Today’s featured artist for the UJ Arts & Culture’s ‘The Pandemic Project’, is visual artist Yannis Generalis. His work, entitled Prophylaxis (Greek: Protection), tackles the unseen, microscopic nature of the COVID-19 virus by introducing a more cosmic sort of protection.
The ‘Mati’ or ‘Mataki’, a traditional object in modern Greek culture, is a glass talisman resembling an eye that is believed to protect against all evil forces and negativity. The symbol of an eye is one that is often associated with warding off evil in many cultures, from North India to the Middle East and through the Eastern Mediterranean to North Africa.
Generalis’s artwork is comprised of numerous protective eyes formed by pouring water soluble enamel paint into egg cartons. The use of the egg carton further stretches the metaphor of protection as well as perpetuating another Greek Orthodox symbol, that of the egg as the human soul. Viewed from afar, the eyes form the figure of a sparrow taking flight, which links to the song sung by the UJ Choir.
Paired with the tragically optimistic His Eye is on the Sparrow, Generalis’s work delivers a message of hope in these uncertain times, and proposes that something is looking out for us.
Have a look at Yannis Generalis’s ‘Prophylaxis (Greek: Protection)’ and listen to the UJ Choir singing His Eye is on the Sparrow – Charles H Gabriel, arr. Ben Bram
About Yannis Generalis
Yannis Generalis is a South African visual artist whose approach to art is diverse, strategically combining traditional and experimental approaches to art making. During his formative years, he bore witness to a multitude of impactful socio-political events having grown up in Zimbabwe, Botswana, Greece and South Africa. Having such a diverse cultural background, Generalis has garnered a multi-layered perspective to his work.
Generalis uses storytelling in art to create a layered visual and contextual experience that tackles generally accepted socio-political norms through a range of different media and art forms. This level of storytelling is highly influenced by his early studies in psychology and international relations. Through this process, Generalis challenges these universal archetypes of gender and identity that are present in society.
In his recent Master’s exhibition, Generalis displays this process and the multiple layers of signification that drive the work, becoming evident in what he refers to as, hybrid vigor. Hybrid Vigor: Ecce Homo consisted of works that ranged from traditional oil painting, to rust drawings, sculpture, embroidery and installation.