This was the first major UK exhibition of work by Christodoulos Panayiotou. It brought together works from the last 10 years, many of which had not been shown in the UK before, and new commissions – activating Camden Art Centre with a series of poetic interventions.
Informed by his interest in archaeology, anthropology and his background in dance and theatre – Panayiotou uncovered obscured and forgotten stories, transforming the world into a theatre where myths are acted out. Natural stone mosaics, gilded icons, mineralogical curiosities and the photographic archive of a Cypriot newspaper; all became materials and motifs for his seductive and highly charged works.
The exhibition’s title Act II: The Island was taken from one of the works in the show: a folded theatrical backdrop that depicts a tropical island – an archetypal, fantastical place that evokes associations of paradise, escape and solitude, as well as isolation and fear.
In 2019’s political climate, it might have been seen as a reference to the turbulent status of the ‘British Isles’ as we approached Brexit, with all its attendant discourses of nationalism, identity and self-determination; as well as the complex political history of Cyprus as a former British colony and a still conflicted zone, caught between the cultures and histories of so-called east and west. These concerns were also touched upon in other works, including a series of large-scale, monochrome paintings produced from thousands of demonetised, pulped, Euro banknotes.
Addressing themes of politics, nationhood, religion, imperialism and oppression, Panayiotou’s work spoke through the most personal and private of gestures and interventions, returning again and again to the lost, the overlooked, the marginalised and the neglected.