National Museum of Contemporary Art Athens
EMST

CHRONIS BOTSOGLOU – Α RETROSPECTIVE

28/01/2010 - 25/04/2010

ATHENS CONSERVATOIRE

Chronis Botsoglou

A Retrospective

Athens Conservatoire

28/01/2010 – 25/04/2010

Curated By: Tina Pandi

The cycle of major retrospectives that opened after the historical 2005 exhibition The years of defiance, The art of the 70s in Greece enables a more comprehensive knowledge of our contemporary art history, as well as a continuous re-examination, through new approaches to works and criticism. The extensive work of Chronis Botsoglou, one of the leading artists of the late modernism and its subsequent realisations in Greece, lends itself today to a critical reading that goes beyond one-sided and entrenched views, which have for decades plagued artists and critics. It proves that contemporary art and an artist’s personal path have had and are still having many simultaneous births, which cannot be understood without recognising their difference and equivalence. In Pseftodokimia (Pseudo-Essays), the artist himself described this path, with an acute and extended metaphor: as “lingering, still moments, all of them simultaneous and gleaming like stars isolated from each other in the darkness of the past”.
His painting has always been on the other side…
Anthropocentric and realistic at a time of morphological experimentations and conceptual explorations, it returns to the real and its social-political dimension in order to reveal through a critical rhetoric of the image views of brutality, violence and cynicism. Through dense journal entries and innumerable portraits, he unclothes the body, descends to the depths of human existence, without embellishment, with objectivity and distancing, self-sarcasm and melancholy, with infinite tenderness. The painting of the body biographizes death. It speaks of the existential condition of solitude through the relationship with the self and others, through the love relationship. It draws elements from its past; it incorporates in its own field practices and techniques from sculpture, engraving, photography. It translates loans into its own language, without guilt and prejudice, invalidating any comparative approach and its inevitable deviation to a discourse about influences.
In the years of maturity, it is revealed to us as the artist’s conversation with the masters, with the “Fathers”, Giorgos Veltsos writes. A conversation with the dead. With an antiheroic spirit in Nekyia and his own visual descent to Hades, with a harrowing invocation of familiar idols in the portraits of Yannoulis Halepas and Alberto Giacometti, Vincent Van Gogh and Giorgos Bouzianis, Francis Bacon. An invocation of the myth of ascetic “folly”, of poets and artists’ damned creation, and finally of the personal universe of the artist himself, of his identifications and shadows.

Anna Kafetsi
Director

With the kind support

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Εxtracts from the Introduction by the curator of the exhibition

A man sets himself the task of portraying the world. Through the years he peoples a space with images of provinces, kingdoms, mountains, bays, ships, islands, fishes, rooms, tools, stars, horses, and people. Shortly before his death, he discovers that that patient labyrinth of lines traces the image of his face. Jorge Luis Borges, Dreamtigers

Perhaps no quotation could serve as a better introduction to the oeuvre of Chronis Botsoglou than the one put forward by Jorge Luis Borges in 1960 in the epilogue of Dreamtigers. Reversing this “most brilliant allegory of the essence of artistic creation”, we could argue that the images of bodies and faces that Chronis Botsoglou has been painting for more than five decades, from the 50s up to the present day, which were placed into and conversed with diverse social and cultural contexts, reveal and condense the whole universe of the creator, his personal adventure in life and art, in the images of provinces, kingdoms, mountains, bays, ships, islands, fishes, rooms, tools, stars, horses, and people that he met and encountered.
Botsoglou’s oeuvre, which, from the 60s onwards, evolved in the post-war Greek artistic reality, poses the question of the representation of the human figure, in an era characterized by the supremacy of process and gesture and the emergence of body art and actions. The two-dimensional canvas became a fertile field for the artist, in which he could experiment and investigate the limits of a painting focused on the human body, tracing its relationship with the representational function, the social and political reality, and the notion of an open-ended narrativity. Botsoglou’s artistic output is marked by his continuous and constant searchings on the human figure, and in particular on the naked body. The existential dimension of his painting has as its starting point the autobiographical and often journal-like character of his depicted subjects, but mainly rests on the experiential relationship that the artist develops with the creative process. As Martha-Elli Christofoglou points out, in his work “Introspection of his own self … shows that it rather constitutes an introspection of painting itself”. Botsoglou’s painting is an “ontological” form of painting, which reflects on the conditions of its existence and twines around its own history.
The artist engages in an arduous process of discovering and visually forming his bodily relationship with reality and the world. Botsoglou proposes an embodied painting with a tactile character, which is connected with a sensorial depiction of the human condition, pointing out that, for him, “Painting is the art of the sensation of touch through vision, sensorially and not thematically”. The body, the painter’s “poor flesh”, was the par excellence condition through which he experienced, was tried by and narrated the human reality, and in particular the relationship between the self and the other. Sticking to the aforementioned Borgean allegory, as this is expounded by Achilleas Kyriakidis, we could use the labyrinthine structure to speak of the subject matter in which Botsoglou delved throughout his artistic career: “His subject matter … extends vertically and not horizontally. His style is mazy: small or large successive labyrinths that may differ in their ramifications, in their traps, but still are concentric. The author’s inspirations can bring forth, by developing at depth, an infinite number of stories, much as the labyrinth, for the one trapped in its depths, seems to vary ad infinitum virtually the same theme, in the same chamber. For what else is a labyrinth but a system of more or less arbitrary variations on a theme-centre that its inspirer knows to be finite and the castaway in its infinite passages sees as infinite?” In the prolific body of his works, which often have the character of a study, Botsoglou puts forward some of the potentially infinite versions of the subject matter he is working on, to eventually state that, in fact, throughout his life he made just one work. His works, however, can definitely be grouped into series which capture investigations, formulations of an idea and the attempts to fathom it. These series do not succeed one another in a chronological order, by forming closed, entrenched shapes, but in many cases interlock by decades and evolve simultaneously. The 80s, for instance, were marked by the making of Oil Mills (1978–1986), The Image of the Body (1979–1992), Journal Pages (1980–1990), the beginning of Erotic Compositions (1986–), and the 90s were marked by The Image of the Body, Nekyia (1993–2000), Study on Solitude (1997), The Trades (1989–1992), whereas after 2000 the artist developed, among other things, the series Farewell, My Studio (2001) and References (2002–2009). As it will be further shown, the thematic, expressional and notional transformations are accompanied by shifts in the material used and its handling, since each new idea and each conceptual field dictates new plastic solutions and different ways of treating the material to the artist. Botsoglou adopted a painterly outlook, which prevailed in all the aspects of his life, led by the fascination exerted on him, from an early age, by the painting process. Painting was for him the medium with which he understood and placed himself in the world. As he confesses in his autobiographical book To Chroma tis Spoudis, which was published in 2005, “I eventually learnt how to live in the world through art. Today I can admit that art is a way of life – that’s how I got along, and ‘I am quits with life’, as Mayakovsky said …”

[…] Tina Pandi Assistant Curator National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens

CATALOG

Editor: Tina Pandi
Includes essays by Giorgos Veltsos, Andreas Ioannides, Christoforos Marinos, Tina Pnadi, Martha Christofoglou.
352 pages., 30 x 24 cm, Athens 2010
Bilingual (Greek / English)
With reproductions of the works
ISBN: 978-960-8349-46-9
Available for sale: price 30 euros

 

Photo: Old Woman CX Homage to Giacometti, 1986

EL / EN