London Art Spot: Penelope Koliopoulou

I first spotted Greek photographer Penelope Koliopoulou’s work in Completely London magazine. I looked twice when I found out she was the only person in her images.

Penny’s portfolio is lead by an obsession with taking self-portraits combined with a fascination with the way relationships function and couples interact. She uses her most convenient resource – herself – to represent both parts of many different couples. Most of her images depict the most mundane moments in the daily existence of a couple – watching TV, lounging in bed, chatting, eating. She hopes that we recognise our own relationships in her work. Do you see yourself in any of these scenes below? 

Read on to hear more about Penelope’s vision for this project, how she creates her images and the diary of an imaginary boyfriend she’s just started putting together – another project I’m sure will prove to be very interesting.

LLO: Where are you from originally, how long have you been in London and what brought you here?
I am from Athens, Greece and I’ve been leaving in London for 2 years now. I came here for my MA in Fashion and Film (LCF).

LLO: Tell us about your self portrait series. When and why did you begin this project?
At the university where I studied Fine Arts, I always did self portraits. This was my small obsession. I was experimenting a lot, trying either to disguise and play different roles, or picture myself and explore notions of identity, gender, intimacy, everyday life and through this to discover myself and find out who I am. In my final project, I wanted to picture couples in intimate moments and represent true moments of a relationship. The fact that I was going to “do” both parts of the couples came naturally. Moreover, my intention was to make a comment on how easily masculinity and femininity can be created – for example, how I can pass as a man only by turning my back to the camera. To show that both sexes carry masculine and feminine elements. Lastly, using the same person to do both parts of a couple could work as a metaphor for how a couple unites and we become one or see the reflection of ourselves in our partner.

LLO: How do you create the images?
First of all, I imagine a couple – their look, lifestyle, clothes – and then I think of a scene from their everyday life. According to these, I find a place that most suits the profile of my couple and choose clothes that I mostly take from my wardrobe or friends. I dress as one part of the couple and take a picture, then I dress as the other half, creating different ways of interacting between the two. In the end, I use Photoshop to put the two pictures together and create my couple.

LLO: From the Athens suburb where you were born to the madness of London, do you think the mundane moments couples experience differ?
It doesn’t have to do with where they live, it has to do with the couple. It may sound cheesy, but I believe in a couple’s chemistry. Either they live in London or in Greece. You see couples that are not really ‘compatible’ but they remain together for other reasons (insecurity, because it became a habit, or for practical reasons, such as children) and some others that are a perfect match. Relationships are hard. They need a lot of time, devotion, honesty and selflessness no matter class, sexuality, race, region.

LLO: What do you hope to communicate through your work?
I like to tell stories. I hope I tell stories that make people identify with my protagonists. What I wish is when someone sees one of my couples to think “I’ve been there. It was hard (or nice).”, to create feelings, to bring back memories and make them think about their relationships.

LLO: What has been your favourite scene to recreate so far?
Ha, my favourite scene was the couple having a private after party in the morning. Technically it could be a better picture, but as it was my very first so I excuse myself and also I believe I’ve managed to create the right atmosphere which is more important to me.

LLO: Tell us about another artist you know in London who is doing something worth talking about.
Zero-tau, a collective of mix media performance.

LLO: What are you working on now?
At the moment I am not taking any pictures for a personal project, but I’m working on some new ideas, like a diary of my relationship with an imaginative/fantastic boyfriend and also some more couples but from a different approach.

LLO: Best place in London for food and/or drinks?
My place, with good friends.

LLO: Favourite London discovery?
Kaos party.

Thanks Penny!

You can also find Penny here.

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.