The Forgotten Light of Time

“One thing counts, against and in contrast to all particularities, and that is the beautiful gear that is called the world.”

Ella Maillart

“(...) At the big stone table above the happy banks. At steps that are united, then separated.”

Yves Bonnefoy

Responding to the invitation of Marina Olympios and her project, I feel the need to deepen (this is what I will try to achieve), to dwell on this original unity of the beauty of the world and to know how we dream on her way. I do not know it yet, but I know that she leads me there like a drop of water, a course before herself.

The woman we are going to meet is inhabited by art forms, rooted in her, illuminated by a look that nothing can distract. We follow each inflection of her feelings, of her travels. Her paths are from flesh, the earth is one shoulder and dust twinkles along her way. Her itinerary is not decentred or wandering, she “requisitions” the thought and the senses to understand and connect the inflexible and the immutable. This mystery is completely obvious to her like love, freedom and art, her instrument of measure of being in the world. She offers her existence as an archipelago of conjunctions of moments, figures, traces, paths and ideals.

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She was born on an island, Cyprus, and to re-join her soul, she set the departure here. An island of air and light. Like Aphrodite at Petra Tou Romiou, beauty of the first day, Marina is a goddess of the Arabian Nights. But perhaps on the shores of the Mediterranean one touches the intelligible, one claims knowledge: the matter, the place, the time. For Marina Olympios belongs to this word, which is older than all the others, which links the poem, art and time. Her language does not reduce common words to rocks, caves, soils, rivers and lakes. She maintains specific relationships with these natural elements and nothing will reveal this union with the world, like a people in its buzzing in the fabric of the universe.

In contrast to any system, her work adjusts to this fascinating, multiple, inexhaustible presence in the world, from which she delivers a conscience. In her, everything makes a sudden story, writing and thought.

She is a daughter of a culture that goes back thousands of years and she could “dance” her stories, her lives and raise us to the heights of her inner journey, movement and vision. In her, the earth spoke. Throughout her meetings with beings and places, a secret and silent fraternity was born. She illuminates our present, never tires of advancing on the earth: her base. Her tracks make a destiny that only reveals itself as it proceeds.

At the heart of her trajectory: stones, fossils, crystals that speak of an older order before water and fire. The stones, a “mute world” (dear to Francis Ponge), offer our view original landscapes of brilliance and light in their incredible density. This is the time of origins, extravagant forms that do not depend on any artistic will. Always there, already there, they fascinate by their harmony, in the purity and the infallible of their presence itself. Perenniality and permanence of the mineral fortify a feeling of filiation with Marina Olympios. She has always listened to that immemorial that the stones testify, to the grave, the fixed and the extreme they possess. Cyprus is a land of colours and images, geological formations that, in their curious arrangement, attest to an improbable and unexpected resemblance to the human. I think of these old slags, greyish blisters, like a Door of Hell that Rodin would not have denied, aggregated and disaggregated figures, as if they were time, groups and clusters of bodies that do not fear anything.

She also pays great attention to the plastic quality of reality, in her work everything is striking with relief and poetic intensity. Because for Marina everything exists so vigorously in the blue confines of the world: the archaeological sites, the rites and ceremonies of the ancient civilizations of Machu Pichu in Peru, the Khmer temple of Preah-Khan, the Prambanan in Java, Kalasasya in Bolivia, the Phi-Phi Islands in the Andaman Sea. All of them dating back to the twelfth century, which is this time woven of moments, of places, which interweave and intertwine where everything is exactly what it should be. Memory, gods, dragons, divinities, there is a place of language that is no longer language but this silence, this majestic silence that traverses the thrill of the sacred forces.

Forever witness of a continuous aesthetic of the world, of experience, of culture, of history, the approach of Marina Olympios proves to be a warning, an ultimate moral of the artist in times of desolation and dereliction. How would nature be guilty? Nothing to blame for what the earth produces, we pass the world to the brink of sounds, images, epochs “between the times”.

But so many signs are here today to show that the earth is damaged through waste: the ruin of the climate, the degradation of the soil, the proliferation of “irresponsible” images, the weakening of resources such as water. But Marina Olympios awakens us, prevents the breaking of all that was, is, and could come. As a step coming from the night, a cry, she gives us a gift by her presence alone. Like the nymphs who carry the heavenly waters, she edifies her art against oblivion and ruin. Beyond beauty, she makes visible the concrete reality of what nature expresses before man.

From this buried voice, resurging from the shadows, she reveals in the faults, folds, inks of the earth, a secret beauty, the dawn of a marvellous, which “assembles” us. She belongs to the future and to the beginning, guardian of an instinctive nature, the source of the feminine in the bleeding recess of mother-earth, her home. In what way does the feminine carry sacredness, mystery, but also danger or impurity? This blood of women, a red thread of fertility, cinnabar red of collared veins, already drunk, of the Kokkinoyia mines in Mitsero (Cyprus). Like the goddesses spinning destiny, Marina Olympios contaminates with femininity a work of sharing and communion with nature, in which she is initiated.

In this she lifts all the taboos and tells the founding wanderings of an eternal place, the sacred site of her birth. A place that has its load, its gravity, with which shine the high sites, where step by step its history has fixed. Her story follows her like a shadow, a shadow on the skin of the earth. She slips perpetually towards her dream, the movement of life, of her life. The female body is of the utmost importance in the work of Marina Olympios, form-woman is here central like the richness of her figuration in the rock.

Her work traverses simultaneously philosophy, archaeology, geology but also photography, video and painting. It refers to the transgressive power of art, it is a claim, an affirmation of the rights of matter and the body. Her physical, intellectual and imaginary practice of the world tries to escape the insipidity of a life dissociated from the sacred, the temporal and pleasure. From where this presence of the marvellous, in order to lift the veil and return to the fairyhoods of childhood, vulnerable little girl, lost innocence, listening to what the earth has told her, in the immaterial white of the spaces of the painting and of the landscape. The earth freed from futile man, his whims, his betrayals and his cowardice towards beings and things.

She exhumes the forces and the desires of a whole female being who aspires to a totality, a concrete universal, a kind of sovereignty of the body in its desires and its driving forces, those which the earth hides in the hollow of its flanks and which keep for some time the form of storms and its wounds. Each of the mediums she requires (photography, video, painting) is a living image of life. At a time when there is a crisis of representation, her images reflect, as in the past, a truth of the experience of the world that does not lie.

For Marina Olympios it concerns “a world outside” and what she feels in frequenting it, to say that beauty that is self-sufficient. Her gaze knows neither repetition nor rest. It is about a reality that is more and more absent, that withdraws which it means firstly movement, the flow and then the stop, a frozen image reversing the history of painting and photography.

Beyond the world, Marina Olympios is a voice in the vast light, near and far, in the true becoming of her promise. Art is what gives confidence and allows us to recover at least to correct our distress. Arrived at this desired thing, she will then speak the word, going and coming in the day, the beauty of the other world. “It does not matter where I'll start, because to this place I'll also come back,” said Parmenides; through the cities of the sun, Marina Olympios shows us the way.

Elisabeth Chambon, Curator of the Musée Géo-Charles.

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