When studying Pavlos Samios’ work and tracing back his career in art for over twenty years, one cannot help noticing the successive stages in a constant re-evaluation of his entourage in depiction along with the points he makes reference to. As one of the artist who go against the trend of recent abstraction and of concepts juxtaposed to the depicted object –thus bringing forward the debate about depiction once again- Pavlos Samios does not hesitate to propound his faith in painting on canvass that continues to give a chance of reviewing the relation between art and reality by drawing elements and methods from painting’s own past. His continuous “encounters” with master painters, the leading figures in avant guard painting or previous, classical- style painters as well as with the country’s tradition in painting –of antique and byzantine eras- poses again the problem of our links to the past in his work, not in the form of unproductive nostalgia for the past but rather as a belief and awareness of the fact that an artist is both the recipient and the transmitter of his cultural heritage. Such an acceptance results in a new approach to questions that contemporary art has long neglected like the importance of the subject, the new role the form of the story representation plays, the re-creation of the setting for a story by searching for points of reference in the history of art itself. Indeed, one can realize that Pavlos Samios’ work of art, from the mid-70’s when it was first presented till the present day, represents the framework for an ongoing dialogue taking place before the viewer’s very eyes as both real or imaginary experience are fleshed out and dreams, life or love are turned into reality.
When the artist was in Paris in the mid-70’s, the crowded streets with the modern lighting, the shops full of customers and the life in luxurious places were all incentives that would lead him to the creation of his own story. Naked or half-naked women, lonely ones, absorbed in their dreams or –when there are more than one people- in a silent dialogue, women standing up next to a door, sitting in front of a window or at the side of a bed, on expensive chairs in luxurious condominiums, women seated in overcrowded cafes enjoying life and love. Girls bearing multiple traces of classic antiquity- from the figures in funerary stelae to the “Nuptial Scenes” created by his teacher- the painter Giannis Moralis: contented female figures, satisfied with their physical existence like the ones painted by his other teacher, Nikos Nikolaou. The amorous dimension and the response that it creates derive from these bodies so full of sensuality that dominate in space, space organized strictly in a geometrical surface pattern which observes the rules of style, order, harmony.
Yet, suddenly everything changes in the mid- 80’s. The strict pattern organization of geometrical scenes has given its place to daring movement that the artist conceives in a dynamic way, incorporates and puts in order though without weakening its impetus. Bodies that seem heavy and full of expressive power, bodies which move around in a space that no longer suffices to act as a frame for such impetus and passion. Scenes of various projections of the same figure that seem to unravel its multiple appearances, which form a new approach in narration as the human figures in a standardized, hairless appearance tell their story only through their body poses. The story itself seems to be larger than the strict limitations of the paintings frame so, at times, it adopts a triptych form where each part has the dimensions required by the artist. In other cases, the concept of infinity is depicted through the fragmentary representation of parts of the body or through contraction in the painting’s perspective as it is the case in frescos. Thus, his painting becomes conceptual from traditional and as space is filled with a variety of aspects –dragons, fire, smoke, clouds- it requires the viewer’s active participation in revealing its hidden messages and referring them to the artist’s ideas. Dense, thick outline, dynamic contrasts between surfaces painted in light or dark colors, a figuration that is reminiscent of the Byzantine art, subjects that throng with references to the Greek orthodox religious painting –like flames that have always been a symbol of divine revelation- the dragons appearing in the apocalypse, the very hand of God that guides every move made by human beings, all that bear testimony to the artist’s profound relationship to tradition.
This style of expression adopted by Samios –characterized by vigorous, spinning moves in a rather chaotic space- went on throughout the 80’s and though his painting focuses on simple, daily facts- a birth, family relations, human contact- still, the relationship between people remains suspended somewhere between the earth and the skies, a relation that has never ceased trying to evade the painting’s strictly defined frame, that pre-arranged space which keeps transforming itself through the various perspectives and appearances.
It is this relationship between people that would preoccupy the artist all the more often in the present decade. Although his figures are drawn in a more stylistic form but with unaltered boldness in drawing and are characterized by an overwhelmingly refined use of colors –which acquires a more lyric tone- yet they attempt to walk on their tiptoes like acrobats do, to keep up their “love affair” connection. The artist’s steady hand gives shape and rhythm to his pictures using his line that is interrupted at times by a “void” which, in turn, forms an integral part of the composition. The strict, geometrical pattern which is now defined by colors instead of shapes and the enhancement of the surrounding outline contribute to the monumental peacefulness of the general composition.
The approach to human relationships adopted by Samios also applies to the present time and to the bonds –likewise powerful and interwoven with our human nature- that associate humans with natural environment and their activities within it. In Samios’ work, human beings are an integral part of the Creation, seen in uninterrupted unity with nature itself- as their primitive relation to the earth and the sea declares its presence. Such a relation –which seems glorifying as the light shines upon a human figure when planting a tree or fishing in a boat- seeks no more than to clearly show the sheer harmony in which humans can co-exist with their natural environment, along with a feeling of nostalgia for a paradise to be lost.
Human activity closely linked to daily struggle for survival and the relationships that have stemmed inevitably from it are also given a key role to another series of the artist’s work focusing on his experiences in his father’s shoe-workshop. The painter, having already acquainted himself with a particular use of surfaces for the development of his story-telling, uses pieces of real leather so as to define through them his memories from precious scenes and beloved images. His father is the dominating figure, usually to be found in the center of the scene, whilst a woman client is seated at one corner of the workshop and the artist himself appears somewhere –at first young, a tiny figure, not so important but who gradually becomes an adult man- among numerous pairs of shoes that remain the very symbol not only of female elegance and charm but also of eroticism.
As Samios has a profound knowledge of our tradition in art, he does not hesitate to use various materials not due to a desire to practice all his dexterities in technique but because this very use is integrated in the conceptual function of his work. As his father’s work is inferred from the use of leather, similarly the use of fresco in the recent years aims at depicting –in a spontaneous, genuine manner needed by the material itself- daily stories in human life, scenes that occur in favorite places, objects that symbolize memories. The narration, while keeping the artist’s interest unaltered at all times, enriches the composition with a variety of elements each of them telling its own story of. Human figures are always present. Even when they are not seen in a painting, their presence is inferred from a piece of clothing or a certain activity. Although the subject is the predominant element even in this series of work, yet the blending of all these elements in a space entity inherent in these works of art represents nothing more than the artist’s particular concept of space, space in which every element must take its place: everything that have their own story to tell, either great or small.