Peter Greenaway: Cinema is dead, long live painting

Whatever form of art Peter Greenaway has applied – cinema, opera, painting or literature – his ability to create powerful imagery comes to the fore. A show of a selection of paintings by the avant-garde British filmmaker, currently being exhibited at the Hellenic American Union, reveals an aspect of the artist’s character which is virtually unknown to Greeks. The exhibition, titled «Peter Greenaway Artworks: 63-05,» comprises some 50 displays of paintings, sketches and collages created over more than four decades, 1963-2005, richly unveil Greenaway’s eclectic relationship to the arts, already familiar through his films. At a presentation during the opening on Monday at the HAU, the artist admitted that, to him, cinema is dead. «Over the past 110 years, cinema has probably achieved its goal. But painting will continue to exist,» he said. In one of his works on display at the HAU, Greenaway has written the word «Casablanca,» in reference to what he likes to call «the ‘Casablanca’ syndrome.» «This is the archetype that stands at the center of the cinematic genre. It is a classic film, with a beginning, middle and end, a powerful love story. It was good for its time, but today there is a demand for more. Aesthetically, socially and politically, conditions have changed since then,» he explains. Reiterating his point that cinema is a dead genre, Greenaway argues that this is so because it does not play an interactive role with the audience. «Cinema died when they discovered the remote control on September 31, 1983 [editor’s note: the artist said that he has made up that date for his own, cryptic reasons]. For years, people would sit in a cinema… for two hours, in the dark, without being nocturnal creatures, watching shadows on the screen. Now however, what we need is an interactive relationship that will go further, that relies on the participation of all the senses.» As an example of his proposal, Greenaway cited his own project: «The Tulse Luper Suitcases,» which comprises seven hours of film, a string of websites, 92 DVDs and an opera. «In the past, we used to watch the film and then buy the T-shirt. Now the T-shirt is more important,» he said, commenting on the depreciation of cinema. As far as the themes of his work are concerned, Greenaway said: «I have been accused that my films talk about death and destruction. In fact they are a celebration of life, of how wonderful it is to be alive. When Francis Bacon was asked whether his paintings revealed that there was more evil than good in the world, he replied, ‘No, it’s just that it has been better recorded.’» «Peter Greenaway Artworks: 63-05,» will run until September 5 at the Hellenic American Union, 22 Massalias, Kolonaki, Athens, tel 210.368.0000.