This article is written by ATHANASIOS Chr. VARLAMIS
Laywer-Art Collector
“You cannot make others see into what you paint. They must come in contact with it… The artist thinks in terms of forms and colours. This is the object of poetry… Reality is only revealed in the light ofpoetry… It is more important to me to harmonise with nature than to copy it.”
Georges Braque1

Stavros Kotsiréas’ rhythmic colouring and poetic and expressive imagery fill the canvas by the joyous transformation of his material. His painting skills are defined by the variety and careful grading of his colours. He is inspired emotionally and aesthetically by the vibrant rhythm of colour, the intensity of which is determined by his poetic instinct. His philosophy is direct involvement with nature and with man, by repeated applications of colour. The fluidity of nature and of man’s creations is his subject, a theme and a message which are constantly repeated through his attachment to the idea of the ‘justice of the colours’ he uses.

Stavros Kotsiréas has for some time now been inspired by this poetic approach to painting and in his recent works he makes man and nature his subjects; not in any romantic or lyrical way, but essentially by the intense and critical standards he uses (we see this clearly in his colours and the layers of paint he applies and the forms he creates. In other words in his search for the justice that colours represent.) He attempts to show us, in every way he can, the discoveries and feelings he has experienced in life – and the message that we do not live in peace, but rather we live every moment and every situation in competition with one another. We live with our guilt, in the knowledge of our own arrogance and with lack of respect for our neighbor; whether our neighbor is nature itself or our fellow man. We react to the arrogance of our superiors by enlisting worn out and frequently rule bound resources to attack or defend ourselves, or to resolve our problems [whether social of personal.] We do this with reference to the rules of authority and obedience, as the weaker party desperately attempts to exert power over the whole. In this self-deceiving way we pursue power and authority as our objective, and in taking this dark and satanic ritualistic approach to self fulfilment, we render the world shocked and speechless. The only possible way of renewing hope and salvation is through the voice of the poet, or of the artist. Through their use of words, sounds and colours, we find new messages and dimensions for the ideal of justice that man seeks, as a means of bringing balance and fairness to the ethical and aesthetic perspectives of his life. Stavros Kotsiréas achieves this ideal with the justice of his colours, which is the starting point in today’s man-made environment.

In his recent work he includes both details of the natural environment and also fragments of man’s activities [ostraka] to describe not only the marks of man’s progress and his self alienation through the misuse of power, (see his works; ‘Sphere, the Symbol of Life’ where he vividly records man’s presence in the environment by his impression of man’s early cave drawings; and works such as ‘Toys and Memories;’ ‘One Circle of Creation;’ and the tragic ‘The Awakening’) but also his means of escape from this reality and his search for hope by reference to the simplicity of life reflected in man’s creative activities, his forms of self expression and his role in nature (see his works; ‘Fish;’ ‘Sea Works;’ ‘Seeds of the Earth;’ ‘Butterflies;’ and ‘Nature’s Heart.’) The painter’s own sensitivities contradict any sense in which nature or any aspect of the natural process can die or can in any sense be asdepicted in a painting [necri physi or dead nature.] In a strictly painterly sense, he answers directly to the notion of the ‘Still Life’ [natura morta] with ‘Silent Nature;’ which is non-moving, non-altering, but remaining in a sense existing as part of nature’s entities, incorporated in the physical and harmonious nature of things (otherwise Georges Braque would not have said “the pot gives shape to the space.”) Moreover where a piece of nature, whether living or not, detaches itself from its organic space and takes up room in a wider space, there is no logical way in which this piece of nature dies in the strict sense, regardless of the way it changes. Death takes away movement. What is left over for nature is that nature’s space is enriched by the occupation and this piece, as a shard or cast-off, by the very rules of nature, continues a life unaware of its original state and of its functional purpose.

These ideas satisfy the artist’s environmental philosophy (his attitude towards nature and man’s creations.) They also add to his vibrant perception of the environment. He rejects this one-track, westernized way of looking at ourselves, with the distortions, suppression's and lack of respect for values and the disregard for nature and man’s creations (whether living or non-living) which it engenders, and the take-over by ‘power and authority.’ There is no death for him. Painting, the end product of his creativity, which represents this piece of nature we describe, cannot be regarded in any strict meaning of the words as ‘Still Life.’ It is rather, as we have said above, nature in repose, that is to say ‘Silent Nature.’

First and foremost by this philosophical and aesthetic approach, he takes as his subject the fragments discarded by nature and man. He takes these organic discards and aesthetically reworks them, in condemnation of our violent abuse of the natural and human environment, which has become alien and unwelcoming to us through man’s lack of a sense of history and conservation. He takes us through the unusual shapes produced by nature (see; ‘Sea Works;’ ‘Seeds of the Earth;’ ‘Seeds of Mother Earth;’ and ‘Butterflies’) and on to man’s cultural creations and his inroads into nature (see; ‘Sphere and Cube;’ Sphere, Cube, Pyramid;’ ‘Toys and Memories;’ ‘Multiple Visions;’ and ‘One Circle of Creation’) and to his sudden outcry against the dangers of the complete take-over of self (see ‘State of the Future’) and complete breakdown (‘The Awakening’) in which a gas mask takes on the personality of death; however, the artist does not accept death. Awakening from the revered concept of the “orthodox” as represented by power and authority, and from the endless economic exploitation of the present and the future, and from the mania of all-out gain, [which are the denial and rejection of all values and principles of life,] in order to survive we wear masks, to prevent us from suffocating. Does this mask lead to our survival or to simply delaying the onset of death? The artist does not call the painting ‘Death.’ He calls it ‘The Awakening,’ which precedes death. The purpose of his art is to set out for us his belief and hope that all human tragedy and weakness are an awakening not death. Man can redefine himself by abandoning his pride and arrogance and taking the path of simplicity and self respect.

The artist is critical of the environment, natural and human, in the sense that the actual environment is perceived through a cultural filter consisting of attitudes, restrictions on the expression of opinions and of a conditioning as a result of previous experiences2. Kotsireas goes on to record and symbolize, at one and the same time, all these cultural filters in both their negative and positive sense, namely the filters of knowledge, of restriction of knowledge, of distortion, but also the filter of beauty and aesthetic appreciation. The view through these filters is described in his painting ‘Cameras-One Click’ and ‘Multiple of Visions;’ the latter presenting an accumulation of spectacles to the viewer.

The artist adopts a clear view of the world through both his subconscious and his informed understanding; in the distinction he makes between two alternative theories of the world rather than two ways of understanding it. In the one, the western version can be characterized as the construction of a theory, namely the means by which a view is represented. In the other, an understanding of the world is not a matter of the construction of a theory, but of involvement in the world; not a matter of the plastic, but of the inner mind; not a matter of the construction of a theory of the world, but of the acceptance of a theory in terms of the world. For example, in one you see the sea as an observer and in the other you are within it, not like a fish but as a fish. In this context, the painting ‘Fish’ demonstrates his preferred position of these two alternatives, pictorializing all these concepts3. Finally the artist wants this view he takes of the world to be transferred to the viewer of his paintings, being himself an observer of it, in that he stresses that an aesthetic understanding and appreciation of the world can only be achieved when we look within and we enter within only through this simple way of living and seeing.

The artist therefore makes the subject of his paintings the pieces and fragments of the world and places them in an organic framework, and immediately, through the justice of the colours he chooses, wipes away the forces of distortion and disdain. His aim (and in this he succeeds) both for himself as the artist and for the observer of his ‘Silent Nature’ paintings, is that these works are not experienced as a spectacle or through objective appreciation, but as an inner experience at the subconscious level of artistic creation. The thoughts, feelings, and aesthetic concerns of the artist are not simply observed but become a direct participatory experience. This then is the poetic intention of the artist.

For this reason, Kotsiréas chooses a process of multiple steps in a complex pictorial action, which starts with the isolation of elements from the natural and human environment, which once identified he considers aesthetic entities and then directs and stages them in a single construction. As an installation this becomes organically and aesthetically autonomous from the primary materials that compose it. This creates an autonomous work of art and a poetic expression. But the course he is pursuing does not end there. With the intervention of colour, [which the artist executes with joyous expression using the ‘justice of colours’ as his most important element] and combined with his artistic skill he creates paintings based on the thematic scenery he has constructed, but which fully reflect and are identified as the artist’s intention. At this stage of the painting, he acts with exceptional precision, emphasizing the subjective inner element, through the transformation from theatrical construction, to chromatic [poetic] expression.

This transformation from one level to another provides the connecting tissue between the transformed parts [the vibrancy of the artist’s poetic rhythms.] Here we cannot fail to be reminded of Max Ernst’s “Mechanics of Inspiration,” in which the German painter transforms his works by means of collage and frontage, leading to new transformation [debasement.] Ernst was obsessed with the idea of isolating materials, with copying and tracing with paper [frottage] and with binding paper together [collage.] He asserted that the result of his action bore no relation to the original materials from which it was made. In this way he produces an image [simulacra] which in the end is a new form of artistic expression, permeated, from one end to the other, with the artist’s subjective theories; with his emotions; knowledge;and above all, his own poetic instincts. This poetry redefines and re-identifies reality solely by the messages the artist puts across. Ernst believed that collage and frontage were the means of conveying poetic expression, which having divested themselves of mere logic, lead to new transformations [debasement.] Stavros Kotsireas expresses himself and acts out his poetic instincts through the poetry of his colours and by seeking to ritualistically express the vibrant rhythms he feels through the justice of his colours. What is this ‘justice of colours?’ The artist’s aim is to give expression to his poetic instincts and the balance and harmony he sees around him; in order that a transformation takes place in another space, time, and dimension; in which colours bring out and justify the artist’s agonies, desires, feelings and aesthetic appreciation of the world.

The connective tissue in this process of ritualistic transformation, from distinct materials to a single basic structure of the work, is the poetic instinct of the artist, expressing the idea of the justice of colours. As I Look at Kotsiréas’ ‘Nature’s Hearts’ and ‘Anatomy of the Heart,’ the whispered lines of the poet Miltos Sachtouris expresses better than I can, this poetic instinct;

“Today I wore
warm red blood.
Today men love me…

Two men are whispering
What is he doing? Transfixing our hearts.
Yes he transfixes our hearts.
Then he is a poet.” 4

1 Georges Braque ‘Day and Night : notebooks of Georges Braque 1917-1955’ Pikili Stoa series [Leschi : Athens, 1989]
2 Botetsayas ‘The Idea of Nature’ [Critiques Publications: Athens, 2010
3 Botetsayas, Op. Cit., page. 29-30]
4 Miltos Sachtouris ‘Gifts’ Absurdities [Privately published, Athens, 1948]

Athens, 20th August 2010

Athanasios Chr. Varlamis
Lawyer-Art Collector