Elena Papanikolakis’ practice utilises painting, collage, text, photography, and drawing to explore the abstraction and suggestion of narrative. Informing her works are fragments of characters, events or scenes gathered from archives of personal and found material. Her practice pivots between representation and abstraction and is concerned with exploring the construction and deconstruction of understanding via painted spaces, words, and photo-based imagery.
She has surrendered herself to the logic of illegibility and, in doing so, examines the mechanisms (and agency) of abstraction. Yet this engagement with abstraction does not simply pivot on an attempt to render familiar form unrecognisable. Rather, by making us conscious of our attempts to negotiate abstraction…Papanikolakis forces us to reflect upon the very act of looking at, and engaging with abstract images.
—Isobel Parker Philip, Curator of Photographs, Art Gallery of New South Wales, from the catalogue essay for the series Unbound, included in Primavera 2017: Young Australian Artists, Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia 2017
Elena received the Ursula Hoff Institute Award for Postgraduate excellence in Visual Art and Music, as part of the National Works on Paper Prize at Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery (2018); the Art Gallery of New South Wales Paris Studio, the Eva Breuer Travelling Art Scholarship and NAVA’s NSW Artists’ Grant (2016). She has undertaken numerous residencies including the Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris (2017) and Parramatta Artist Studios, Sydney (2014–2016).
Her work has been curated into numerous exhibitions including: Primavera 2017: Young Australian Artists at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Parramatta Artist Studios at Artspace, Sydney, New Sacred at Mosman Art Gallery, Mosman and Young Moderns at Penrith Regional Gallery, Penrith.
Recent exhibitions include: The John Fries Award 2019: There is Fiction in the Spaces Between, curated by Miriam Kelly, UNSW Galleries, Sydney (June, 2019); Light Matter at Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney (August, 2019). Elena’s debut solo exhibition at ReadingRoom, Melbourne which will be presented at the gallery in September, 2019.