Yorgos Stamkopoulos at Nathalie Halgand / Vienna, Austria

Yorgos Stamkopoulos
Worlds Beneath

18.10. – 24.11.2018

Nathalie Halgand Galerie
Stiegengasse 2/3 (Mezzanin)
1060 Vienna, Austria

 Images courtesy the artist and Nathalie Halgand Galerie
Photos: Julian Mullan

Yorgos Stamkopoulos’s paintings are more than paintings. They are
shadow sculptures—the remains of what was. Each work is the final trace
of a thick ‘skin’ built up with casting material on canvas, over which
layers of colour and paint are applied before the final dermis is peeled
off, and the subtle imprint beneath is revealed. The fleshy clumps that
we don’t see are visceral, messy, and tangible; they have absorbed the
intensity of an abstract and expressive approach that is instinctive,
physical, and spontaneous. The intimacy of each painting’s making might
explain why their membranes are not shown alongside Stamkopoulos’s
finished canvases—they are the residues of a personal and corporal
encounter between one artist and the void; the record of a private

When these skins are peeled off, the canvases transform; as does the
artist’s relationship with their surfaces. From an act of unencumbered
application, the artist now begins a considered subtraction, in which
his compositions are delicately undone—there is no telling how the
casting material might behave when it is pulled off, or what will remain
once the process is complete. A balancing act is caught in each work:
an equilibrium that feels at once intensely deliberated and measurably
unhinged. Intersections of colour, stroke, and line are tempered by
carefully revealed swathes of raw canvas that glow like luminous
with the additive and subtractive levelled as equal partners on the
image plane. Here, a multitude of dynamics—between depth and surface,
time and space, subject and object—commingle and interact in what could
only be described as a dance. Such elegant dialectics bring to mind Vilém
Flusser’s description of technical images. Even if Stamkopoulos’s
pictures are not made using technoglogical devices, the observer is
still confronted with “mosaics assembled from particles” rather than
surfaces; fields of matter “emerging into a post-historical,
dimensionless state.”[ii]

It is fitting that Stamkopoulos refers to the philosopher José Ortega y Gasset’s
1925 essay, “The Dehumanization of Art,” when discussing his work.
Ortega identifies a “new style” of art that aspires to “scrupulous
realization,” in which artists do not take ideas to be “synonymous with
reality,” but consider them “for what they are”—“mere subjective
patterns” to make live, lean, angular, pure and transparent.[iii] To borrow Peter Halley’s reading of Ortega, “the Modernist artist reverses the ‘spontaneous’ movement from world to mind [iv]—an
engagement with the unruly universe of ideas that recalls what
Stamkopoulos captures in a frame, in which—to paraphrase Ortega—the
subjective is objectified and the imminent is worldified.[v]
Each canvas is an object testimony of a subjective journey into that
known and unknown space of pure and ineffable possibility, which art has
so often sought out. They are portals to this potent abyss: both a way
in, and a way out.

Text by Stephanie Bailey

[i] This phrase comes from Nikos Kazantzakis’s 1923 book, The Saviours of God: Spiritual Exercises.

[ii] Vilém Flusser, Into the Universe of Technical Images (University of Minnesota Press: 2013), p. 6.

[iii] As quoted by Halley in “Against Postmodernism,” p. 58.

[iv] Peter Halley, “Against Postmodernism,” Selected Essays, 1981–2000 (Edgewise Press: 2013), p. 58.

[v] As quoted by Halley in “Against Postmodernism,” p. 58.