CULTURE

Reality painted black and white

At a time when originality is, despite the effect of postmodernism, still counted as a measure of artistic merit, choosing a traditional and almost exhausted genre, such as landscape painting, and making something new and interesting out of it, poses an explicit challenge for the contemporary artist, especially when the medium chosen is as traditional as painting. In his exhibit titled «Antennae,» currently on view at Gallery 24 (38 Spefsippou, Kolonaki) artist Constantinos Papamichalopoulos confronts this challenge with the confidence of an artist who delights in the qualities of painting but uses only black-and-white hues to depict the world around him. The visual effect is highly atmospheric, almost like Turner, in fact, but also vaguely photographic. Papamichalopoulos seems to enjoy testing the edge, both of painting and his subject matter. He paints urban landscapes which are no more than views of the sky as seen from the terraces of buildings and including their antennae. Apart from a small strip which displays antennae, the rest of the canvas is taken up by soaring skies, rendered with just a whisper of white. At the borderline of figuration and abstraction, these urban landscapes do not depict views of a city but its reflection in the sky; they are images of a city’s atmosphere, captured in a reduced palette of paint. The artist has painted urban views before, if not in the same abstract style, then certainly with an equal penchant for revealing a certain twist behind the surface. In his former works, he turned buildings into anthropomorphic creatures, as if to suggest a city is more about its people than its architecture. There was a fictional side to the images which Papamichalopoulos portrayed in a «Japanese» comics album, which visually narrated the story of an imagined Japanese character who leaves Tokyo to come to Athens, a kind of hybrid creature which sprung from a world of robotics, biotechnology and prosthetic surgery. «Japanese» depicted an aspect of the contemporary world, as seen with a combined sense of horror and humor. The artist’s «Antennae» are another side to the same world, perhaps more suggestive but with a double edge to them; with their grayish skies, they could be seen as ominous landscapes of a polluted urban environment. Seen otherwise, they are visually pleasing depictions of atmosphere through a careful handling of light and paint.