The Art of Growth

The date was 16th of January, 2019. I was opening the Oddflowers exhibition. It was the very last day of my volunteer stay in Thessaloniki. For one year, I explored the cultural and historical dimensions of this wonderful and surreal place. And for one year, I reflected on my experiences on this blog as a writer and editor-in-chief.

Visitors looking at the Oddflowers exhibition

At this point, I can say that it was definitely the best job opportunity that I have had so far. This might sound like a strong statement. However, when I take into account all the side-projects and opportunities that I did during my EVS experience, I have no doubt that it was the most flexible and enriching job opportunity that I had so far in my 30-year long life.

But enough nostalgia for now. Let’s go back to the date from the beginning of this article. I want to tell you a bit about one of my personal projects, which I brought to life in La Latina on the date of my departure, on 16th of January, 2019.

I should first clarify one more thing: while doing EVS, volunteers have to come up with ideas for personal projects. They should develop at least one of them, or more if they want, so they grow in an area of their interest.

My personal project

For me, such a project had to reflect on all the wonders of the volunteering experience. I wanted to create something that would capture all the dimensions of EVS life in itself. This was quite a challenging task and it took me some time to figure out something that would fit into these ambitious conditions.

I brainstormed a lot and then at some point it appeared to me as clearly as the sky on a hot summer day. I decided that my personal project should be about the art of meeting people and also about meeting people through art.

As a comic book writer, I had quite a lot of experience in working with different illustrators. This experience helped me to capture and grow my visual ideas. Now, I felt like it was time to give something back. I wanted to approach the process of artistic cooperation from a different perspective and decided to collect illustrations from various young artists from all around Europe. I wanted to present their works to the world of art-lovers in the form of a printed calendar.

The Oddflowers project

In the first phase of the project, I prepared a portfolio of ‘Oddflowers‘: surreal herbs that represent various aspects of human existence and culture. Once I had come up with the ideas and sketched the flowers, I started looking for fitting illustrators. These artists would plant these sketches, these seeds, into their minds, water them with imagination and let them grow into their full visual potential. I asked artists from different European countries for collaboration. In the end, I worked with artists from Greece, Slovakia, UK, France, Portugal, Croatia and Estonia.

I did my best to match the visual characteristics of each flower with the illustrators’ artistic preferences and style. At the same time, I tried to give the artists enough space for personal expression. I wanted them to be able to develop the flowers according to their personal preferences of aesthetics, media and techniques.

Once the illustrations were ready, I also asked each artist to present their Oddflower in a short text. In the calendar, this text would appear with each flower, together with a short biography of the artist. This would allow viewers to find out more about the artists’ other creative activities.


Exhibition

In the second phase of this project, I planned to print the calendar. I wanted to distribute it to NGOs and bookstores around Europe. Unfortunately, I did not collect enough financial resources for printing and distribution. This meant I had to come up with a plan B.

After reflecting on the budget limitations, I decided to present these wonderful illustrations directly to an audience. I then decided to set up an exhibition during one of the Tandem language exchanges organized by Balkan Hotspot in La Latina.

Fate seems to have a sense of irony, because in the end, a great snow calamity (of Greek proportions) caused the original opening date of the exhibition to be postponed to the very last day of my EVS stay. Luckily enough, the opportunity of opening the exhibition at the last minute somehow felt like a very fitting way of saying goodbye to this surrealistically timeless country.

Me (left) with Christian presenting the project

In the beginning, I had the joy to introduce the idea behind the exhibition to the visitors with our great coordinator (and founding father of Tandem) Christian Cibba by my side. We were then treated to a short mind-blowing beatbox act improvised on the spot by our precious Italian friends, Pierluca and Umberto. After the introduction, visitors went upstairs to examine the exhibited illustrations. It was satisfying to discuss the ideas and origins of various Oddflowers with well-known friends and other curious visitors.

Pierluca and Umberto beatboxing

Encouraging responses

At this point, I also experienced one of the greatest moments of the whole event. One of the illustrators appeared at the exhibition and his presence triggered an intense passionate reactions among his numerous fans. It was our warmly smiling friend and colleague Dionisis Tonas. To my great surprise, some of his greatest admirers left lipstick kisses upon the photo that was hanging on the wall next to his Oddflower.

One of Dionisis Tonas’ many admirers

Even though the project did not make it into its calendar form (yet), it was a great experience to see many spontaneous joyous moments triggered by the exhibition. Also, the idea of inter-connecting the worlds of art makers and art-lovers started to work right at the opening day of the exhibition. The exposed illustrations already triggered many interesting discussions. Some curious visitors even asked me the contact details of some of the artists!

I am not quite sure yet what the future holds for the Oddflowers project. Yet, at this point, it is quite clear that the proportions into which it grew so far caused so many incredible encounters. Definitely, it was worth all the time and effort, just like my EVS.

Post Author: Filip Grác

Filip Grác
I am 30 years old traveller and art-lover from Slovakia, staying in Greece throughout the whole year of 2018. My main interests are nature (of reality), board gaming, music and visual arts. Thus I love to report mainly about the local cultural events and writing interviews. Since the beginning of May 2018, I was also appointed as one of the editors-in-chief for our lovely blog bubble.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.