesh of collective experience around this unique condition; to highlight the personal stories but also the aesthetic and socio-political meanings that this - perhaps unique in Europe - anachronistic system of admission to universities of fine arts.

“Subject” composition by Mihalis Ersotelos
“Models”: Ilias Mpiskemis and Kat Schiza
Ending song (lament) by Dimitris Ameladiotis
Video footage by Mihalis Ersotelos and Georgina Kapralou
Photos by Stephanos Chandelis, Mihalis Ersotelos, Dimitra Minopetrou, and Panos Sklavenitis

Michel Abajoli, Dimitris Ameladiotis, Natasa Bellou, Stephanos Chandelis, Errikos Chatzialexiou, Katerina Chatzigianni, Vera Chotzoglou, Alexandros Christoforidis, Vasso Daskaroli, Ilya Dervou, Mihalis Ersotelos, Alexis Fidetzis, Eva Giannakopoulou, Aggelos Goumas, Dimitra Gritzali, Naya Ioannou, Mary Joyce, Lena Kaouki, Georgina Kapralou, Nausika Keke, Eva Koliopantou, Nikos Koniaris, Katerina Korre, Eleftheria Kotzaki, Konstantinos Koulakmanidis, Dinos Koutsoukos, Zoe Kyriakou, Despoina Lakoura, Danai Lountzi, Panagiotis Makrandreou, Aggelos Maniatis, Anna-Maria Manolakaki, Dimitra Minopetrou, Kostas Mertzanakis, Ilias Mpiskemis, Lia Nanou, Anastasia Ntioudi, Periklis Oikonomou, Anna Papadopoulou, Konstantinia Sakka, Kat Schiza, Xanthi Skarla, Zoe Sklepa, Fotis Tasopoulos, Petros Tasopoulos, Christina Terzaki, Alex Tetsis, Christiana Tzanidaki, Karmela Tzintzi, Haris Vlahos, Maria-Agapi Xenaki, Markella Xylogiannopoulou, Yiannis Yigourtakis, Andreas Zacharias, Elena Zambeti

< >