With heightened sensitivity to where we find beauty, I have a preoccupation of why humans are cruel to both the presence and absence of it. Abandoning my compulsion to restore the representational, I reconstruct beauty where we normally find fear.
Artist Fotini Galanes is best known for her drawings of unnamable intense themes that are said to “teeter strangely between the pure aesthetic experience and conceptual decay.” The artist’s motivation is personal and deeply based in vulnerability. Obsessive in her method, Fotini draws with graphite directly onto sturdy porcelain grounds, gesturally referencing specific events and emotions.
Fotini is also the founder of the global outreach project My Mark Matters™. A humanitarian project integrating observation, mark-making and storytelling to communicate connections, inclusion and empathy. To date, it has been experienced by children and adults in forty-seven countries.
Description of process
Drawing was never a conscious decision. I could just draw. At some point as a child, I realized I was good at it and my competitive nature drove the unrelenting pursuit to be better. But that wasn’t, and still isn’t, my motivation. I was often immobilized growing up after an accident and I believe drawing was the beginning of feeling safe and finding my way to deal with trauma that a child was not equipped to clarify. Drawing became my special power.
Each work is a moment I am documenting, much like journalling. The detail is a meditative practice and does not require patience from me. I love the intrinsic details. The commitment and fear of the first line. The decision to make the last line. The smooth chalky porcelain board or a giant intimidating wall. The visceral response of the graphite as it bites, the charcoal as it penetrates. And when it’s quiet, I can hear the sounds it makes. I fill pages in my sketchbooks with thumbnails looking for the anatomy of a form that translates what I am looking for. Whether it be a small graphite work or a mural, each drawing begins with long aggressive gesture lines. I memorize my movements before I let the material touch the surface. From the first to the last a familiar and private relationship builds with each work, and I fall in love. I know every bump, hole, curve, twist, success, disaster and where it still needs work. It’s exhausting. Less discernible is the compulsion to produce. When a piece is finished I eventually leave it. An emptiness will follow and I will need to start a new drawing and I will feel safe again.
In 1996 Fotini Galanes returned to Buffalo Children’s Hospital to give back to a place where she underwent corrective surgeries for many years after an accident in 1966. After a year of volunteering with oncology patients she was asked to paint a mural. An unassuming mural grew into a lifelong commitment to painting approachable art in hospitals that goes to the floor.