A cigarette pocket – one of those flat onesa which you can’t get any more – lying at random next to a pair of women’s shoes – a stereotyped erotic fetish – a half-open box of matches, a letter as yet undelivered, a pair of glasses, a half-empty bottle of wine, a glass… And all these things scattered on the table whose sides do not form right angles. This is because it, in its turn, it is suspended in a universe made of the waters of the sea or, simply, the darkness of the night. In the background, next to a misty half-moon, the glow of the lighthouse, like some kind of threat made of light, of the same light which comes through the windows of the house with its tiled roof as it hovers, as if it has lost its gravity, of the same light as that emitted by the neon of the fish.
Or rather, no. The latter is something else. Electric pink attempts to dominate with all the power of its eloquent symbolism on the surface of the picture. The subject of the painting of Pavlos Samios is first of all this surface.
What are its materials? It suffices to answer that question to look a bit further down, at the other, at the surface of the picture next to it, which shows that woman with the flame-breathing dragon. The embrace, fatal though erotic, has the anointing of innocence and of a dream, like the closed eyes of the woman who has abandoned herself to sleep. The various symbolisms, some manifest and some covert, invite you to decode them: a fragment of mythology, a phrase from Christianity – the fish – in general terms, a Greek seascape.
However, to return to the picture of the table, which from painting to painting seems like an obsession, it is clear that a ‘symbolic reading is not quite right. Is it the insignificance of the objects which is responsible for this? Is it the organisation of the space? What is certain is that these objects mark out their own space more than they symbolise a universe which is outside them.
It is as if you have to do with one of those makeshift museums which archaeologists set up next to their excavations in order to organise a first classification of their finds. In these the corners are not at right angles, because the objects which they are called upon to describe or to protect are pending on the borderline between the certainty of their existence and the uncertainty of our knowledge. They have come out of the earth, but the silence which envelopes them, doubt about their future – no one yet knows whether they will go into the showcases or the storerooms of the great museum still clothe them with the inwardness of the space within.
The subject of the painting of Pavlos Samios is precisely this state of suspense, this point in time on the cusp – of the moment when the shape rises up from within you, to leave its frace on reality. Each object, even the most insignificant, becomes in this way the fragment, the shell of a Protean inner world, a shadow which has emerged into the light and has caught fire.
I am neither a historian or a critic of art. I am a man who loves painting and will not trade for anything the elation which I feel when I come face to face with it, when, that is, I stand in front of some work which convinces me that what I see out there, with my own eyes, is the material of an inner world which has touched the light and my feelings without being consumed by the flames, without losing anything of its ambiguity, its enigmatic life, the reason for its existence.
I know, then, that when I say that Pavlos Samios translates with the materials of his painting this borderline suspension between the inner and the outside world, it is as if I am saying that he does what painting has been doing since the first painter was born upon earth. However, this too is important: today, it requires great imagination and even greater courage to be conservative. After the fascinating, but arrogant, explosion of the post century, now that we hove become convinced that art can only be art – otherwise it has no raison d’être – it is of importance when one sees someone attempting to put together again the terms of the game while assimilating the experience of defeat.
Today, when we have seen where the levelling down of everything by artistic and cultural events has led us, it is of importance to come face to face with the power of the work, with the power of this inwardness. Art culture produces events, painting produces works, commonly called evidence of inwardness. If we have any reason to go on producing art it is because after the nightmare of psychoanalysis, after the arrogance of symbolisms which we have created in order to interpret our existence, this inwardness continues to concern us.
I have left to the end the sui generis nature of this inner space which Samios brings out into the light, the character of the seascape, of that green, almost black, which seems to have escaped from the tunic of some Pantocrator, as if somewhere, in its half-light, a seeing look is lying in wait for you, ready to seize you when you think that you have brought it to heel.
And I have left this to the end not because it is the least important item, but because it is the most easily misunderstood.
In the age of the First World Culture in History, he who would attempt to entrench the terms of his imagination is like one who tries to set boundaries to prevent the passage of radio-activity after an accident at a nuclear power-station. In ordinary language, he runs the risk of becoming picturesque.
Nevertheless, however picturesque the reproduction of the terms of ‘Greekness’ may be nowadays, the drama of its persistence is equally interesting and fruitful. The issue is not that we should devise stage sets which may fill us with tenderness or nostalgia -except that, deep down, we feel that these do not concern us. The issue is for us to be able to see our sacred space, there where even the most insignificant moment wins its vital meaning when it comes info the light, like the rainbow behind that window, when you do not know whether that window opens on to the inner or the outside landscape.
These fragments, shells of the obsolete world which is our world, mark the archaeology of a life which is our life. And this is the power of the painting of Pavlos Samios.