When the painter’s multi-prismatic workshop
bursts out, through its windows, to the outside world
to narrate archetypal legends.
PART ONE: WHEN THE VIEWER’S EYE FOLLOWS A BIRD’S ORBIT AND RUSHING UPON THE GROUND, IT VIEWS UNUSUAL SITUATIONS
It is as if the viewer’s eye is landing on the room’s atmosphere from a free flight in the air, as though it is nearly touching the table placed in the middle and then rushing out of the door, through the widely open door, just to meet a lighthouse standing on the cape at the far end of the landscape. Such an orbit is a steady element in most of these paintings. It leaves behind an underlying feeling of retrogressive movement, one that turns back to its origins, after having swung like a pendulum fixed on the roof of this strange room where the paintings are set.
Whatever meets our eyes is clearly depicted. A table in the middle of the room seems to have been painted by a Byzantine artist so that it can be seen through artistic perspective from every corner of the room. Onto it, there are familiar objects of daily life –a wine bottle, filled or empty glasses, packets of cigarettes and match boxes, cutlery, a book, a pair of glasses and the like- along with other objects whose presence surprises us, such as cut off twigs, tiny candle flames emerging from the table’s wooden surface and shadows cast by human heads or arms that must have been set a bit further, at the background. Finally, lying on the floor there are pairs of woman’s shoes or specific outlines of various objects from neon light that reminds us of a bar at night…all these compose the picture that encounters every sidelong glance thrown at the painting.
That is clearly an unusual situation. What might be happening?
PART TWO: WHEN UNUSUAL SITUATIONS GET OUT OF HAND
The situation in the room that Samios describes is pretty disturbed. It looks as if all of the objects were overturned and relocated themselves at random, driven by a mysterious force. Could it have been a strong earthquake that shook the table with everything left onto it, which also knocked the pink neon tube down and made the wood give out sparks or the shadows -cast by some human figures- reveal such intense feelings of agitation and worry, not to say fear?
Based on this thought, the room becomes claustrophobic and the eye looks for a way out towards the open door, where it comes across a first explanation: No, it was not an earthquake since the tall lighthouse at the end of the mainland stands intact and continues to shed its light around, enabling us to stare at the calm sea. With the exception of one or two paintings that present signs of a fire, the outside world does not seem to face a big problem. Thus, we turn our eyes back to the room, feeling increasingly curious.
We pay more attention to details and attempt to give another explanation: If it is not a natural phenomenon, could it be a psychological one?
Then we observe a human head and a hand emerging from the table, whereas in another painting we perceive its palm curbing at a certain point as it is touched by a stick. We see the shadow of a woman’s head meeting a real necklace left on the table as if it actually wore it on. We also observe the other two shadows –a man and a woman on the same painting, naked- who seem to possess strange abilities: she has a head which is burning (without being destroyed) and he seems to have small horns on his head.
“A Nymph and Pan” one might conclude hastily. A love intercourse that has an archetypal meaning, legendary and ever-lasting. Consequently, all disorder caused in the context of the painting is nothing more than an intense, personal, rather love intercourse between a man and a woman. Tension and eroticism.
However, the whole atmosphere may present certain symbols of daily familiarity and entertainment but it also reveals a metaphysical stage, a situation beyond the boundaries of life experiences. The shadows create riddles, give hints, cause a dialogue between “apparent” and “invisible”. It looks as if they came from another, unknown source instead of that familiar, bright one we have seen. The situations depicted and animated by the artist seem to have got out of hand.
PART THREE: THE PAINTER OPENS UP SOME OF HIS CARDS
… but not to have become inextricable since when it is about art, riddles and hints are intrinsic to its own essence just like a scientific text whose essence is nothing else than the rational juxtaposition of its own illustrative arguments.
Then, what does our painter attempt to do?
Does he narrate the consequences of a natural disaster that has already taken place or fears that it is about to come?
Does he talk about an intense love intercourse which leads him into viewing the world in pieces that might be put together later on?
Or does he describe inner fears, nightmares and persistent thoughts that came to light from the depths of his soul and disturb the natural aspects of reality?
The situation seems perplexed; it makes us look out of the room, at the open air where situations appear to be much more peaceful. And what is the role of that lighthouse, standing at the ends of the earth? Why does it shed its light as if in an illustration taken from a children’s book by Jules Vern? Why does it remind us of religious engravings? How come I see in it the setting sun as it is painted in Dürer’s “Melancholy”? A sense of metaphysical revelation is suggested through all these aspects. Is it about revelation?
FOURTH PART (THE END): AN ALLEGORY RISING FROM ART’S DEPTHS OF IMAGINATION
The descriptive character of the pictures the painter present us with can be nothing else than a screen I think to myself, obtaining once again the view in orbit I have described in the first part, going back and forth in that imaginary pendulum movement. The narration of the situations I was led to by what I have seen in these paintings must have its hidden signs. Our painter has set up “traps” on our way so that such signs will go by unnoticed. The key to the dramatic composition of the situations depicted is hidden elsewhere. But where can it be found?
In the notion of “A window to the World” of course! In the very idea of an “opening” created by the door and thus, indirectly, in what was said about paintings during the Renaissance, when they were deemed as a window on the wall allowing us to enter another world. The viewer acts like “Alice in the Wonderland” even if in Samios’ paintings all adventurous, queer events take place on this side of reality, not in another world.
These paintings tell us about Painting itself: Painting is a door or a window that leads to dreams, to all that is kept to the depths of our souls.
A Platonic approach? The shadows cast on the cave’s walls that represent human beings and real situations though they remain transient and temporary themselves unless a reference is made to the archetypal Ideas?
At this point, I feel the painted lighthouse’ beams to point at my own inner thoughts.
I remember the artist showing me round the Monastery of Patmos a few months ago, explaining to me the significance of the frescoes in the church during a break we had at the symposium held on the island, in which we have both participated. Samios was describing a fictitious, ideal temple with openings to the natural space, a temple of a poetic nature rather than of a traditional – formal one. Later, I discussed with Efrosini Doxiadi how Byzantium further developed ancient Greek painting and passed it on to Western Europe in Giotto’s era whereas we listened to Alekos Levidis explaining how Plato’s concept of colours survived in the late Byzantine period, of course along with the theories on the role of depiction, that is to say of Painting itself.
As this prompted me to remember that Samios is not only one of the most important painters in his generation but also a successful hagiographer, I turned my eyes on these new paintings of him once again.
And when I re-examined the multi-prismatic perspective of the table standing in the middle of the room that was painted in the Byzantine style, I forgot everything I had thought about years ago regarding Cézanne and rationalized spatial perspective. I felt the light of this typically painted lighthouse expanding and shedding its beams further, not only in the paintings but also in my own inner world of feelings.
Then I had a closer look at the colours in these paintings, particularly at the harmony of shades, the low-lying contrast. The allusive shadows in the paintings may not have disappeared altogether but they were balanced in the framework of a more enlightening explanation. It applied both to me as a viewer and to Samios as the creative and revealing force behind the depictions of each painting.
Now these paintings do not seem to me that they narrate stories of just personal interest, or that they simply depict what takes place in an artist’s workshop; they represent rather an allegory closely linked to Plato’s notion of Ideas. It is about how the painter’s soul explores its own depths at the time of maturity and recognition; how he seeks enthusiasm (en – Deus), the permission to create representations and symbols of the world.
In these paintings, Samios depicts the philosophy of art. Simultaneously, he states his own cultural point of reference, a historical and ever-lasting point that concerns us all.