Summer is often thought of as a time of freedom, relaxation, and exploration. In times like these, however, such notions feel distant. With many regions across the world still in lockdown, the very idea of the season is being recontextualised in real-time, forcing people around the world to reexamine both their surroundings and their relationship to them. This shift has been felt especially in the Greek Islands.
Earning a significant portion of its revenue from tourism, Greece has been devastated by recent travel bans and restrictions on movement and assembly in light of COVID-19. Beyond an economic impact, the effect on morale cannot be overstated. The once-lively streets now lie dormant, begging for the return of music, food, and guests. On the island of Crete, where RedD Gallery is located, this calming has led some to return to nature, embracing the Mediterranean Sea, and local wildlife to their fullest extent. Summer Cravings, currently on view at the gallery, celebrates the spirit and nature of Crete: How it was, how it is now, and what it could be in the future. Schön! spoke with Denia Kazakou, director and owner of RedD Gallery, to know more about the exhibition.
You mention in your press release the idea of adapting to a “new normal” as a result of the COVID pandemic. How do you think the pieces of Summer Cravings represent the “new normal” of Crete, either literally, emotionally, or otherwise?
COVID-19 has put everything into perspective. Now that the whole art world has moved online, people are looking to live closer to nature, becoming more selective about who they pass their time with, and what they are spending their money on. The works in this exhibition are a reflection of what I believe modern Chania, my city in Crete, has to offer post-COVID: A better quality of life.
How did the gallery adapt to the initial social distancing guidelines? And what did you learn from that experience?
I learned location isn’t a factor when you have a strong internet connection and determination to get things done… The minute I realised we would be in this for the long haul, I immediately got to work. My gallery is just over a year old and I mainly work with emerging artists so I knew I had to act quickly or face shutting down. I reached out to colleagues and friends I’ve known from the industry working in Art PR for several years and asked them to speak with me live on the RedD Gallery Instagram account.
That’s when I started the Art From The Quarantine series. I spoke with about 35 international art professionals over a time span of roughly two months, virtually visiting artists in their studios, and caught up with people I usually only see at the international fairs. The Instagram Lives went extremely well, and I was even featured in the May issue of The Art Newspaper with the title Go Live and Thrive.
Introduce us to Summer Cravings. What was the motivation behind bringing these pieces together?
I started developing the concept behind Summer Cravings during my second month in quarantine, initially as a response to time spent in isolation during the global pandemic, followed by the devastating murder of George Floyd… After having multiple conversations in isolation with individuals of different races, ethnicities, and religious backgrounds, my main understanding of what people were feeling was anger, fear, and devastation. I wanted to use my platform at the gallery to offer my viewers a visual escape from this reality and a feeling of joy, and acceptance regardless of social status, race, gender, or sexual preference.
You’ve mentioned self-reflection in the background to Summer Cravings. How has this period of isolation influenced how you approach art and how you view its importance?
I’ve started working with some new young local artists who share similar values to me. I find that the younger generation tends to be more open-minded and in touch with social media. Their work is more affordable and accessible to the greater public. I believe people will be operating more locally for the next few years, and I would like to nurture an art community close to the gallery with long term vision and goals.
The importance of art is undeniable. If we didn’t have artists during quarantine we would have nothing to watch on Netflix, we would have no music to help us escape from reality and no visual reflection or representation of society.
Is there a message you hope people take away from Summer Cravings? What is it?
I guess the message I would like people to take away from this is to appreciate the simple things and good people we have in our lives. These are the things that give us comfort and will keep us motivated during hard times.
‘Summer Cravings’ is currently on view by appointment at RedD Gallery in Chania, Crete, Greece.
all imagery provided by RedD Gallery.
words. Braden Bjella