Paintings that are modeled after drawings

Drawings are to a painter what notes are to a writer. Traditionally, they are the medium in which an artist invents and tries out new ideas with greater freedom before carrying them out in larger, more complex works. Drawings are reflections of spontaneity, works that capture the process of art making and takes the viewer into a «behind the scenes,» more intimate perspective of an artist’s work. This is perhaps why the language of drawings can be so rich and dense with meaning – and why the one-man show on Tassos Mantzavinos that is based on the artist’s black-and-white ink drawings is so visually solid and compact. Being held at the Nees Morfes Gallery, the exhibition grew out of the hundreds of drawings that the artist has produced during recent years. Known for his densely colored, heavily textured paintings, Mantzavinos – as it turns out in the current exhibition – is an artist with a special affinity for drawing. Drawing is in fact an everyday practice, his way of taking notes on his daily observations but also a means of coming to terms with himself and his emotions. His drawings make up a kind of visual diary, a terrain in which the artist unravels his imaginary world and inner thoughts. They are put together in a unique, limited-copy and hardbound edition of «Book of Drawings» that are supplementary to the exhibition. The book, which replicates the artist’s original book of drawings, is forewarded by Elisavet Plessa, curator of the exhibition. The publication is funded by Thomas Liakounakos. In the actual exhibition, the drawings are displayed side by side in the form of a large panel. Scores of notepad-sized, black-and-white drawings throw the viewer into the artist’s private, almost dreamlike realm. Most of them are self-portraits. The solitary figure of a man observing the world seems like an artist’s attempt to define his role and find himself a meaningful position in the outside world. There are also drawings of mythical figures, heroes taken from Greek mythology or Greek folk tradition. It is as if the artist is caught between the contemporary and the past, the fictive and the real, trying to find connections between the two and reaching beyond his own thoughts and feelings to an understanding of life’s deeper meaning. The scribblings of the drawings then give way to the large oil paintings. From a black-and-white palette the artist moves to one made up of a glowing ochre, rich blue, black and orangy red. Mantzavinos’s paintings are made in the style of a drawing. They share nothing of the rich, finished textures and dense compositions of the artist’s former paintings but have the airy quality of drawings. Just like in the drawings, one finds elements of an expressionist painterly style mixed with allusions to folk culture. Tassos Mantzavinos blends a childlike naivete with melancholy musings on human solitude. Tender yet sad, his drawings, and the paintings that have grown out of them, are an artist’s visual diary. As with notes in a diary, they capture passing moments and thoughts. Yet it is within these recurring, daily thoughts that the meaning of our lives often exists. Just like with drawings: One may find that it is there that an artist’s deeper concerns are to be found. At the Nees Morfes Gallery (9A Valaoritou, 210.361.6165) through Saturday.

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