Makis Theophylactopoulos

Athens Gallery

Since the beginning of his artistic career, in the mid ’60s, Makis Theophylactopoulos has consistently been preoccupied with painting and the oil medium. He is, in short, the confirmed painter par excellence. His recent work, executed between 1986 and 1988, falls loosely within the parameters of both formalism (he examines some of the fundamentals of painting) and expressionism (largely the consequence of the unusual manner in which he handles paint).

Theophylactopoulos painted the works in this exhibition with his hands and fingers, a technique he devised in the late ’70s. The artist alternately traces, scratches, gouges, and erases lines of pigment. He eliminates the idea of a tool as an extension of the hand. The artist’s direct, tactile contact with the canvas, whereby the two-dimensional flatness of the surface is physically felt, oddly reinforces the formalist concept of flat painting. He neither flaunts nor conceals this technique, but uses it to achieve his restless surface textures. Theophylactopoulos’ handling of the paint medium has something in common with the Abstract Expressionists and Jackson Pollock in particular: Pollock also forsook the paintbrush when he invented the drip technique in his endeavors to create “overall” paintings in which the factor of chance played a significant role.

When commencing a painting, Theophylactopoulos attempts to block out all preconceived ideas about the outcome of the work. For him a painting slowly grows and takes form through the interaction of the artist and his materials. His only distinctly defined aim is the creation of richly textured surfaces, in which both the physicality of oil paint and the paint-process are emphasized. The subject of the paintings is inextricably bound to Theophylactopoulos’ painting techniques. The artist projects his personal response to painting and to his environment. His erasings triggers associations with humankind’s earliest artistic activity.

In Green Figures, 1986, the artist imparts the struggle incurred in the making of a painting, as clearly reflected in the numerous tracings and erasings that culminate in the elaborated and seemingly churned up surface. In Brown Figure, 1988, the erratic outlines of the schematic figures, impressed into the thick paint_—here wide and deep, there faint and fine—and the ungainly shapes of the limbs, torso, and head grow into one another. The tension between line and amorphous pigment across the agitated surface pulls and holds the painting together.

Yet Theophylactopoulos avoids emotive content by using primarily muddy or muted tones, as in Turquoise Figure, 1988. In this work, there is no chromatic differentiation between figure and ground—they merge with each other on a uniformly colored surface. This device restricts the expressionistic forcefulness of the work to the tumultuous nature of the surface itself. Theophylactopoulos consistently demonstrates his personal engagement with painting and his attempt to reveal its implications. Through the physical imprint of his hands, he affirms the diachronic continuity of that activity from Paleolithic times to the present.

Catherine Cafapoulos