A huge and stunning new artwork in Metaxourgeio has become the latest hot topic amongst gawping Athenians, and even the anti-graffiti bunch are somewhat in awe of it. Titled ‘So many books, so little time’ and created by artist SimpleG, the imposing artwork depicts a beautiful young woman reading a book. The graffiti art, located on 2 Megalou Alexandrou St, Metaxourgeio was created as part of the annual Petite Paris Festival, featured last year on GCT as part of a Live Facebook feature that brings French culture to the streets of Athens through various engaging artistic events.
It’s the third year that SimpleG offers artwork to the cultural festival, which features several days of parallel events. He has also participated in many solos as well as group exhibitions in Greece and abroad, organised by major institutions and organisations such as the Christian and Byzantine Museum, the Smile of the Child and the World Wildlife Fund.
The massive mural by SimpleG depicts a beautiful young woman who is immersed in reading a book. She is half-seated, a knee exposed beneath a long flowing skirt, and several books are piled up behind her, with a background doily-style wall that incites nostalgia for a romantic, more innocent era of traditional Greece.
In speaking with the artist, GCT was fascinated to discover that there is much more to the image than what the image and its title suggests. At first glance, one realises this is a comment on today’s growing addiction (by people of all ages but especially youths) to the inner mental matrix of smartphones and tablets as opposed to them taking time to read books.
This is an accurate perception, but there’s much more: “This year the Petite Paris theme was ‘Cabarets of the World’. As the festival takes place in Metaxourgeio, a renown red light district of the city, I had the idea of creating a contrast to the associations that normally come from cabarets. So I presented a conservatively-dressed girl, reading a book and being transported into a beautiful and higher world. My message was actually a way of reaching out chiefly to the sex workers who will see it – to offer them a sense of inspiration and hope, but also to the other passers-by,” says SimpleG.
Born in Chios island in 1995, SimpleG has been painting (artworks and icons) since childhood. He and his family moved to a southwestern neighbourhood of Athens in 2002 that was full of graffiti and tags, something which eventually inspired him to express his own ideas by taking a spray can into his own hands. He has been painting murals since 2009 and his works can be seen in various parts of the country as well as abroad.
When I ask him whether there are certain key messages he wishes to convey through his art (which beyond street murals include paintings, photography and video works) he says: “Often the work I create is commissioned or suggested by others. But when I create by my own initiative I choose the walls that I see as the right “kadro” or frame for what I want to create and its surroundings. Then as I create the artwork takes on its own life.”
It must be exciting to breathe life into a flat, dead and often invisible surface, I comment, to which he answers: “My aim is not to give particular messages to others, except perhaps to incite them to reflect a little on life. I see art more as a means of self-expression, of working things out within myself. When this huge reaction emerged after my mural was unveiled I was truly overwhelmed.”
What are you doing right now in your life? I ask SimpleG, inviting him to answer in any way he prefers, whether it be about his actual professional projects or otherwise. And as if spending time looking at his artworks the last few days was not transportive enough, suddenly I find myself standing with him at a lighthouse in the Peloponnese, in the middle of nowhere, under a vast night sky. “This is where I’ve been for the last few days, in isolation,” he says, and I can hear the smile in his voice as he adds, “I guess if there’s anything I try to convey to the people who see my work it’s that people are trapped in the city and forget to live. Last night I was watching an entire galaxy of stars travelling over my head!”
I asked (nearly begged) whether he could please reproduce such images on the city’s walls so we trapped folk can see them too and he laughs. I know that laugh, it says, just like his latest artwork, make the choice and experience the world from a higher perspective.