Creative Paddington: Pollyxenia Joannou

By Lola Pinder



Pollyxenia Joannou completed her visual arts degree at the City Art Institute (UNSWAD) in the early eighties. She states how this period was a special and enlightening time for her as an artist, where her perception and approach to her work was nurtured and was allowed to expand. 

Joannou describes her time at the City Art Institute as a ‘right place, right time thing’. At this time exhibitions at galleries such as the ACP also aided Joannou’s development as an artist, introducing her to a myriad of possibilities for innovation and story telling in her practice. Joannou remembers in general, her time spent in the Paddington arts scene as treading new and innovative ground. She explains that ‘there were also more art spaces/galleries that seemed less precious and more willing to take a chance’. After graduating, Joannou worked at the ACP in the early nineties, during the directorship of Denise Robinson. She describes the innovation and inspiration of multimedia installation and the new generation of artists including Tracey Moffatt and Bill Viola.

Joannou’s sculpture and painting practice centres upon elemental properties of materiality and beauty. Her works explore memory, absence and quietude, through formal minimalism. Joannou looks to strip down the organic environment to geometric shapes and tactile forms and so moves away from digital technologies. Joannou’s work reflects upon history and development in the built environment. 

Joannou’s work shares a gamut of influenced from Joseph Beuys to Rachel Whiteread, and including Ellsworth Kelly and Malevich.  Safe, pictured above, is a work from her latest exhibition Devolving, 2014. The stacked layers of unbleached felt on wheels creates a precarious work examining security and the ephemeral. Joannou is inspired by her built environment, her art shows a beauty and foreboding, as the artist reflects on contemporary living and landscape. 

Over Joannou’s 30-year career she has exhibited in acclaimed group exhibitions including the Sulman Prize, the Archibald Prize, and the Portia Geach Memorial Award. In 2006 she was given the prestigious Tim Storrier National Art School Residency at La Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris.

Joannou describes how she works on several projects at once daily, working by trial and error. She likes to produce in series and enjoys the evolution of narratives as she develops an idea in her art. She explains:  ‘if an impasse happens, I usually retrace back to a point that will take me down another road.’ Joannou is currently developing her work on felt and 'after making a few pieces [I] have settled on the “Émigré Series'. We wait to see what the project brings.

Joannou is currently a sessional lecturer at the National Art School. She is represented by Conny Dietzschold Gallery.

This post is part of the Art Month Event Creative Paddington taking place on March 7th in conjunction with Metro Screen and UNSW Art & Design.


Image courtesy and © the artist, Safe, felt, wood, cotton & castor wheels, 2013.