In this project, I seek to incorporate in my works the day light and the sounds of nature as the exhibition follows the natural flow of water across the ancient city of Messene. Large scale mosaics, illustrating in an abstract way the fluidity of air or water, are presented alongside the archeological park of Ancient Messene, Peloponnese, Greece from July to September 2021.
The exhibition is staged by the approval of the Messinia Ephorate of Antiquities and is supported by ISV Architects.
I feel honored to collaborate in the presentation of this exhibition with Professor Petros Themelis.
Technical support for the exhibition: Ilias Matziaris & Sons G.P - Technical Construction
Lighting Design for Work 5: Alekos Giannaros
Photographs: Kostas Kostopoulos, Nikos Xanthopoulos, Christina Nakou
PREFACE OF THE EXHIBITION CATALOGUE Following the route of the water, AGRA Publications
Wandering the archaeological site of Ancient Messene one sunny winter's day, I felt happy to be alive.The beauty of the natural landscape around the archaeological site surrounds it in the sanctity that exists in life itself. The memory of the excavated finds and the care with which they are presented to the visitor would remain with me undimmed for months.
Something that made an impression on me when I first heard Professor Themelis present the archaeological site of Ancient Messene was that the digs’ primary aim was to clear the ancient conduits through which the spring waters flowed. I had often imagined the landscape flooding by winter torrents, surrendering to the on-slaught of the waters.
I have always been captivated by flowing water in my work: for me, by spotlighting the passage of time, it reveals the transience of our thoughts and works. In an effort to come to terms with this condition, I surrendered myself to the reassuring ritual of creating mosaics.
I am especially moved by mosaic floors, because they somehow encapsulate time in their expansiveness. I can see the transformation of the marble volumes and the artists’ painstaking and time-consuming work laying out the handmade mosaics. because their focus is always on the small section part of the work they are working on at a given time, the makers only get to enjoy the effect of the work as a whole at the end, when the floor is completed. Then, at last, the tiles recede far enough from the eye to cease being individual units and start working together as a whole made up of equal organic parts indivisible from the floor.
Aerial photos of Ancient Messina revealing the arrangement of the ancient columns and the foundations of the Temple of Isis and Sarapis,and still more clearly the marble members near the Heroon D and Hellenistic baths, as well as in other parts of the archaeological site, elicited a similar response from me. I wondered: could we not, perhaps, find a common element in the work of the mosaicist and the archaeologist? Or consider at aerial photographs of the ancient city in the same way we look at one of its beautiful mosaic floors?
Water, a dynamic natural element, a source of life but also of destruction for the ancient city, reminds us that nothing can be taken as given and that “everything flows”. I believe that Ancient Messene, still being restored, shines a revelatory proof for all who visit it on the value of man's creative urge, his obsessive need to bestow meaning on the world around him.
After all, the ancient source was called Clepsydra, water clock.
The works in the exhibition are presented in five locations around the archaeological site.
Work 1 : At the Arsinoe fountain
The Arsinoe fountain is the main water reservoir of the ancient city; the water flowed here from the Clepsydra spring.
Dimensions: 70 x 230 cm.White marble, alpaca, resin reinforced mortar.
Work 2 : At the Sanctuary of Isis and Sarapis
Water was of paramount importance in the rites of Egyptian gods. Underground cisterns have come to light within the Sanctuary along with large numbers of glass tesserae in various colours which were once part of floor and wall mosaics in overground parts of Isis’ temple.The seated statue of Isis nursing Horus symbolizes the onset of life.
Dimensions: 98 x 92 cm. glass, marble and ceramic tiles.
Work 3 : At the Temple of Artemis (Artemision)
The Artemision, where the statue of Artemis the light bringer once stood, was where the initiation ceremony took place that signified a girl’s passage to womanhood.The small bronze tesserae reflect the sunlight, whose changing quality signals the passing of the hours.
Dimensions: 100 x 60 cm. marble, bronze, resin-reinforced mortar.
Work 4 : At the Hellenistic bathhouse
In the conserved and restored Hellenistic mosaic floors of Ancient Messene, one sees large surfaces covered in a pinkish-brownish-red mortar.These surfaces both indicate those parts of the mosaics that have been destroyed and provide support for the sections that remain, preserving the unity of the work and protecting it from further damage. Work 4, there are corresponding surfaces in which white mortar forms waves of foam.
Dimensions: 300 x 400 cm.White and black marble, resin-reinforced mortar.
Work 5 : Next to a tree before the Stadium, at a spot where running water springs forth from the earth.
The visitor can rest on the bench in the shade of the tree at the final stage of the water route. A spring emerges from the earth nearby, its waters drinkable.
The natural flow of water is included in the work.The reflections created by the changing light on the water become part of the work and change it.The work melds into the landscape.
Dimensions: 130 x 230 cm. marble, bronze, resin-reinforced mortar, water, aluminum.
“Followig The Route Of The Water ”
The moment Christina Nakou first laid eyes on “ Ancient Messene ”, the vast monumental wetland, she extended the sensitive antennae of her inner visual world and created her wetly pulsating mosaics by “ fol- lowing the route of the water”. In doing so, she gained a hands-on understanding of the key feature of this ancient site, which is the water of the basin of Zeus Ithomatas and the eternally-flowing underground spring that feeds it, the Clepsydra. A source of eternal life and immortality, a gift from the god to the man who recognizes the value of water, the single most important factor for life. Customs, legends, songs and cleansings, initiations, baths and treatments, nymphs and sprites, all inextricably bound up with the fountains of Messene and with water, bubble back up to the surface of memory in a silent conversation between the contemporary creations of Christina Nakou, the reborn monumental complex of antiquity, the natural environment of the olive grove, and the people who visit or view this world.
Professor Petros Themelis