‘Obscure Passages’ of life from inward, reflective viewpoint

Photographic self-portraiture is a genre often met with in the work of women artists. From a feminist perspective, this has been interpreted as the women’s intention to control their image by making themselves the subject of their art rather than the object of representation. Women’s self-portraits are thus a reaction to gender stereotyping, seen from one angle; from yet another, similar perspective, they are an expression of the influence that psychoanalysis has had on women’s art and feminist art theory. This self-inquiry and psychoanalytical perspective – without any kind of feminist message – runs through the work of Berlin-based photographer Christina Dimitriadi. Self-portraits come up repeatedly in her photographs, including «Obscure Passages,» her latest series on view at the Eleni Koroneou Gallery. In these large pictures (all the same size), Dimitriadi pauses to examine her family and herself, her past and the present. Autobiographical in mood, the photographs provide a dispassionate, objective and yet tender look at her family and herself, of growing up and moving from one life stage to the next. One image shows her and her mother sitting opposite one another at a table in an almost formal pose and in a stark, immaculate setting; in a variation of the same image, Dimitriadi pairs off her mother and grandmother. In both pictures, the sitters look out directly at the viewer (or the photographer), confronting one with one’s own family relationships in an almost questioning fashion. The composition is austere and the poses of the subjects almost stiff. Like most of the artist’s works, the photographs are stark and unadorned, reticent and yet filled with layers of meaning, which can be detected in pose, body language, facial expression and attire. Interestingly, Dimitriadi is not concerned about social attributes, details that suggest the sitter’s gender or social role-playing. Her portraits are more about moods, human personality and how they grow and change in relation to space, time and memory. In «Obscure Passages,» Dimitriadi has also photographed her father within a quarry. The rest of the pictures are self-portraits, showing the artist reclining on a sofa, in her bathtub or floating on the sea. These are images that show a woman in a state of relaxation, a meditative state that Dimitriadis describes as «floating,» moments of reflection and peace before moving into a new state. This idea harks back to «Building, Living, Leaving,» a series in four parts that Dimitriadi worked on from 1994-95. Life’s cyclical experience of building something, living through it and then leaving it was the underlying concept of this work, which included the artist’s self-portraits in different interiors as well as a series of photographs of staircases or cranes, both chosen for their circular movements or shape. Similarly, «Obscure Passages» explores the human self in relation to space, time, memory and above all the family, through portraits of oneself and one’s relatives. At the Eleni Koroneou Gallery (5-7 Mitsaion, 210.924.4271) to the end of the week.

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