Vasilios Paspalis — suberiority
Past: April 18 → May 11, 2013
I believe that there is a difference between a portrait and any other kind of imagery. Portraiture is a medium itself, in the sense that the viewer who looks at a portrait enters a certain “mode” of looking. This is “induced” by the use of the exterior form of the portrait. When looking at a person depicted in a portrait, an expectation of a story or a narrative is generated in the viewer, which leads them to collect information, for example from the dress of the figure, or the background of the painting, to enable them to construct this narrative. This need emerges from the spontaneous identification of the viewer with the depicted figure; the narrative, produced by the viewer and filtered with their own perceptions and subconscious expectations, serves as a link between the viewer and the portrait. This is why there is a powerful emotional reaction when looking at a portrait, much different than when looking at a still life or a landscape.
I am not interested in the depicted figure as such. In my work, the person, figure is used as a vehicle to induce the “mode” of looking at a portrait. The viewer is invited into constructing narratives, only to realize that these narratives make no sense. The elements of the portrait do not provide any coherent information about the background, the history or any familiar framework where to place the depicted figure. My work resists linear, conventional narrative by offering several, simultaneous narratives, fragments of stories which when combined appear incoherent. The viewer is confronted with the absence of narrative; they are invited to solve a mystery that cannot be solved. There is no other choice than to abandon any attempt to create a story that makes sense. The painting subsequently becomes a portrait of a state of mind, rather than of an individual. This is still communicated in the context of the very powerful emotional expectation that is generically evoked by looking at a portrait.
What is portrayed now, however, is a notion, the concept of power and submission. Even when two figures are depicted in the painting, they are essentially one element whose primary role is to carry the state of mind, which is essentially portrayed. What emerges in most of my images is an endless struggle of power; a constant change of roles between superiority and submission, without ever knowing who is able to abuse and who is willing to be abused.
I am interested in the tension within the space between my characters, rather than the characters per se and what they might represent. They are merely vehicles of concepts, forms and energy. What matters is the fragile product of their confrontation. The image captures a moment just before or immediately after an event that is unclear itself.
Digital drawing technology becomes the extension of the hand, a translation of movements into codes that finally result in a printed, mechanized. The exterior form of hand-drawing as gesture is mimicked by the electronic tools used: an electronic pen and a flat surface to draw on; the rules are identical except the fact of watching the drawing outcome onto a different surface: this disjunction and sensory displacement means loosing the sight of your hand at work, trusting it somehow more. Digital drawing then becomes a less controlled, more spontaneous gesture. The immaterial drawing on one surface appears then on another temporary surface (screen), to finally end printed on paper. This process forms a “circle”, that starts from the craft and the traditional method of drawing and through the digital processes then returns to paper. The main difference is that traditional hand-drawing on paper happens there and then, every new line physically embedded into the final piece of paper, engraving the surface, leaving physical trace, whereas in digital drawing the line is encoded, as pure information, decoded onto screen displayed by light, to be later translated onto physical material — for example a sheet of paper. Through this coding and decoding of the hand movement, something gets lost, some degree of the physical control and I consider this a challenge. In this way I attempt to overcome the limits of the technology, using my traditional drawing skills translated into new media. The juxtaposition of the traditional and the new media makes the images production difficult to pin down in place in time.
The digital screen space offers the possibility of scaling, the zoom options stretch the drawing space into a micro-universe of detail, where every decision of adding a minute stroke, a dot… is able to affect and change the whole surrounding area, and be an active, visible building particle of the imaginary. The drawn line is reduced to the smallest possible point (dot), the image is broken down into millions of parts, each equally important in forming the whole. The trace of my hand — the dot — is present but from a distance, and therefore the notion of the original disappears, it is not any more about the artwork as an object, as the aura of the work is removed from the surface, hidden behind the uniformity of encoded digital information. The subject of the image therefore remains central, using the exterior form of portrait to make the viewer try and fail to create consistent meaning and narrative. The viewer remains puzzled not only by the image itself, but by the technique involved.
Opening Thursday, April 18, 2013 6 PM → 9 PM
17, rue Notre-Dame de Nazareth
Wednesday – Saturday, 2 PM – 7 PM
Other times by appointment