Violeta Maya and Persiis Hajiyanni on Art out of Isolation

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A new artwork invites us to reflect on isolation during the pandemic

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Set to be a highlight of October’s Affordable Art Fair is the Art out of Isolation commission – Fluid Form, an interactive work commissioned by Martin Miller’s Gin. The first in a series of global initiatives surrounding the arts and young artists, the piece was commissioned and conceptualised during lockdown by Spanish painter, sculptor and sound artist Violeta Maya alongside Greek designer and visual artist Persiis Hajiyanni. This forms part of a wider partnership between Martin Miller’s Gin and The Affordable Art Fair, with Martin Miller’s Gin the official drinks sponsor for the event. During the fair, the brand will host a series of talks and tastings with the global brand ambassador alongside themed bar installations. Below, the artistic duo tell C&TH about Fluid Form, its relationship with Martin Miller’s Gin and the process of creating art during lockdown.

Violeta Maya and Persiis Hajiyanni on Art out of Isolation

Tell us about the Art out of Isolation commission. What was your aim for the project?

We were tasked by Martin Miller’s Gin with creating an Art out of Isolation commission, and we have called our response Fluid Form. Our aim is to create a moment of stillness and pause during the art fair. Visitors can experience a process of transformation by entering, relaxing, observing this change and finding a somewhat meditative atmosphere. By creating this enclosed space of tranquillity, we aim to allow visitors to enter into another dimension.

What themes does the work explore?

It is an interactive, walk-through art installation and the aim is to explore the idea of transformation. This lies at the heart of Martin Miller’s Gin, as it blends its English-distilled gin with the purest Icelandic spring water, with each element transforming the other to produce the smooth taste and silky soft mouth feel for which it is world-renowned. This transformative water plays a central role in the installation, along with ice, light and sound. Central to the artwork is a glass sculpture, containing ice, which – as its contents melt – distorts and impacts the light shining through it into the room as visitors immerse themselves within the structure. The glass is being blown at the La Real Fabrica de Cristales de La Granja, a castle which houses a historic glass factory that still uses traditional techniques.

Commissioned and conceptualised during the Covid-19 lockdown and created as the world slowly emerges from it, the installation also invites visitors to reflect on the isolation during the pandemic – whether positive or negative. It addresses issues of reflection, change, peace, quiet and the importance of mindfulness in a time like this. Our hope is that the artwork will encourage visitors to slow down, reflect and appreciate the stillness within themselves that was experienced during a year of lockdowns and isolation. This was a process that we were all faced with in the past year and we hope that reflecting on this will allow perspective on the present.

How does the work fit in with Martin Miller’s Gin’s tagline, From Madness To Genius?

The eponymous Martin Miller – himself an artistic soul famed for his salons bringing together creatives – challenged the convention of traditional gin production and created a genius gin from a ‘mad’ idea (as it was considered at the time). We feel that this notion of taking a mad idea and creating something lasting is reflected in the scale and ambition of this project and the myriad challenges we will face to realise it. Many would consider us mad to try, but – like Martin Miller – we are confident in our vision.

How does experiential art compare to other mediums and forms?

Experiential art is undoubtedly a bigger challenge as it is not only about the concept but the logistics of delivering an artwork of great scale. However, it is also very satisfying as it’s a four-dimensional piece that offers a myriad of experiences to the viewer and plays to multiple senses. It is perhaps more similar to theatre than to traditional types of art, such as painting.

Where did you two meet and how long have you been working together?

We met in our first year at Central Saint Martins, back in 2011. We had an instant creative crush and have been working on projects together ever since. We studied together for four years at Central Saint Martins after that.

How do you use your different skills and mediums to collaborate on a project?

We have a very similar artistic process so collaborating comes naturally to us. We also have complementary skills that make for a balanced and successful partnership – Violeta is very good at imagining new possibilities and comes up with out of the box ideas, whilst Persiis excels at designing solutions to bring them into life.

How did you both find the experience of lockdown?

Persiis: Lockdown was a very special time and I was lucky to be able to embrace the time that was suddenly created when social responsibility was taken out of the equation. I am usually a person that says yes to everything and therefore very easily find myself overwhelmed with way too many things on my plate. Like everyone, my priorities shifted, and I realised spending time by myself was a real necessity – a need that often you don’t realise you have when you are constantly on the move. I made it part of my day to take at least 20 minutes for myself, even when I had the busiest schedule, which I used to slow down and pay attention to me, my body and my surroundings.

Violeta: I was locked at home not being able to do any of my usual work, so I started painting again for the first time in nearly three years. Painting is now mainly what I am doing in terms of art, so the lockdown has really shaped my career.

How has the art world been affected by the pandemic?

The art world was hit hard by the pandemic due to the closure of exhibitions, galleries and art fairs. However, like many other industries, it adapted with the help of technology. There has been a huge shift to online solutions – indeed the spring edition of the Affordable Art Fair took place online earlier this year. Nothing will replace seeing art in real life but with so much now online it’s nice to think that a legacy of the pandemic will be that people who may never have had the opportunity to see and experience certain artworks, galleries, museums, and exhibitions will be able to experience them in some way in the digital world.

The Affordable Art Fair takes place from 21 – 24 October 2021 in Battersea, London. affordableartfair.com

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