By Efthymia Georgiadou-Koundoura
Art Historian

Every time I attempt to put into written words what I think and feel about pictures I have seen, I am paraphrasing the principles of the hermeneutic motion as formulated by George Steiner in his seminal work, After Babel. First of all comes the initiative trust in the seriousness of what I am facing; then comes penetration, a ‘violent’ incursion into its interior in order to break its code, decipher and comprehend, then come embodiment and, finally, restitution – as far as possible – of the reciprocal balance between word and image. Throughout the process I am possessed by doubt and fear that I have failed to achieve a fitting harmony between what is represented and what has been written, well knowing that there is far more than what meets the eye in a work of visual art and what words can convey of it.

Aris Georgiou presents his most recent paintings (2008-2010) as the expression of a need for gesture and manual craftsmanship and a direct creative relation with tools and materials, following a long period of engagement with the production of works through the intermediary of camera and computer. As a diary is written, initially, in response to an internal impulse, with –perhaps– no thought of publication, so too works of visual art demand, once created, to be presented and communicated to the viewer, with the result that the act of painting is transformed from a personal affair into a public dialogue.

From a base of operations overlooking the sea in Thasos where he devotes himself to painting, Aris Georgiou endeavours by taming physical visions to convert them into visual events. On canvases large and small, with strong, bright acrylic colours and a distinctive gestural style, he shapes his compositions; preponderantly ‘seascapes’, they form thematic units with titles –sometimes enigmatic, metaphorical or ambiguous– indicative of the place, the time of day, the season, the changes in weather:

From Above, Blue Joni, Night Sky, Orymagdon, Ouragan, Odyssey, Trikymia, Dark Blue, Blue Thunder, Moonlight Hotel, Sundowns, Blazing, Soylent Green, Soylent Purple, Sideways, Seasons, Anastase, Barbeles, Splash, Klein Mein, Off Coast, Off Shore, Genia Chtenia…

The human figure appears but rarely, and when it does is treated as landscape. Man Dozing (2008), an expressionist composition, seems to give human form to the landscape, while the Ladies series (2009) includes female torsos, reminiscent of similar works by Willem De Kooning or some of Georgiou’s own photographs, such as the Captifs au Louvre. Elsewhere, the eye of Georgiou the photographer is obvious in otherwise abstract landscapes rendered as seen from above, like impressions of aerial photographs or scenes shot with a wide-angle lens.

For the artist, however, the object of contemplation is only the immediate motivation and not the final objective, even if his titles designate series with a common theme that is repeated until its expressive possibilities have been exhausted. Aris Georgiou is interested in the act of painting per se, with its particular constituents, its continuous or discontinuous forms, its tranquil or turbulent lines, in the application of thin or thick layers of colour, in the clearly discernible movement of the hand; and he shapes a personal visual idiom that neither refers to metaphysical states nor invites lyrical recollections, but declares the parity of material, creative gesture and finished work. His style reveals his admiration for the abstract expressionism of Rothko, but also recalls the axioms of the exponents of the last French avant-garde movement, “Supports/Surfaces”, in the late ‘60s, as seen primarily in the works of Daniel Dezeuze, Louis Cane and Claude Viallat.

A primary element in Aris Georgiou’s paintings is the austerity of structure that retains its autonomy even when two or three works are grouped to form a diptych or triptych. In these compositions each part of the whole is self-contained, but harmonises and interacts with the others in its forms and colours. The same is true of other compositions as well, where in a painting that is comprised of equally sized parts or contains inserts, these apparent dissidences are brought into a more or less manifest harmony. The applied objets trouvés, which penetrate the surface of the painting, are not presented in their initial form but undergo the interventions necessary to enable them to contribute to the figural and chromatic harmony of the final work.

For all their initial gestural stimulus, the rationalism of the subsequent interventions is apparent in Aris Georgiou’s paintings, and the rule that corrects the emotional impulse places the “inorganic in order”, confirming once again Leonardo da Vinci’s wise saying that art is a matter of the mind.