Συνέντευξη athens news «The enigma machine»
by Christy Papadopoulou 16 Jan 2011
The enigma machine
UPON encountering Adrianos’ paintings, the viewer is often puzzled by artwork that is paradoxically both cryptic and unmistakeably apocalyptic.
His large-sized oils (measuring approximately 2×1.3m) and smaller works (30x50cm) uniformly make for allegorical observations on human nature. They do so by connoting rather than revealing, a statement made clear in Adrianos’ upcoming exhibition that opens on January 18 at the Ekfrassi-Yanna Grammatopoulou Gallery in Kolonaki.
In a wide-ranging interview, the low-profile artist remained deliberately vague when asked about the intent of his work, insisting he wants to leave exhibition visitors to find the visual clues for themselves.
“If I say something very specific,” explains the 36-year-old mononymous artist, “there is the danger of sticking to that alone and missing all the rest.”
Adrianos treats his paintings as riddles that require solving. “It all starts from a thought,” he says, “something that preoccupies me and which I need to paint in order to deal with it.”
He begins working on a painting by producing a succession of preliminary sketches before he takes to the canvas with oils.
“I try to structure my thought, to make it more naturalistic,” he says, “and by bringing it to life to find an answer to what’s bothering me.”
Adrianos’ paintings depict people experiencing some unintelligible tragic circumstances. Mainly pictured nude, they seem to roam the world just prior to or after a catastrophe.
“I believe that my painting has mainly to do with the subconscious and human instincts,” says Adrianos, whose work “Instinct” won him an honorary distinction last year at the 4th Beijing International Art Biennale.
Cities enveloped in flames and ominously dark skies make for a dramatic background which further accentuates the paintings’ allegorical references to human vices such as lust in the work entitled “Beginning”, or greed in “Choices”.
The natural world often contrasts with his apocalyptic visions, with the foreground of alienating landscapes sometimes populated by a microcosm of snails, butterflies or salamanders.
Most chillingly, an oft-appearing human skull – either occupying a corner of a composition or distorted to provide the two ends of an hourglass – makes for an omnipresent reminder of human vanity in relation to the only certainty in life – that of death.
Despite their wretched state, the ailing figures in Adrianos’ paintings are treated with tenderness. An all-embracing cave – a recurring motif in his work – offers refuge and solace.
Quite often the painter resorts to self-portraits. “Your own self is the ideal model,” he says. “He stays still and is always available.”
From here to eternity
Adrianos’ compositions could readily be interpreted as visual references to humanity’s cul-de-sacs with regard to the modernday individual’s feelings of alienation and abandonment. The painter, however, shies from the social role of the artist obliged to comment on contemporary reality.
“My concern is more about eternal issues,” he says. “I am interested in getting to know humans as they’ ve always been and not just as they are today.”
He notes his interest in anthropology, Homo sapiens and cave people, “because this is where we came from”.
In addition to revealing aspects of the human soul, his paintings are also studies in illumination. “Light needs a great deal of shade to come through. The more shade there is in a painting, the higher the chances for a tiny light to shine.”
Asked about his favourite painters, he cites Leonardo da Vinci, Titian and Jusepe de Ribera, all of whom were masters in how they rendered light.
“There are painters like Flemish Renaissance Pieter Bruegel, whom I discovered in my work subconsciously in the course of working on my painting ‘Choices’.”
The son of painter Maria Ktistopoulou, Adrianos (born Adrianos Sotiris) studied at the Athens Fine Arts School under Dimitris Mitaras and Zaharias Arvanitis.
He is critical of seeing art as a commodity.
When he started working on his third solo exhibition he was taken aback by the negative reaction of his closest friends and acquaintances who pointed to his work’s anti-commercial character stemming from the oeuvre’s lack of decorative appeal in the conventional sense.
“Out of stubbornness, I decided to go towards hyperbole to see what would come out of it,” he says. He refrains from seeing his art as a moneymaking profession. “That could easily turn into a trap at the expense of painting.”
Bringing to mind John the Baptist-related imagery, the heavily symbolic work entitled “Double Self Portrait” portrays the artist holding his own severed head.
“We mutilate art,” he says, “in the name of profit.”