Jannis Varelas was born in 1977 in Greece. He is a graduate of the Royal College of Art in London (MFA) and the Athens School of Fine Arts (BA).
Varelas unveils the surprising side of banal elements in everyday life. Playfully fusing abstraction and realistic representation, his paintings explore lived spaces through a myriad of collage-like details. He constructs the reality from fragments: like in archeological excavations, lived moments are presented to us in a seemingly arbitrary composition of random traces. We are shown a lighter lying on a packet of cigarettes, a small stained cloth resembling the head of a mythical creature, food leftovers shaped as a happy face: when seen from a specific perspective, these insignificant remnants suggest a different reality that can open up to a new dimension, full of possibilities. The signs and symbols in Varelas’ work resemble automatic painting or children’s drawings, with added dynamism deriving from the artist’s highly physical, expressive technique. His work reflects on social issues and the plight of humanity in world history, but the thematic content is expressed in a web of subtle allusions that spontaneously follow the artist’s irrational trains of thought.
Varelas’ work has been exhibited widely around the world at venues such as the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, London’s Saatchi Gallery and the Kunsthalle Wien.
Varelas lives and works between Los Angeles, Vienna and Athens.
Selected Solo Shows
- Hot Springs, MARUANI MERCIER, Brussels, 2017
- A Duck and a Crutch, Krinzinger Gallery, Vienna, 2016
- New Flags for A New Country / Destroying Elvis, Onassis Cultural Center, Athens, 2016
- Common People, James Fuentes Gallery, New York, 2016
- New Flags for a New Country, The Breeder, Athens, 2015
- Sleep My Little Sheep Sleep, Contemporary Arts Center of Cincinnati, Ohio, curated by Xenia Kalpaktsoglou, 2012
- Brown Box and The Broken Theater, Krinzinger Gallery, Vienna, 2012
- The Oblong Box, Kunsthalle Athena, Athens, 2011
- Brandybell Series, Autocenter, Berlin, 2010
- Blue Soldier-Opera Costumes, The Breeder, Athens, 2009
Selected Group Shows
- Fireflies in the Night Take Wing, curated by Robert Storr, Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, Athens, 2016
- Ametria, curated by Roberto Cuoghi, DESTE Foundation and Benaki Museum, Athens, 2015
- Paper - works from the Saatchi Collection, Saatchi Gallery, London, 2013
- Hell As Pavillion, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, curated by Nadja Argyropoulou, 2013
- DESTE Prize 2011, Museum of Cycladic Art, Athens, 2011
- Skin Fruit: Selections from The Dakis Joannou Collection, curated by Jeff Koons, New Museum, New York, 2010
- Lebt und arbeitet in Wien III: Stars in a Plastic Bag, Kunsthalle Wien, curated by Xenia Kalpaktsoglou, Raphaela Platow, Olga Sviblova and Angela Stief, 2010
- Cairo Biennial, curated by Ehab Ellaban, 2010
- New Orleans Biennial Prospect 1, curated by Dan Cameron, New Orleans, 2008
- Destroy Athens, 1st Athens Biennial, curated by Xenia Kalpaktzoglou, Poka Yio and Augustine Zenakos, Athens, 2007
Selected Private and Public Collections
- Hort Family Collection
- Saatchi Collection
- Dakis Joannou Collection
- Zabludowicz Collection