Maria Rigoutsou’s „Ikonen der Krise“ (Icons of the Crisis) is a series of pictures created in response to Europe’s ongoing economic and financial turmoil, which is rooted in a deeper crisis of values. The canvases in the series invoke ancient Byzantine icons. Holy figures aren’t in the foreground, though. Instead we see the things that are sacred to us today: the euro, banks and ratings agencies.
The „religion“ of money is global. „Ikonen der Krise“ also draws on the front pages of newspapers and magazines – such as the German „Bild“ tabloid’s covers – that have driven a wedge between Germans and Greeks. Additionally the pieces address the topics of consumerism, fetishization and people’s reaction to the crisis in demonstrations and protests. The series also shows faces – sometimes abstractly, sometimes concretely – that reflect poverty and desperation.
The complex and multifaceted artistry behind the works is of particular interest. The artist begins by combining photographs taken personally or from the press. They’re edited digitally and printed on a special canvas finished with gold leaf. Then the artist rounds out the piece. The gold leaf, which is not made of real gold, symbolizes the world of appearances, while dark tears in the finishing resemble small wounds. Although the works are to a large degree reproductions, they are also unique in that each canvas is crafted individually by hand before being printed upon. A few individual paintings are also included in the set.
This series of „icons“ was exhibited in 2014 at the Haus am Dom in Frankfurt, and in 2013 at the Martin Luther Church in Cologne, Germany, as well as at the Theater im Pfalzbau in Ludwigshafen, Germany. The aim is to show the exhibition in as many German cities as possible, but also in the southern European countries hit hard by the crisis – with the goal of fostering public discussion. The picture series, which the artist began creating in 2008, is conceived of as a work in progress and is continually developed further.