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Listening for Light with Yannis Generalis

The Linden-based artist recently had artwork spanning 25 years exhibited at Saheti School. He speaks on his anthology work and what it means to have it displayed.

Art lovers found themselves ‘listening for the light’ at Saheti School when Linden-based artist Yannis Generalis exhibited a retrospective of his work spanning 25 years.

This was as part of the school’s 50th-anniversary celebration, and the exhibition included a walkabout and discussion about his journey, process and evolution as an artist.

More than 60 pieces of his art were displayed. With such a vast anthology of work done over the years, when Generalis reflects on some of his pieces, he asks himself ‘What was I thinking?’ Asking himself this, he said, was a way to probe his feelings and state of mind at the time rather than poke fun at himself.

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He named the exhibition Listening for light which reflects on how he always aims to ‘listen for the light’ when it comes to his paintings. “Some of the work does have a heavy topic, but I always try to find where the light leads. Be it abstract or not, I am always looking for the positive within it.”

Yannis Generalis in his studio. Photo: Neo Phashe
Yannis Generalis in his studio. Photo: Neo Phashe

His at-home studio, which is entwined with his garden, is as aesthetically pleasing as his art is. It has seen him create installations as hyper-realistic backdrops for theatre.
Describing his work as contemporary, he believes what makes a good artist is ‘one who remains humble’. Leading up to the show, he said he was nervous. “You are putting your soul on display and you have people come along who don’t know your story, looking at your work.”

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Yannis Generalis adds to one of his oldest pieces of work for the last time. Photo: Neo Phashe
Yannis Generalis adds to one of his oldest pieces of work for the last time. Photo: Neo Phashe

Generalis grew up living in three countries – Greece, Botswana and South Africa. His approach to his work has been to reflect the spaces he has grown up in. His dissertation for his Masters at the University of Johannesburg was themed ‘Hybrid Vigor’, as he considers himself a hybrid.
One of the biggest pieces in his studio is called Joburg Mon Amour and it relates to old 50s movies. Though its image has remained the same, the art piece has been added to through the years.
The artwork’s latest editions are quotes from the work of international singer/songwriter, Bjork. After 26 years of working on this art piece, Generalis made the decision that following the show, it would be the last time he added to it and now needs to let it go, though he has no intention of selling it.

For him, it is important for people viewing artwork to try to get the true feeling of it, something he hopes viewers of his art will always do.

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