Where do we go from here? (2008)


The first time I was assigned to interview a famous Cypriot artist was many years ago. I remember I was enthusiastic, awkward, I practised the questions, I was incredibly nervous because I have always been in awe of talent. And I have always been inquisitive about taking a peak into the artists’ world. I grew up in a house where art was more than just present. My father was passionate about art and in his effort to induct me into this world, early on gave me a series of books on how to identify a significant work of art. At the time of course, I could not be bothered to read it, now I regret that I never did. He would also explain to me why the paintings by Stas, Sfikas, Votsis and Skotinos that hung in our living room were great. He would describe to me Diamantis’ neighbourhood in Lapithos and the first time that he had met him. He would tell me other stories, further piquing my curiosity as to what talent is and what is the meaning of art.

So I went to that first interview with dozens of questions. Leaving, I felt it strange that the only thing I had taken with me as the main element of our discussion with that well known artist was his bitterness. His bitterness vis a vis a state that does not help and does not support culture, failing to offer incentives and backing to its artists. A state that does not take care to offer support to art so as to underline its significance and necessity. At the time, this conclusion made an impression on me. When I remember it now, it makes me sad, since in the fifteen years in which I have worked as a journalist, I have heard this phrase hundreds of times. From established artists but also from young talents trying to find their way; from art critics, journalists, people who have been or are involved in culture.   
I have heard it hundreds of times, but not once have I heard a satisfactory argument from the state agencies that addresses this criticism.

I have never managed to understand why culture was and remains of secondary importance in the eyes of those in power. The only thing I did manage to be soundly convinced of through the years was that our artists were absolutely right in feeling bitterness and anger.
“Where do we go from here?” The question posed on the occasion of the exhibition from the collection of Nicos Pattichis, did not arise simply in order to describe this specific cultural event. It was born primarily in order to generate reflection. Where is art heading in the Cyprus of today?
When to this day no one has undertaken to make culture a priority of this state, what can be the future of art and the future of talented people in this country? Personally I hope that what as a result of my contacts with artists and people of the arts through the years, I have established as a certainty – that is that culture remains of secondary importance, is reversed. And that there is an honest reply and pledge to the question ‘Where do we go from here’.

Eleni Xenou