Long Days, Constantinos Papachristou / 2019

Text for the solo exhibition Long Days in Kourd Gallery, Athens, 2019 by the art historian  and Benaki Museum curator Konstantinos Papachristou

Maria Filippakopoulou has established her own personal and highly recognizable style. With each new work, her painting evolves and new elements are introduced, which lend themselves to more and more profound explanations. Wandering around Athens, she uses her camera to take down anything that might seize her attention, with her particular focus being the continuum between the urban and the natural environment. Her paintings trace their origins to these photographs. She manages to circumvent the peril of succumbing to a shallow photographic realism by imprinting a deeper emotional tension on her works. They are something much more than mere pretty pictures.

Even a casual glance at the works in this exhibition will suffice to convince the viewer of Mrs Filippakopoulou’s ability to tell a story. She does so in a very economic manner, her stories being concise and not at all tiresome. She manages to avoid giving only one instant of the story, as she does not freeze time. Nor does she merely bind her story within a beginning and an end. Rather, she lays the basics of the plot and allows the viewer to complete it. She weaves in all eleven stories of urban everyday life, which can be taken one at a time but also as a whole.

The transition from the depiction of particular moments to telling a story is a major accomplishment for Mrs Filippakopoulou. The point of departure for her is the haiku form, which employs a mere seventeen syllables to depict an image from nature. The haiku is of course a challenge, both for the creator, who is constrained by the tight form of the poem, but also for the reader, who has to decode it. The seventeen syllables correspond to the paintings, with the austerity of form allowing imagination and the emotions to soar, and with image being transformed into narrative.

Urban landscape is a difficult subject matter for any artist. We are so familiar with it that we often subconsciously judge on the verisimilitude of depiction or the familiarity of locations and spaces. The artist manages to avoid these pitfalls, despite her cheeky mentions to specific urban locales in the titles of her works. In fact, she proceeds to introduce lines and motives from the realm of the imagination, in a successful attempt to bridge the real world with the imaginary one, while retaining the simplicity and elegance of her original concept.

What makes Maria Filippakopoulou’s “Long Days” stand out is not so much their length per se, but rather what takes place during and inside them. There are aimless wanderings and unexpected meetings, with all their attendant emotions. The relation between space and time is always a major theme in her work, only it is now endowed with a broader emotional and philosophical significance, which has been brought about not so much by the finished product but rather by the process of creation.

Translation: Sotiris Leventis

Konstantinos Papachristou, Still Time / 2016

Text for the solo exhibition Still Time in Kourd Gallery, Athens, 2016 by the art historian  and Benaki Museum curator Konstantinos Papachristou

Maria Filippakopoulous’ latest work is very much part of a continuum from her previous work. There is greater maturity here, whether in the lesser extent of human presences, the milder gradations of colour, or the employment of a more selective range of colours, with all of them serving to bring out her own, highly distinctive style.

Still Time, the title of the exhibition, seems to hearken to Still Life, as in the depiction of inanimate subjects. While Filippakopoulou does not do traditional still lifes, her works do depict instances of frozen time and perfect motionlessness. Her experience in drama and photography aid her in setting up a series of broad snapshots, which address both emotion and memory.

Space for Maria Filippakopoulou is about more than the representation of landscape. For her, space does not only enhance viewing pleasure, but also serves to awaken emotion. In her most recent works, while there is a vague touch of sadness, the viewer is free to feel both familiar and new sentiments, depending on his or her own feelings. While space addresses emotion, time aims to activate memory. As with space, a frozen image of real time awakens comparable moments for the viewer, while provoking questions about what happened before and what will come after.

There are a number of allusions to major artists, such as David Hockney (with the swimming pools, which hint at his trademark works of the 1960s), or Edward Hopper (the dramatic layout). Yet these are no mere repetitive themes, but rather the outpouring of the artist’s memory, engaging the memories of the viewer. It is this communication between artist and viewer, by means of the image and with the end product of the awakening of memory and emotion that determines these paintings.