How the Greek myth of Persephone inspired Eleni Karathanasi’s new Sydney exhibition

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Eleni Karathanasi’s Daughters of Persephone exhibition will be hosted this Saturday, April 15 at Hurstville Museum & Gallery in southern Sydney from 2.30pm.

The exhibition will shine a light on Persephone, the goddess of spring and the underworld. Her mythological story relates to the cycle of the seasons and the separation of a daughter from her mother when she starts a family of her own.

In an exclusive interview with The Greek Herald, Eleni reveals her personal journey of becoming an artist and what inspired the exhibition.

Eleni Karathanasi. Photo: Supplied.

Tell us about yourself

I was born and raised in Samos, a Greek island of the eastern Aegean Sea. My formative years of childhood took place in Vathy. It’s the capital of the island and the place where my love of art flourished. My art teacher, Alexandra, was a major influence on me and she helped me a lot through many things. I also got to work with her as an art tutor after finishing my undergraduate studies in Rhodes. Life in Greece was where my passion for art and mythology was born and nurtured. My life in Australia is where I learned many new things and grew both as an artist and as an art tutor.

In your own words, describe what the Daughters of Persephone exhibition is about. 

Daughters of Persephone is about new beginnings in life, focusing on the experience of being a woman, making changes or being faced with new aspects of herself. That includes moving away from her home or her family to start a new life. I believe that each of us, at some point in our lives, has lived through unexpected changes or know that we should be the creators of change in that moment in time. 

Eleni Karathanasi. Photo: Supplied.

How has your family influenced and supported your creative pursuits?

I was lucky to grow up close to my grandparents and spent time watching my grandfather make art. He was a sculptor, a woodcarver and a painter. My father is an interior designer and many members of my family are skilled at painting or drawing. My family taught me many things about art, but they were also concerned about me facing all the difficulties of the art industry that they had to face. For that reason, I attempted to work in different industries for a while, but it became clear to me that I wanted to pursue a career that involved art, in one way or another.  

What inspired the creation of the exhibition?

The idea of the exhibition came to me while I was working on a group of female portraits depicting women of different nationalities. I made some research and painted each of them surrounded by flowers or wearing flowers that have a connection to their nationality or culture. I did that while thinking of all the women from different cultural backgrounds that I have been meeting throughout my life. Then the story of Persephone came to mind. In my eyes, these women are like her, figures of life, death and rebirth. After the idea solidified in my mind, I started creating various art pieces around the myth of Persephone and Hades.

Eleni Karathanasi’s exhibition work. Photo: Supplied.

What do you hope people take away from your exhibition?

First of all, I hope that people have a pleasant experience during the opening, meaning that they enjoy themselves while exploring art, making interesting conversations and learning something new. Very often, my art includes elements of storytelling due to my love of mythology, literature and folklore. For me, learning different things and creating art are almost always connected. I hope I can make people think or feel things that they remember. In other words, that they walk away from my exhibition carrying new emotions or thoughts that may help them in some way in the future. 

Eleni Karathanasi’s exhibition work. Photo: Supplied.

Why did you choose to focus on Persephone? 

Because I find her fascinating and I feel I can relate to what she represents. In myths and stories, we see that gods, heroes and monsters mean different things to different people. I was intrigued by her many epithets and roles. Similarly, a person may take up various roles during their lifetime: the goddess of spring who is also the queen of the underworld; the daughter of Demeter and the wife of Hades. Her myth resonated with me and also made me think of many women I know. Each of them means something different to the people in their lives. They are daughters, friends, lovers, caregivers, mothers and more. These roles along with their talents, professional skills and desires made up a big part of their identity. Persephone, like many other mythological figures, is an archetype and thus an interesting topic of conversation. 

Eleni Karathanasi’s exhibition work. Photo: Supplied.

Finally, what is your favourite thing about the exhibition?

I have put a lot of hard work into this exhibition – me and all the people involved – into making it happen so it’s difficult to pick my favourite thing about the whole experience. I would probably say that my favourite thing is actually two parts of the same coin: the time I get to spend alone with my ideas and get into the mood of creating original art, and the part where I share it with people and we talk about it, giving each other new points of view and having a good time.  

Event Details:

  • Day: Saturday, 15 April 2023.
  • Location: Hurstville Museum & Gallery. 14 MacMahon Street, Hurstville.
  • Time: 2.30pm – 4.00pm.
  • Cost: Free.
  • Bookings: Bookings recommended for catering purposes.
  • For more information, please contact Hurstville Museum & Gallery on (02) 9330 6444 or museumgallery@georgesriver.nsw.gov.au.

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