"Evanghelia Pitsou: On the roofs of Athens"
In 15 minutes, the image of cloud forms above the roofs of Athens, A little while later, the cloud has already changed, it moved and cannot have the form the eye had just cought. The painting must proceed very rapidly. In the series of works on the clouds, Evanghelia Pitsou uses her fingers to paint. At times she takes back the brush, deciding on the spot, spontaneously and rapidly, as in a surgical intervention.
In June 2005, the summer clouds over the Greek capital have a hermaphrodite form. ON the dark or white sky background, they take the form of a rocky coast, as the latter appears when viewed from above. Light and shadows interpose without stop in white and black. Luminous edges of the costs and dark slopes suddenly fall apart and transform in a flight of birds scattering in the sky. In another painting, sudden metamorphosis, quivering forms constitute the scene of a mountain chain topped with snow, passing before the eyes, strange and incongruous, as if through a magical lantern. And once again, the clouds over Athens – as if the city had disintegrated and was now rising in colored vapors toward the sky, not in flames and smoke, like Sodom and Gomorrah, but creating nonetheless a certain awe, like the variant of small Apocalypse.
The painter installed her observatory on the flat roof of a high building in the centre of Athens. From one side, we see mount Ymittos and, a lot closer, the hill of the Acropolis. All around, one next to the other, are constructed the houses of the neighborhood, a combination of small industries and residence – concrete buildings, light colored, plastered, like everywhere else. The fee furniture on the roof share the space with several construction materials and the usual equipment of private antennas
In this intermediate space, hanging between sky and street, a group of oversized heads moves like ghosts. On the external walls of the constructions, mostly painted in yellow over the plaster, and once again only with the hands, on a frontal facet, young faces, old faces with large intense eyes, clearly designed ears and a neck merely sketched. On the square plastered surfaces, they look like luminous projections on a movie screen, as if they were looking in this corner of the roof, with their strict and bewildered seriousness, a new existence. Only he who passes his time on the roofs can discover them. The strong faces pass here a private almost invisible life. Only he who searches down there, on the streets, shall encounter the models of this strange party of masks. And then, he shall easily acknowledge that these are ordinary people who retired on the roofs and have found there a new entity.
Evanghelia Pitsou encounters her models on the street. They pose and she enlarges their faces up to two and a half times in height. The painter lives in Athens, near a market. The streets are full of life. She looks for people on the streets and takes them out, in her own way, of the crowd. Her portraits are created on the roofs, five floors above. To these “portraits of the city” as Pitsou calls them. Which are painted out of life itself, she gives spaces where the form – image is connected to the reality of city life. One interacts with the other and puts it into evidence.
In an strictly frontal attitude, the mostly yellow face of a young man occupies the wall of a café in a gallery. Tables and chairs reach his chin. His eyes, with narrow pupils, are fixed straight ahead. The frozen expression of his features extends like a light feil over the wall, as if he had been for some time observing the movements in the place. Evanghelia Pitsou speaks the language of the inhabitants and passing by people. With her “portraits of the city”, she renders an image of their daily life. She does not invent ghosts nor expands in explanations. Her images appear here and there, like the prints of a more remote life which is uncovered under older layers, like a mosaic or a fresco which emerge to the light through a dark old story. The transparent texture of the heads, similar in that to an X-ray, makes them doubly remote. And yet they are also closely related to the materiality and surface of the spotted, dirty and damaged background of the painting. Realistic and unrealistic elements establish among them an inviolable link.
Here, there is only an ear, there an eye, painted on a wall with special care, as if it was part of anatomic studies. In perfect disharmony with the damaged background of the painting, they stress the integrity of an organ or a part of the body, and the more so, the integrity of the artistic intervention. Evanghelia Pitsou does not take only possession of the form and expression of certain persons of her surroundings. She also renders them honestly, with care and details. From a certain distance which she constantly keeps, she creates works which have abandoned the solitude of the workshop and are researching companions and spaces where they can have some impact. They become the messengers of a communication, whether in its personal or social dimension. In a very discreet but nonetheless manifest way, they send their message to the street but also on the roof. They clearly avoid any artistic pretension in the city or the public place. To the contrary, they enhance and generalize the images which passing by people have and take around, of themselves and others. What they uncover really exists. They do not pretend mor than what they are. It would rather seem that it is an act of restitution of a time of life and sympathy taken as a loan.
“My favorite” says the painter of the portrait of an old with a red scarf and bag, sitting on a chair, the classic portrait of a person encountered on the street. Portraits like that allow a maximum proximity and a certain sentimentalism expressed in the colours, strikes of brush and once again in the directness of the eyes. Eyes always were the first thing to attract the eye of the painter. The look of the eyes reflects the whole person. Pitsou has a frontal approach to her models. This direct approach reveals what will survive in time. People of the street, who stop a moment before the intense gaze of the painter, wear their clothes in an ostentatious way, like roles on their skin. Their wardrobe literally incarnates a way of life on the street’s daily scene. From time to time, the painter “undresses” some models and uses them as prototypes. In the nudes, who are also painted frontally, she prepares the form and appearance of a new prototype.
“I only paint what I see”, says Evanghelia Pitsou. She takes from taverns the leftovers of content clients – a pleasure of the eyes. In her workshop, she creates works of a morbid abundance. There, she paints once again. Plates and platters, half full, look, somehow, to a river of lave in its condition between incandescence and solidifcation. The live and the dead exchange their substance. In the strange world of the dead of nature, vital organs, liver, lung, heart, bear the old element by excellence of the Nature Morte. Carnal entrails emerge like exotic fruits or plants. And then, suddenly, the painter abandons the zone of abondance and returns to the ascetic representation. In her work, she has investigated the extremes and is therefore in a position, when painting an apple, to say “I did not paint it yet, but should I simply and merely paint this apple in such a way as to include therein all I have to say, then I shall have reached my goal”.
Over the roofs of Athens, move the clouds, on the streets of the city, people. On the terraces of the Centre, Evanghelia Pitsou has affixed heads like trophies, looking out, day and night so that painting may be between sky and earth. The look of these eyes is penetrating. These are the eyes of the painter, who is loaning them to her creatures. Five floors above the noise of the streets, under the mutating clouds, one can see the new idols of the big city.