Maro Vandorou, “ΨΑΠΦΟΙ [SAPPHO]”


Maro Vandorou
Bay Area, California

Hand drawn abstract marks on Gampi paper using a ruling pen and white ink. Loose Usujo Gampi folios within chemises of handmade Abaca, Japanese style book enclosures with Indo Islamic indigo and Gampi papers.
Folios: Height 16″, Width 5″; Enclosure: Height 17 5/8″ , Width 6″ , Depth 1/2″

Artist Statement

ΨΑΠΦ ΟΙ [SAPPHO] is an artist book that conceptualizes the poetry of Sappho in a visual form, by “interpreting” the remaining 192 fragments of her oeuvre using abstract, minimalistic marks. The language of abstract marks captures the structure and preserves the flow of each fragment; it is a language that documents the presence or haunting absence of individual letters or words, a language that yields a unique visual representation for each fragment.

Sappho was a was a seventh-century B.C. lyric poet from the island of Les[1]bos. Very little is left of Sappho’s poems and that in fragments of papyrus or parchment. The Library of Alexandria catalogued nine “books” scrolls of Sappho’s poems organized primarily by meter. it is assumed that all nine volumes might have contained 10000 lines of verse. However, only 650 lines of verse, 192 fragments remain. There is one complete poem, Frag[1]ment 1, and the newly discovered “Brother’s poem”; 124 fragments consist of less than ten words, twenty-one fragments are only one word long.

The book explores conceptual, scholarly, and visual design issues: what constitutes the best unit for translating Sappho’s fragments into abstract marks? Letters, syllables, words? how can we best capture and represent the internal rhythm and flow of each fragment? And how do we link the unique visual signature of each fragment back to the original text in ancient Greek, in the esoteric Aeolic dialect?

In a variable edition of three formats, white ink and a vintage ruling pen are used for mark-making on precious Gampi paper (Sekishu Torinoko Gampi folded in eight like a map, or the barely there Usujo Gampi, an extinct trea[1]sure, no longer handmade.)

Numbers and sequencing of fragments follow the 1971 classical edition by Eva Maria Voigt, and the 2003 translation by Ann Carson, “If not Winter: Fragments of Sappho.” The numbers provide the link between the visual representation and the original text.