Mariella Bilitsa’s artistic instincts began at an early age. Painting from as far back as she can remember, it didn't take long for her to realise that being a painter was the path she most desired. Describing painting as a “way of life”, her creative eye is always on the lookout: “wherever I go I pick out figures and then I compose them into a story.” This observational quality is the defining feature of Mariella’s pieces. Featuring cigarette smoking men doing the dishes and women lounging with a glass of wine, Mariella’s pieces are intimate snapshots of day-to-day life. Since the pandemic, Mariella has been applying her scenes to tapestries and (with the help of her sculptor partner) she has also successfully dabbled in ceramic design. Seemingly, her creativity sees no bounds.
Born in Argyrokastro, Albania, Mariella moved to Athens as a young child, where she spent most of her youth. Going on to graduate from the Department of Visual and Applied Arts University of Western Macedonia, she is now back in Athens where she works as a primary school art teacher. Applying a “simple and raw” approach to her artwork, Mariella is a natural fit in helping children to discover their creativity.
Whilst Mariella intends for her work to be “comical”, she also seeks to challenge and raise questions about Greek society. In one of her favourite pieces – The Man Who Washes the Clothes – she attests to using visual “stereotypes”: moustache, cigarette and yellow washing gloves. This, she hoped, would create an image that felt incongruous, but also one that “we must finally accept as a society.” One of her more “spontaneous” pieces – a “conservative” woman sipping on a traditional Greek coffee with a nude portrait of a woman behind her – Mariella sees as a “complete contrast” to the former. Through this work, Mariella wants to offer her viewers the freedom of interpretation. Is the painting a more free and uninhibited portrait of the subject, or is it a lover, proudly displayed on her wall? Naked or half-dressed women reoccur regularly in Mariella’s work, and she is unapologetic in her portrayal. Bodies are depicted in all shapes and sizes, often with luscious curves and pubic hair painted with brilliant abandon.
Mariella's move to ceramic design was mutually inspired by lockdown boredom and a desire to see her “drawings on another material besides the canvas.” And, we’re sure she's impressed with the result. The simplistic white plates and bowls are brought to life by her playful painting. Her everyday scenes fit in the circular boundaries perfectly and her uninhibited painting style translates well to the patchy, volatile glaze. Ceramic design has also presented Mariella with a more tactile medium, in which she finds such enjoyment because “it’s so malleable and at the same time so sensitive.” Passionate and deeply immersed in such varied forms of artistic expression, Mariella’s creative approach is one to be admired.
Mariella Bilitsa: The Man Doing the Dishes (Copyright © Mariella Bilitsa, 2021)
About the Author
Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.