Paintings, 13/05/1991 – 08/06/1991
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Eleftherotypia, May 1991
Time, space and the world
A very interesting exhibition is that of Eleni Zouni at the “Medusa” gallery. Again, the gesture is a mental one, but the realm examined here is that of the soul, from which Zouni sets out to explore the world. The gesture here plays a leading role as both meaning and writing, while the pattern-image is guided by the expression of the processes of realised situations as well as of those on the way to being realised.
I believe that what matters most in expression is not how something is done but why it is done. If there is a convincing justification there is truth, hence there is a reason why something was done. In Zouni, the interest thing is the way the act is justified. Her tendency to talk about her personal fears by revealing the passages through which she overcomes them points to a self-analytical course which ends up producing results. The way is to be found in the writing, which may be carrying familiar patterns and influences but is still presented through private paths. In this sense, the overall presence of the works conveys her own emotions. For, of course, the way the artist balances the shapes, the figures, the small repeated signs is not the point here, in my opinion, no matter how well she does it. What really attracts our interest is the content of the painted course of the spiral, which evolves from one work to the next.
"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy"
(Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act I, Scene V)
The morphology of Planet Art has been slowly but steadily changing over the past few years making it possible for us to witness a modification of the landscape of art. The tendency of a considerable number of artists to dissociate themselves from a single habitat with its social surroundings and even from the crowds of the alternating artistic currents, has become more and more felt.
One could say that what is of interest in the present artistic landscape is owed to the numerous yet sporadic dissociations of thought and language from the occasional theoretical dogma, which rules over the art world for about a couple of years. If we want to have a true picture of spiritual becoming today, we should shift our attention from the main scene where the various forms of expression, rapidly alternating their leading role, hold sway. We will thus find ourselves faced with a new landscape, fashioned of scattered and fertile islets of existence and reflection. Detached from some original continent, they continue to bear some of the characteristics of their origins, but at the same time offer the visitor-spectator the chance to roam through a space which stills appears virgin, where civilization has not yet defined the value of things and where the path¬ways of communication have not been openly proclaimed. The artist's islet is this special, but as yet unformed space that one finds ever more frequently in his work as well as his way of life today.
Thus, while on the planet Earth the unification of states, the multinational mergers and global interconnections by means of satellite communications, become increasingly colossal in relation to the essential needs of the individual, the indigenous inhabitants of the planet Art, that is, the artists, in contrast to their administrators, are tending to break away from a faceless society of goods and uniform codes and take refuge in a different world, its borders the limitless horizon of nature and spirit. The present work of Eleni Zouni is to be found on one of these islets. Using a sheet of paper or a wooden panel and employing acrylic colours, ink and varnishes in muted tones, Eleni Zouni brings to the surface some elementary forms: lines and round shapes, stains and traces of images which inhabit the mind and which seem to speak a language unknown to us, but important for their own secret world, a world which does not commune with the world of objective phenomena. These strange beings are hosts on Zouni's islet, making every endeavor to preserve their freedom of movement. On the artist's part, no attempt is made to link the life of these mental beings to our own reality. The only intervention made by the artist in order to register the continuous and ceaseless movement of the mental world within the space of the senses, is the drawing of these "beings" in an elementary form. Their image is repeated on multiple surfaces in varying degrees and colours, creating a unity on Zouni's diptychs and polyptychs. Their movement is not governed by any form of logic. The only image formed is the representation of their own rhythm of movement, a rhythm which in the main is unconnected to the rhythms of our meters. For entire centuries art drew its vocabulary from a common language, living or obsolete in relation to the subject it was dealing with. Even if it replasmed the objective values of each era, the re-organization of the elements within the fictive space was based on the logic of some common code of communication. And this practice was indeed able to constitute an effective tool for the reshaping of social sensibility, as long as art continued to exercise the role of a mediator between the public and a world theory. But this role has been in question for decades now. It has become useless and impossible. The mediation is done through other channels of communica¬tion which technology and the contemporary political economy have opened up. An entire century spent in questioning this role could not have but helped create a completely different sensibility in the artist himself. I am referring in particular to the artist to whom the importance of art is permanently and invariably focused on the area of the spiritual quest, to the inquietude of the one who has gone a little deeper than the conquest of the surface. In other words, I am referring to the artist who can appreciate the act of information, as it is conducted today, as a concrete form of communication of events, intensified by the perfected means of mass media and, at the same time, castrated by the magic of communing sensibility with the mysteries of the non-concrete. In the amazing era of satellite communications, without precedents, geo¬graphic distances have been annihilated, so that the sense of the dimension of space has been significantly altered and information has become common property without any physical contact with the event which is being revealed. And as the projection of events increases, psychic participation in them de¬creases. The celebrated and much discussed man of the "global village" has been a reality for some time now, but from the moment of his realization, a series of questions have arisen. One of the most important, which relates to art and spiritual quest, is the question as to what degree man, as an individual, can carry on a creative form of existence in the role of a passive receiver, which is imposed on him by the imperious system of ideas of our times.
Actually, for a large part of the present-day sensibility, man lives bound as never before to what Heidegger dubs "the present and usual". But on the basis of the "present and usual", which slowly fashions the new tradition, the "truth is not revealed" nor, subsequently, the language which refers in any manner to tradition "as something exclusively real", speaks of the essence. The whole world, the entire planet and by extension the information concerning the universe, is manifested as a blend of phenomena and events, within which the individual has no space of his own. He is acquainted with everything that goes on without bodily and emotionally proving the total experience. Moreover, it is by now widely felt that information is projected in a rhythm foreign to the capacity of assimilation that Nature has provided man with. He lives in a global village deprived of his own dwelling.
The work of Eleni Zouni is the quest for a new dwelling. It arises from the reaction of the spirit to the intense experience of the specific time and space of our world. Its detachment from the new tradition is the gesture of who insists on the preservation of space and time as questions without a satisfactory answer, as mental images unconnected with the skin-deep experience of space and time, which is granted by contemporary culture.
The forms of Eleni Zouni are stigmata, which spring from what Bachelard terms the "phenomenology of the psyche". They roam on the surface without any logical relationship with space. In other words, Eleni Zouni sketches the perplexity, declaring it to be the only essential question, provoked by the contemporary social design, which is grounded on the knowledge and promo¬tion of what is manifest. She sketches limitlessness as a vision of the individual who lives confined to the global ghetto. She seems to be telling us that continues to go on in the inmost parts of the soul is as vital as our very earthly substance. At the same time it is as limitless as the horizons of the universe, which open out beyond perception. She shapes art as both an indicator and a language which revolves around and speaks of origin. Eleni Zouni set off a few years ago bound for that origin. A destination which by itself determines the quality of each form of speech and script as a mental and psychic gesture, not exclusively derived from the realm of aesthetic quest. Thus painting is understood as, and at the same time becomes, a gesture and an act of the transferal of earthly existence to a space, where remote and invisible the principles and the essence of the creation of the universe lie. Where there is neither up nor down and beings do not seem to occupy a concrete level of space, but appear to move about rhythmically, as if tuned to the rhythm of the dance of the god Shiva, who represents the Dancing Universe. Where intellect and feeling converse on creation as equals. Where the one is the all, enormous and microscopic at one and the same time. In those mental areas, the unit is not equivalent to solitude, because it cooperates with each separate part for the preservation of eternal creation.
The action of the signs and beings which Eleni Zouni transmits to us today through her own language is carried out in such a mental area, on such an islet. In reality, it is yet another solitary language involved in the essential act of the writing of a parallel history of our civilization, that which is gradually being created by a number of artists and intellectuals on the extra-mural site of thought. Outside the walls of the familiar building of contemporary social grounds, an old but endless story is being carried on with renewed sensitivity; its writing was begun centuries ago and speaks of "more things... in heaven and earth, than are dreamt of in our philosophy". Let us not forget that, in the end, this will be the true story.