Portrait of a Korè


Portrait of a Korè.


You are looking at a painting of a polychromos sculpture; the missing colour of the Greek marble statue has been re-imagined in this portrait. The colour on the sculpture is closer to the truth than the white marble. We are in Archaic Greece, some 3,000 years ago. A group of young sculptors-in-training travel to Egypt to learn the trade, and they bring the Egyptian style of sculptures with them to Greece. The typically large Egyptian sculptures with a rigid stance have become more flexible, rounded and human in Greece. Egyptian art is made for eternity and Greek art is made to be seen among people, in the midst of life. The Archaic smile that brings the sculpture to life attracted me. This smile is often found in my paintings. I draw inspiration from Herbert von Buttlar's 1950 book "Griechische Köpfe,". The peplos korè is a freestanding statue carved in stone. The korè statue represents a young woman who died before she could be given away in marriage. Korè means "daughter," and the statue is a funerary monument that greets the living along the access road to the city or to a temple. No two korè statues are alike, and each has individual characteristics in style, posture, dress and face. They are not depicted naked but wear a beautifully decorated colourful peplos, a wool robe. Greek statues were always painted. The white marble statue is the substructure, and without paint it is incomplete. Colour was expensive, and a statue richly decorated with lots of colour showed that a korè belonged to a wealthy family. The statues that stood in the open lost their colour, but those that were excavated have mostly been able to retain the colour. After the Persian War in 480 BCE, many of these statues were buried in the sacred ground of the Acropolis, where they were excavated in the 19th century.



The korè statues were made in a transition period from an ancient Eastern culture to a new Western culture. In the East, women had important roles such as amazons, priestesses, and goddesses who watched over women's health. In ancient times Greek culture changed from East to West within the same geographical place. The mythical stories do away with the old Eastern influences to make way for a new form of thinking. In the 6th century BCE Greece changed towards democracy, patriarchy, money with coins minted by polis, laws written down and the slave trade was an essential part of the economy in the Athenian empire during the Attic-Delian League. Slavery was an economy model, every family owned slaves to do the work for them. Athens had slaves in the silver mines and in the administration, working for the men who invented the foundations of European philosophy, arts and sciences. Along with these new thinkers came the new myths tailored to the new society. For example, Athena is born from the head of Zeus, a woman who comes into the world immaculate. Athena with her owl is a woman conceived by men: she is heroic, has a helmet and spear, and is not afraid to go to war. The opposite is the much older titan Medusa, a woman who can turn people into stones by just looking at them. The animal worshipping Medusa was transformed from the Eastern style of Potnia Theron and Ishtar into an ugly monster that wouldn't listen to reason and was murdered by Perseus.



The clear eyed, divine and warlike Athena also stands in stark contrast to the korè. The real korè, as a daughter, lives at home with her parents in ancient Greece and witnesses a culture where women have no voice. Women literally had to remain silent. They are not allowed in the agora. They must stay in the house except to fetch water or clean the family tomb. In public, they must be veiled. Their work consisted of weaving and taking care of the children. Only priestesses and prostitutes are allowed to participate in public festivities and they have a little bit more freedom. Women are not allowed to study, they are not allowed to attend symposia, they are not allowed to speak up in public, and men are not encouraged to speak about their wives either so that every trace of their voices disappears. These women have nothing to decide for themselves and are under the guardianship of their father, husband or brother.  


On April 24, 1921, women were allowed to vote for the first time in Belgium, giving them their own voice in our democracy. The equal right to vote for women dates back to 1948, when they were given the same right to vote as men. 


A text to go with the painting 'Portrait of a Korè' made in 2021 for WARP, exhibited in Madonna's Web.

For further reading: Peter Hunt, Ancient Greek and Roman Slavery, 2017, Wiley-Blackwell; and Mary Beard, Women & Power, 2017, Liveright.



The Lesbian Gaze

Series of 10 oil paintings, 50x30cm, 2020


The portraits are deliberately not finished, the canvas is visible and the face is not complete. A lesbian identity can only be recognised when it is acknowledged, you only see what you know. Especially women who grow up with too little lesbian representation see themselves through the gaze of a cis-male, heterosexual society and environment. This creates voids in the recognition of who they are. These voids are reflected in the white canvas that is visible in the portraits.


These paintings were shown during the event of  'Intersectional Writing' at Kartonnen Dozen, the ever inspiring LGBTQI+ bookshop in Antwerp. While the subject of the paintings is the lesbian identity, it is important to stress that 'lesbian' is as inclusive as possible and the portraits difference in class and ethnicity. The lesbian shown here as portrait nr 7 is a trans woman and painted specifically as someone who did discover a lot about who she is, while in reality the representation for trans people is still to be improved.



Unsuspected Violets

Installation of 3 flags in oil on wool and silk, 30 labels in wool, silk and kevlar, 2021


The work 'Unsuspected Violets' is a combination of flags and labels that are placed in the trees of the park Hof de Bist, waving high from the beech branches along the paths. They are made specifically for the exhibition 'Point of No Return', curated by Benny Van den Meulengracht-Vranx with art works brought together on climate change.


During my walk in Hof de Bist, I came across a small group of woodland violets, unexpected and moving in their simple beauty. They were the inspiration to make wool and silk flags to mark the locations where inconspicuous plants grow. The woodland violets on the flags are drawn after the violets in Emily Dickinson's Herbarium, which she started in 1846 and it still exists today. The title refers to a poem in which the violets are the silent witnesses of her feelings for Susan. The labels are each described with a word from her poems, they connect feelings with plants like the 'unsuspected violets' from the title. Unsuspected Violets is a work that draws attention to the invisible nature of lesbian identity, it makes language visible, it shows the plants that Emily writes about, it refers to being a lesbian and being invisibly different. Ecology and identity are central to this work of drawings and texts on fabrics. The changes in the climate are not something that happens outside of us, we are part of this and to understand how this affects us we need to become aware of our 'environmental identity' (to use Susan Clayton's words). Unsuspected Violets is a work on creating awareness of our own identity, it could possibly be lesbian, it must certainly be environmental.





To-no is a self-published book about words. The book contains the collected texts by the artists Yoko Enoki, Koyuki Kazahaya and Eline De Clercq. These short texts borrow words from Dutch, English and Japanese that can’t be exactly translated in order to explain what can’t be said in our own words. Inspired by Virginia Woolf’s essay ‘On Craftmanship’ this book is about sharing words between cultures.

To-no is an open project and continues to gather essays by artists who use their experiences in art and cultures to share words. The texts are both in English and in the first language of the artists. This first publication is an unedited limited edition of 25 handmade books riso printed at the Frans Masereel centre, none of the books are for sale. Instead the book functions as an artwork and can be added to exhibitions and when someone wants to read it they can find the entire text online:


About the authors:

Yoko Enoki is a painter who lives in Yokosuka, Japan. She got her bachelor in painting at Tsukuba university and her master in fine arts at Royal Academy of fine arts Antwerp.



Koyuki Kazahaya is a visual artist who lives in Brussels. She got her master in printmaking at Musashino Art university, 2nd master in fine arts at Royal Academy of fine arts Antwerp and Manama at Sint Lucas Antwerp. http://koyuki-kazahaya.blogspot.com/



Eline De Clercq is a painter who lives in Antwerp, she got her master in fine arts at KASK Ghent.