Realism, distortion, reflection, relief and illusion are the tools with which Lambrini Boviatsou, who was born in 1975, renders her visual reality.
The intensely realistic rendering of the forms in her works is a deliberate choice that stems from her dexterity in faithful reproductions, as it is evident that the artist’s skill in both drawing and painting enables her to produce accurate copies of reality with the ease afforded by true talent.
Yet in her oeuvre the real and its reproduction go through the matrix of distortion and transformation of the faces and bodies of her figures. The, exploration of this contrast between realism and distortion, which becomes evident only after a second, more personal look, seems to be a product of computer processing before it is transferred to the surface of the painting. Her distortions bring to mind the techniques of modern, sophisticated advertising and television, of the transformations and mutations provided so generously by the contemporary media view of the world.
In fact, however, it is a more simple process based on the systematic observation and rendering of the effects of reality. Her technique starts from photographing the ‘realistic’ reflection of the moving image on a window, from various points and viewing angles. This snapshot forms the ‘canvas’, the starting point from which the young artist sets out to explore the reality of her forms.
The distortion of the forms creates monstrosities, as if it were the result of some exerted force which went beyond their limit of elasticity. As if seen through distorting mirrors, the figures are multiplied and changed.
In earlier works the artist used to paint mostly herself. In these new works the subjects are acquaintances, friends and family. Her self-portrait appears in two full-length versions and are the only compositions to include some background elements – a street door, pavement railings, a car, a sitting bench or part of the street. In one of these she is presented with the face just a little oblate, and the other is a Siamese version in which the heads are joined at the temples.
A tall and thin blonde woman is shown with some three heads, three noses, three mouths, three necks and five eyes. Despite the deformation, a faint smile on her face shows a complete lack of apprehension. A blond woman’s head grows out, extends and multiplies its features sideways, to the right, with lips hanging down like tildes and four green eyes in an almost horizontal arrangement.
A young man in a blue jacket, his blue eyes glistening, appears with a second head atop the original. Another man, seated and wearing a white shirt, has a second head over his right-hand brow, while in another green-eyed figure the extra head is attached transversely over his right cheek.
An enigmatic male figure has been subjected to lighter change: the face appears intact, but a separate part of the head with one eye stands next to the portrait. Not even the artist’s young son has escaped distortion; wearing a white bib and a red sweater and making a natural gesture with his left hand, the baby with the blond hair and the bright blue eyes is shown with more than two heads.
As in earlier works, Boviatsou paints her subjects on metal surfaces surrounded by a metal frame. A decisive element in her research is reflection, which has a twofold character. Initially, distortions begins from reflection, since it is not a product of the painter’s imagination but simply a fleeting photographic capturing of a scene, a view under specific conditions.
The reflection is a confirmation of existence, the mirror which presents the images of people and objects together with what the artist sees as the ‘ritualistic’ concepts they contain. Each form assumes elements of identity depending on how it is mirrored, and these elements are influenced by their social and political context.
The painter imposes this distortion of the figures in her attempt to demonstrate the chaotic nature of existence, the mobility, man’s special status in contemporary society. Distortion sets the condition of existence.
On a second level, reflection comes to trigger the actual participation of the viewer in the work. The viewer, i.e. the ‘other’, is introduced in the conceptual framework of the artwork and depicted in relation to the existing work. The viewer is mirrored on the metal surface of the work and is thus incorporated in it. The reflection of his image against the sheet metal and against the work itself is an essential element which rounds off the work.
As in earlier times, three of the works involve painting on metallic objects, such as the embracing couple on the tapped container, the girl on the metal ball or the female figure with the scarf in her multiple versions.
The new feature in the latest works of Boviatsou is the relief, which comes as an added element to accentuate certain details of the figure, such as the nose, the brow or the hands.
The research into various materials has been a characteristic of the young painter since her earliest works and throughout the evolution of her art. This research forms an inseparable element of the aesthetic consummation of her work and it usually serves to enhance rendering and emphasize the illusion – an illusion which, in her latest works, is set between painting and the three- dimensional rendering of the image, so as to corroborate the interpretation of the special reality.
The relief is made with a special plaster mix, which is painted with oil and attached to the metal.
The archetypes of the young painter were Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud, mainly in terms of the power of realism and the truth of representation. Bacon presents human destiny through an atmosphere of deep sadness, doubt, obsessions, horror and anxiety, showing the human condition through his unique images. Freud manages to convey the physical as well as the inner reality of his models, with an emphasis on objectivity but with the real focus on the inner truth of people and objects.
The affinities between Boviatsou and her archetypes lie in the area of artistic qualities, in that the rendering of formal order is fully subjected to observation and imagination. However, her distortions come as a result of the systematic observation of the phenomena of reality. Moreover, her gaze ‘fuses’ with that of the viewer who is reflected on the surface and thus becomes part of the work.
Her aesthetic reproduction reworks the real and reinterprets it through her own inner experience of the contemporary world.
The figures and the compositions of Lambrini Boviatsou can be compared to simulacra, because thanks to the truth and the fascination of their reflections they seem to replace reality itself. This substitution of reality by a simulacrum, its intake by the viewer and the participation of the viewer in the work, together with the way in which illusionary truth is rendered on multiple levels, constitute the fundamental elements of her art.
Dr Lina Tsikouta-Deimezi
Curator, National Gallery
From the exhibition catalog: Lamprini Boviatsou – what is not reflected does not exist, Thanassis Frissiras Gallery, September 2008, Athens.