Introducing: Alexandra Karamallis
Alexandra Karamallis describes her work as "joyful and thought-provoking", and we're proud to introduce her as the newest member of the TAPPAN family. Hear, in her own words, about her process, how Brooklyn has influenced her work and more.
These pieces are unique because rather than being one series of related works, it shows a range of the ideas and subject matters that I tend to gravitate towards. I often work in a combination of watercolor, gouache, and collage, which is a process I really love for the freedom it allows, but more recently I’ve begun painting in oil after a long hiatus. I’ve felt a curiosity of how the visual language I’ve developed would translate into oil, and a longing for the sensation of thick oil paint on canvas. This body of work gives a taste of all of that.
The process itself largely dictates the outcome. I try to get to my studio as often as I can, and then I often spend a good amount of time looking at art books, looking at the Shahnameh book of Persian miniatures, reading about current events, googling things, until I feel like I have a concept. And then I start placing shapes of color onto the paper or canvas. During my thesis I became obsessed with Persian miniature paintings and Persian gardens. I fell in love with the tension that exists in them between indoor and outdoor spaces, between the highly intricate man-made structures and tile-work, and the nature that surrounds, and the idea that that tension and balance was imagined to create paradise on earth. Those combined elements have continued to influence my work as a means to explore themes of beauty in diversity, and my belief that all peoples and cultures deserve a space for protected relaxation, that is both spiritual and leisurely.
I have been traveling to the Western Cape in South Africa annually for six years now, and each time I go there I’m blown away by the beauty in diversity that defines that place: the enormous mountains, the brilliant ocean, the endless sky, the layers of color created by the land and vegetation, the incredible quality of light, and the heart-breaking history that has lead to the presence of every shade of skin color in one place. During my last several trips I’ve kept watercolors and paper with me at all times, allowing me to capture some moment in a painting instead of a photograph. I feel like able to capture the subtleties in the beauty I see in those moment so much more accurately with my naked eye than with my camera.
Back in Brooklyn, I think the pace and pressure that people put on themselves can be really intimidating, but it has also been so inspiring to see that people find ways to make time for what they love. People are driven and have purpose, and it constantly challenges me to keep myself in check. My degree and expertise is in textiles, and part of why I studied it was so that I could have a safe career path when I got out of school. I learned a ton and ended up being totally fascinated with textiles, and the experience of studying it undoubtedly informed my process, but I’ve realized that nothing brings me joy and makes me think conceptually the way that painting does. For the first few years after college I made sweaters in my free time with the hope of starting a knitwear line, but my longing to paint grew over time and eventually it became really clear that the process of painting is really the one I love the most.