For a reading above and below the surface

Category : 2014, Interviews

From 2009-2012 the artist Dimitris Xonoglou, professor at the School of Architecture of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki , once again, after an interval of many years, dives into ‘’pure painting’’ with colors and the depiction of volume without the addition of other media. These works are exhibited in his personal exhibition at the Art Gallery of the Cyclades in Syros (August 30-September 30) entitled NIPSON ANOMEMATA ME MONAN OPSIN, which is a Byzantine, Greek palindrome meaning ‘’wash the sins, not only the face’’ . These are portraits, large acrylic paintings on canvas as well as drawings with shellac and gold leaf on cardboard.

This return to ‘’pure painting’’ reveals the need for a confrontation with oneself and a nostalgia for the medium, which was, after all, the main object of his studies at the Academia di belle Arti in Rome. The paintings of Dimitris Xonoglou, “record” human and / or animal faces in reflections as well as combinations of faces with different parts of the body, hinting on the association of man with the natural world, but also with his own nature . The drawings, made from memory, present everyday faces, where the alteration of the form seeks the most complete performance of all the constituent parts of a person. Stylistically, the works of the exhibition are characterized by immediacy and passion for freedom for color, contrasts and correlations together with the studied, autonomous organization of visual relationships (line, color surface) without randomness during implementation.

Question : For the works where human and animal faces coexist in an imaginary Clepsydrae formation, you explained to me that the form at the bottom is the reflection of the mental behaviors of the upper form. Is this concepts of anthropomorphism and zoomorphism a comment of a social and / or psychological nature? Something like an Aesopian metaphor, but without a didactic purpose…

Reply : A choir of young children of African origins from Ano Volga, lying on the sleds that were left behind by an ambulance, sang the following song in the most magical way :

In Guadeloupe, ladies
in Guadeloupe,
there to wait for your beloved one
the wave will wash him away
And if he has ashes in his hair
coins in the eyes
Matisse’s colors in his hands
the height of Picasso
the sassy body of Marlon Brando,
In Guadeloupe, ladies
in Guadeloupe,
there to wait for your beloved one
will walk on the wave
in Puerto Rico’s courtyards
in celestial ports
in one hand will hold
sparkling candy
and on the other seal stone
in the shape of a turtle
In Guadeloupe, ladies
in Guadeloupe
THIS is your beloved one.

You know what, Bush in Düsseldorf in 1963 during the «Siberian Accord» surprised us. Aesop would have never imagined that one of his legends would be made into a work of art by a great European artist of the twentieth century: the hare is not running breathlessly to catch up with the turtle at the finish, but he is hanging dead on the edge of a blackboard with his heart uprooted. How can anyone talk to a dead hare? What kind of conversation could have ? I think that’s the difference: if a Mediterranean artist was inspired by Aesop, I do not think he would amputate a hare, he would have kept it alive in his arms and would have taken care of it, or he would have made a delicious stew out of it. I personally prefer the turtle.

Question : In the drawings that show faces that you have met by chance on the street, you use the alteration of the form to “capture” the many faces that are inherent in one person. How is the concept of time incorporated ? What role does it play in these projects and in the specific choice of technique that you adopt?

Reply : What interests me more in people, is their face. Every day we meet people who catch our interest because they radiate a sweet warmth, serenity, happy mood or repel us with their coldness. We meet looks in the color of salt or burnt sugar, faces cold and mauve, eyes in the color of snow and frost or, again, looks like chrysanthemums and sunflowers, passionate and fiery. We meet people with gestures that are heavy, aggressive, polite, warm, abrupt, scared, relaxed. All this fascinates me or leaf me indifferent and the strange thing is that when I go to paint a face all these images that I had kept in my mind, spring up for any number of reasons. I think we do not need other worlds to expand into the universe, we need a mirror. Other people are our mirror. Thus, the concept of time (before-now-after) is present. Time is here as long as our soul gives birth to it.

Question : The paintings and the drawings of this particular exhibition have a gestural, free, explosive nature. As you have told me, however, there is no coincidence, here the history of art is “integrated”. Can you give some examples?

Reply : I think Malevich’s black square is gestural, free and explosive in nature. It is not the result of Cartesian logic, I do not know if it is more black than the robe of a Mount Athos’ monk, because there are different blacks and the robe of the monk is a very colored, very bright black. To prove my point when I say that there is nothing coincidental / accidental and that the history of art is “incorporated “,please do a test: isolate a random piece of a painting and you will immediately understand that there coexist the atmosphere and experiences from different developments of art through the centuries.

Question : Paul Valery had said that the criminal is a product of his crime. Is the artist also a product of his art?

Reply : Indeed, Paul Valery “must be arrested”.

Question : If a piece of art represents the intermediate state between ‘before’ and ‘after’, what are these stages?

Reply : You mean the state before the orgasm, the peak of the orgasm and after the orgasm when we relax having a cigarette or a candy ? Or do you mean chronologically and aesthetically? I believe that things have a continuum. When Kouros takes the first step, it is humanity that takes that step. It changes the way of thinking, the aesthetics… when a statue has movement or an image speaks (cinema) or an artist dances, sings, plays music, he creates cosmogenic explosions, he shakes the waters.

I cannot tell you if Pancelinos is better than Giotto, but I feel that Giotto considers Pancelinos his close relative. Henry Moore considers the sculptors of the Parthenon to be his close friends and he talks to them.Lady Gaga considers Martha Graham her great-grandmother and Michael Jackson her brother.

Question : In the Stone of Madness, Fernando Arrabal writes: “In the theater of panic, the ‘man without a hat’ always wore a hat on his head. The director asked him to play the “miracles” and the “man without a hat”, liberated from the world of the unusual, he played in a “family”[1] setting. Describe to me the elements of one of your works that would “represent” this scene.

Reply : Arrabal carries the surreal and anarchist tragedy of the Mediterranean man that can at any moment be turned into a comedy. I do not know the specific work of Arrabal. I try to think of a “family setting” and my mind goes to the great tragedians and Aristophanes but also to Boccaccio, Shakespeare, Brecht etc. A hat that protects a human head, could also be a hat full of rain, a hat full of holes from Native American’s bullets, or be used as a unine pot at night. It becomes an open wallet placed on the road with a handful of fifty dimes, still, a nest for thousands of ants, it can become a hiding place for dinosaur eggs of galactic generation, etc. But I do not understand why you brought up Arrabal. I do not like hats. I would never wear a hat, only in extreme weather conditions, on forty degrees for example, but since you insist…

Question : You express yourself through a variety of media. Does this practice originates from a perpetual personal inner need to seek new means of expression or from a weakness of the means themselves, an absence in them of the preconditions for the desired result?

Reply : I express myself with the necessary materials that a project needs. The means to create a work of art are never weak. In my case I have never had a problem with the materials, everything around us, from the humblest pebble to the most expensive industrial object or from the gust of wind and the light of a sunbeam or the light of an electric lamp , the flow of a river or the wave of the sea, the perpetual fluttering of an angel or the orgy song of Ima Sumak, the whisper of a word or a written text, the color in a tube or in buckets and spears, with brushes, with pens, with the hands, with the whole body, with products produced on land or whatever circulates in the sky and the sea, are all potentially “art materials”. And since we are talking about me, the material means or the intangibles are born at the same time with the idea for the creation of the work.

Question : The contemporary Greek art scene seems open to all kinds of artistic attitudes, avant-garde and practices, mainly ‘ imported’ from abroad. But is it ready to process this data effectively? How foreign or not is the Greek reality in terms of the ideological and social context in which these imported artistic tendencies are born?

Reply : I am open to all kinds of artistic behaviors, avant-garde and practices, but I prefer to be a creator and exporter of a visual product, I do not like copying and scaling.

Rarely I have found myself speechless in front of contemporary creations.

Question : Degas had said that “art is not what you see, but what you make others see”. Do you agree with this perception?

Reply : Degas’s view is respected. Art is not only what you see and what you make others see, but also how different you will see the same work after years and it will be like rediscovering it. Different works have an emotional impact on us in our youth and others in our maturity.

Question : Is it necessary for a piece of art to have a symbolic dimension or a conceptual reception and interpretation? Is it not sufficient to be a mere visual stimulus ?

Reply : None of this is necessary for a great project. But it can also incorporate them.

Question : At the end of the day, does art serve something / someone or does it serve nothing?

Reply : Art “serves” the vanity and selfishness of the artist, the gallery owner’s wallet and gives glamor and power to people with money and power. Art is humble.

Interview with Vasiliki Vagenou
Art History

[1] Fernando Arrabal, Stone of Madness, pub. Aigokeros, 1989, transl. Andreas Tarnanas