Marina Markantoni – Everything is art

Marina Markantoni – Everything is art

„Marina, Marina! Look! Look, how I put the colours together! Is this ok? I did as you told me. Marina, Marina, look!“ Little Kostas is calling across the room, trying to get Marina’s attention. But she only raises her head briefly, letting him know that she will be with him in a minute. Then Marina turns back to Dafni, who is trying to fix a caterpillar made from different colourful papers on a piece of wood. Marina furrows her brow, trying to concentrate on the glue and the wood, while next to her Dafni jumps on the spot impatiently, because she wants to see the result of her work.“Here we are, little girl,“ Marina says with relief in her voice, putting the piece of wood in Dafni’s hands. „what a wonderful piece of art you have created. Don’t let it fly away.“ With a smile she turns around to Kostas, who is sitting on the ground, surrounded by scissors, glue, pencils and sheets of paper. He‘s just putting the last touch on a red paper and then he‘s holding up the result of his work: a bird with open wings  made from the colourful papers Marina has given to him. As always, Marina is impressed how much creativity these kids – around 12 years old – are putting into the tasks she‘s giving them every Wednesday afternoon.
Who might have thought that these Wednesday afternoons at the Ikarian Art-House „Alaxú Padaxú“ would have become so successful? Who might have thought that she would put her love and energy into these art courses on Ikaria to introduce kids to the magic world of art?

Well, it was not planned … as many other things happening in Marina‘s life were not really planned. But as she sits on the floor in the art workshop that is now coming to an end and with all the kids presenting their creations with bright eyes and shining cheeks to the group, Marina knows that this is her place to be. For the moment. On this dark and cold winter afternoon, she belongs here in Christos Raches on Ikaria. Her place is here in this art house that she founded with other local artists. Her place is here to share her knowledge about art with kids, adults and other artists. Before switching off the light and closing the door, Marina looks around at the now empty and silent workshop. She just loves this place … and the idea behind it.

Two years ago, in 2021 a group of people, artists like Marina, but working in different fields, such as ceramics, painting, graphic design, founded the art-cooperative „Alaxú Padaxú – Ikarian Art House“. Their aim? To offer a space for Ikarian artists where they can work together beyond the different art fields, to organize art lessons for the Ikarians and – where possible – to build a network with other Greek artists.

The five founding members all agreed that art needed a greater visibility on Ikaria … and they wanted to make it happen. So this room, with its big windows and its walls painted in bright yellow, reflects the broad variety of art that is happening here, created and presented by Ikarians of different ages. On the shelves and on the walls, you can find master pieces of the professional artists of the cooperative, such as paintings and ceramics. But they are standing side by side with art pieces from different workshops, such as pottery, watercolour drawings and sketches of the Ikarian landscape. „And this is how it should be“, Marina thinks, closing the door and heading towards her car, „because art is everywhere and everything is art“.

Marina has lived by this motto since her early childhood. She grew up in Athens and was always fascinated by the colours and art the city offered her. Already at a young age she loved drawing and started making paper collages by cutting pictures from magazines, newspapers and posters and then combining the material and pictures in different ways, creating new pictures, new perspectives. That way, she could follow her own flow, creating her own world.
So it was almost a natural decision that she went on to study fine arts at the university of Ioannina and the courses in photography, graphic design and drawing finally gave her the tools to express her emotions and thoughts. She travelled a lot, studied in Milano, Italy for a year with Erasmus, and lived in Portugal for a while, where she started working with wood.

Marina absorbs the impressions around her like a sponge. A visit to a movie theater may give her inspiration for a completely new composition of colours and forms, with unexpected results. The paper collages are still one of her artistic baselines and with the help of different computer programs and more knowledge in graphic design, they have become kind of Marina’s trademark. Looking deeper into her work, you can identify different „chapters“ in her artistic development : you‘ll have pictures based on paper collages, where five to twelve different pictures build layers for a new art piece. Or you‘ll find postcards and posters, where graphic objects are dominating the picture.

With all this knowledge and creativity in her travel bag, Marina arrived on Ikaria in the summer of 2019. She was not new to the island; she’d already been there a few times, invited by one of her high school friends   who had family in Karavostamo. She was supposed to stay for the summer, to recharge her batteries and to think about a future job. But this did not happen. She did not return to Athens, but she stayed on Ikaria, found a job as a secretary, where she organized the logistics of the company. And Ikaria has done her good, so far, not letting her go.

She could not only slow down, but she could also open up to new inspirations: the nature around her is an endless source for new ideas, but also everyday life on the island is feeding her imagination. Step by step, Marina found her way into the island. She met other artists who worked in pottery, painting, theater, film or also in graphic design. She was surprised by how many of them lived in this small place.

As winters can be quite long on Ikaria, she had a good chance to get to know them and to participate in many discussions about art and how to make a living as an artist on Ikaria. This was -and still is today – the crucial question. None of them can live „just from art“, so finding jobs to pay the bills is a predominant activity in their lives – an activity that absorbs a lot of energy, time and is not always successful.

But for Marina it was good that she found her group of „like-minded“ people. They support each other, which is very often not only helpful, but essential for not giving up. And slowly, slowly, new things are happening across different sectors.  For example, Marina was asked to design the packaging material for a local soap manufacturer. A challenging task, because a large number of orders had to be fulfilled. Other ideas for cooperation with local artists are in the air, but they still need some time to grow. Besides that, Marina creates posters for different events and much more, because „art is needed everywhere“.

Of course the pandemic and now new challenges resulting from the energy crisis, made Marina’s life as an artist even more difficult. Sometimes, she was tempted to give up and to follow other artists who left Ikaria to find better living conditions elsewhere. But so far she has not. Somehow she made her way and when the idea about an art cooperative led to the planning of „Alaxú Padaxú – Ikarian Art House“, she was determined to stay and to make it happen.

This project opens up a new chapter for Marina as an artist. On the one hand she can pass on her knowledge about art to the next generation. And on the other hand her pupils and co-workers give her a continuous lesson to see the world from a different perspective. And in case that‘s not enough ‚food‘ to feed her imagination and creativity, Marina is ready to jump on a ferry to travel to Athens to get her dose of contacts with friends and family …. and of course at the same time, visits to movie theaters, theaters and museums are an urgent „must-have“.

And when she comes back, the mountains and the sea give her the place and the calmness to digest these new inputs. Very often new results are coming up. Sometimes like little raindrops, sometimes like waterfalls. Just like today: Marina had a video-call with a friend in Milano and they agreed that contacts and networking between the artists – may they be on Ikaria or on other Greek islands – should be strengthened. Not only to support each other and to enhance new cooperations, but – above all – to raise the visibility of artists and to generate income, but also to underline their contribution to the quality of life in remote areas and islands, such as Ikaria.

Marina is a strong believer in this approach and she‘s already got some ideas on how to make it happen on Ikaria. And now she is eager to talk to some other members of the art cooperative to get their opinion. And while heading to her car on that dark afternoon in Christos, Raches, after finishing the children‘s artlessons, Marina feels a lot of positive energy flowing through her body. She smiles. This feels really good. Obviously she was right in combining the positive energy of the Ikarian mountains with her love for art. Apparently new good things will be born from this … and this is all she ever wanted by being an artist: to create new things, to give new perspectives. Art – the essential ingredient to make changes happen ….