A photographic installation by Bill Henson
ONEIROI sets out to inspire discussion about what it means to be custodians of an ancient past and captures the way in which our history, culture and art shape the way in which we make sense of our own world.
ONEIROI was the first major art commission by the Hellenic Museum, setting out to inspire dialogue between the aesthetics of the ancient past and today.
ONEIROI is a unique collaboration between the Hellenic Museum, Benaki Museum in Athens and contemporary artist Bill Henson. It is housed permanently at the Hellenic Museum.
The Spirits of Dreams
The contemporary works in ONEIROI incorporate five historical objects from the Benaki Museum collection, on display in the exhibition Gods, Myths & Mortals; including a 3500-year-old gold cup, an Ottoman period necklace and the knife which once belonged to a revolutionary leader. The objects reflect the rich and varied nature of Greek history and the ways in which Greece has evolved through the ages.
Despite spanning millennia, the Benaki treasures included within each of the portraits still appear breathtakingly modern. They are unique pieces individually created by artists and craftspeople whose aesthetics and skill are testament to a cultures dedication to design innovation.
Henson’s technical and aesthetic approach to his work, his structure, composition and his use of light and shadow add an ethereal quality to the works. His invocation of the Oneiroi, the spirts of dreams, as elusive as the shadows of memory which make up the past, transform the objects from static artefacts, to objects alive with purpose.
Henson’s technical and aesthetic approach sets him apart from other contemporary photographers and he cites a variety of historical painters as influences in his work. Although Henson uses photography as his media, his artworks are not documentary in style. “One of the great problems with the nature of photography is that people are accustomed to seeing a photograph as authoritative evidence, as proof of something.” (Bill Henson, interview with Janet Hawley, 2000) The ONEIROI series is neither documentary or narrative, instead Henson desired to create a space between dream and reality. Hence the name ONEIROI. The Oneiroi are the spirits of dreams in Greek mythology who emerged each night from the land of eternal darkness beyond the rising sun.