Nowadays, painting is an art under persecution. Do not allow yourselves to be deceived by the constant discussion about it –which acts as an accomplice- or the existing demand for its products; in fact, its previous, most coveted role has now been assigned to other image “dignitaries”: photography, cinematography, video, the various forms of digital image-production, the computer screen. Inevitably, painters are also under persecution whereas their works of art are used by the craftiest among those who are involved in the applied arts. In this context, the greatest painter-narrator of our times might well have been the prematurely gone Hugo Pratt.
Painters are –after all- the “troglodytes” in the era of technology. They live confined within the boundaries of memory trying to survive until the influx of electronic images is over, the so-called “contemporary Ice-Age”.
Therefore, they hope… On the other hand, their work is addressed to all the more devoted, all the more awakened viewers and, of course, not to lulled consumers. Painting has always sought through its various forms to achieve either consolation (consolatio) or wakefulness. Nowadays it should use the same means so as to express disgust as well. Disgust perceived conceptually according to Niche’s philosophy. Maybe the images it produces –the last outposts for resistance in an undeclared though fierce war- are the final line of defense in order to save the formers’ dignity from those to come. Maybe not… The situation has reached a turning point. That’s why there is a certain obscurity about it, that’s why we are talking about a crisis in this field… Despite the existing excessive offer in art work which indicates why there is an inability to understand it or a lack of interest in it or -what is far more important- a superfluous relation to artistic creation itself.
Moreover, the audience’s distrust of art work has escalated due to the situation previously described, along with the distrust experienced by art connoisseurs and the creators themselves.
However, painting is like an elderly great-grandmother who still keeps alive her grandchildren’s interest in the story-telling by being able to use endless tricks to change the end in the same old story. It has already been mentioned: nowadays, painting is under persecution. Once it was privileged to define by itself what God looked like… at present the possibility of such divine presence depiction is seriously under question and the good, long-used methods simply do not suffice for that purpose. In our times “the pack of cards is re-shuffled”.
Yet, the elderly great-grandmother has still her ammunition, a hidden ace in her sleeve. However, who will really be able to put them in good use?
Pavlos Samios, primarily, benefits from his own memories. He resorts to them even when he seems to evade them. The experiential images deriving from a blessed childhood do not serve as an alibi; they represent a need for artistic expression. They lead him through the present series of his work. The painter wishes to tell a story and such a wish is considered sacred.
Samios turns back to his past as if he sank in quick sand pleasurably only to grab -at the very last moment- the first, passing image as if it were a rope. In the end, depiction brings “salvation”.
But let’s take first things first.
At first, there was his father’s shoe-workshop, the space where he experienced odors and quite specific aspects of life, the microcosm of daily activity: hammers, shoe-maker’s knives, nails, the leather material and its odor, shoe-lasts, varnish, the blacking colors, the dyes, the male and female customers, bare feet, measurements for human feet, a quick glance at human flesh or a random touch of it, the shoemaker who oversees all that –as a minor deity would do in his tiny heavenly kingdom- the traditional, long-lost craftsmanship.
In “Modern Times” Charlie Chaplin regrets being turned into an “automated” worker performing a single move whereas he used to be a creative craftsman: a traditional shoemaker doing his job. His workshop was something like a small temple, filled with odors, random gazes and unrestricted creation activities.
The whole narration/depiction refers to Greece in the ‘60’s, a quasi-legendary place –still beautiful- a place that will never be like that again. It is at that “place” that Samios concludes his work on memories of the past. The kind of painting he creates to appease such memories is of a tender, dream-like, melancholic nature rather like the way Andromache “had tears in her eyes while laughing”.
His technique in encaustic incites him to be straightforward, spontaneous, and warm. Leather itself often represents for him the most suitable surface to make his nostalgia evident. The uneven outline is fixed on wooden boards with the aid of nails… the work of art is turned into an object. Then, as a reasonable consequence, the painted high-heeled shoes are replaced by real ones of that time. It is about objects that would rather belong to a museum, an imaginary museum meant for desires.
Samios remembers an ancient art respectfully by using the materials found in the old family shoe-workshop. There are no melodramatic aspects in that. He proposes an esthetic equivalent as an antidote to nostalgia. The fetish associated with high-heeled shoes has undergone a transformation. It has been turned into a geographical fetish. Samios knows well how to use contemporary techniques for narration. His work is contemporary. His known, long-established style of painting that depicts long-drawn figures wavering in the air is considerably renewed in this series of his work so as to avoid being standardized.
The choices he makes do him justice in the end. Image-making strikes a balance between dream-like and earthly aspects, between desire and its figuration through fine arts.
The legendary great-grandmother may be satisfied…and hopeful
On a 4th century B.C. pottery vessel found in Magna Graecia which is now exhibited in the New York Metropolitan Museum there is a representation of a painter using encaustic methods so as to decorate the lion’s skin Hercules wears over his shoulder. In the end, certain aspects of life have remained so unaltered throughout centuries that time itself seems to be no more than an [optical] illusion.