“And by images I mean, first, shadows, then, reflections in water and in all close-packed, smooth, and shiny materials, and everything of that sort, if you understand.”[1]

 Lamprini Boviatsou’s recent paintings are colored pencils on paper. The artist, true to her usual preferred ways, depicts reflections of herself on smooth, polished surfaces, a practice that has become a trademark of her work. A look at works like The Beginning of the Journey, The Moment, The Room and Nostalgia suffices to confirm the artist’s desire to present reflections of herself on surrounding objects. Since the surfaces that her face is reflected upon are curved, each reflection depicts a distortion of facial features. And while in the past works, such distortion excited so much the artist that she wished to draw it to its extreme,[2] in her more recent paintings the distortion is still present and yet it is less intense, having given its place to introspection, occasioned by the encounter of the self in the mirror.

Lina Tsikouta wrote with regard to Boviatsou’s work that the simulacrum replaces reality.[3] Indeed, Boviatsou’s paintings seem not to have been drawn by a human hand. There is no sense of materiality or texture, gesture or sign of the painter’s personality. The absence of any form of expression is meant to shock, especially in a country such as Greece where expressionism has always found fruitful ground to develop. “I don’t wish for the hand to rule the picture”, states the artist[4], and it is indeed difficult to distinguish between what is real and what is mythical, what is true and what is false in her work. Her effort not to reproduce reality but to substitute it or simulate it can be understood as an attempt to generate meaning beyond the original and the copy. Thereof stems the concomitant claim of her work that reality always involves within itself elements of representation. At the end of the 20th century, postmodern painters worked on the threshold between reality and its representation, employing them both to their benefit, as Christopher Reed specifically mentions.[5]

For the above reasons, the use of photography, by Boviatsou, through which she captures her subjects before painting them, is purely modernist. A photograph is her point of departure and the ending result of her pictures is equally photographic. The stake of the work is not to find ways to improve the representation of reality, as was the constant struggle of the impressionists, but to generate meaning as effectively as possible by using all means that an artist has at hand. Hyper-realism or photo-realism, as Thanasis Moutsopoulos writes, with reference to Boviatsou’s work[6] does not represent reality but rather claims and solicits a part of it.

Although Boviatsou’s method of work is contemporary, her subjects are old and historical. Self-portraiture along with the depiction of the painter’s familiar and personal surroundings have been perennial subjects of the European art history. On the other hand, the objects Boviatsou selects to paint along with her reflection are everyday household things serving the domestic dealings of family life. There is, therefore, a definite feminine side to her work, inspired by today’s women to the extent that they are still caretakers of their home and family. Moreover, the element of biography accentuated in her work, places an emphasis on identity, questioning thereby the formalist modernist faith on universality and transcendentalism of art, usually represented by male artists.[7] Therefore, the painter builds a contemporary perspective combined with old, historical practices.

Occasionally, Boviatsou attempts to follow a new direction, latent in her work: Magdalene follows such a direction of pure self introspection. Here Boviatsou paints herself as Magdalene, an important biblical character, reminding us of Cindy Sherman’s practices, who all too often took on different roles and personae. A second direction, equally convincing and promising, is followed in two other paintings: the first one, is entitled Worship and the other Spout. Both paintings follow the basic directions of the painter and contain the principles of her work and yet their main direction is altogether new and different than in her previous work. Other works like Hope and Reality in pieces create an expectation to see further works in order to fully grasp the direction the artist wishes to follow.

In one of Boviatsou’s works entitled Screen the viewer observes the painter’s face reflection on the computer screen, projecting the facebook homepage. Here we see not the third degree of distance from reality, as described by Plato in Book X of The Republic, after the divine design and the human construct. We do not therefore see the  representational copy generated by the painter[8], but a multileveled distance from reality, the degree of which might as well remain uncertain. And yet, as the American photorealists of the 1960’s, like Philip Pearlstein, Alex Katz, Jack Beal and others have asserted, the media of mass communication including today’s social media such as facebook, define nowadays what is real and what is false.[9] Surely, the current human condition offers many opportunities for what Boviatsou calls “intense and painful observation”, to serve the “dialogue with one’s self and memories”.[10] On the other hand, today’s unhindered and unlimited, endless communication favors the shadows and idols that make us all images of ourselves, distorted, neurotic and crazed.[11]

(Translation by Evelyn Vovou in cooperation with the author)

Dr Constantinos V. Proimos, Adjunct Lecturer at the Hellenic Open University and art critic

[1] Plato, Complete Works, ed. John M. Cooper, transl. G. M. A. Grube, rev. C. D. C. Reeve, 510e, Indianapolis, Hackett 1997.

[2] Look at the artist’s precious exhibitions in 2011 and 2008 at Thanassis Frissiras Gallery in Athens.

[3] Lina Tsikouta, “Simulacrum or the fascination of substituting reality” in Lambrini Boviatsou, exh. cat. Athens, Thanassis Frissiras Gallery, 2008, p. 15.

[4] Interview with the writer of the essay.

[5] Christopher Reed, “Postmodernism and the art of special identity” in Greek in Nikos Stangos, Concepts of Modern Art, transl. Andreas Pappas, Athens, MIET 2003, pp. 378, 379.

[6] Thanassis Moutsopoulos, “Ceci n’est pas une Boviatsou. The multiple facets in the painting of Lambrini Boviatsou” in Lambrini Boviatsou, exh. cat. Thanassis Frissiras Gallery, Athens 2011, p. 7.

[7] Reed, op. cit. p. 382.

[8] The Republic, 597b-599b.

[9]Katherine Hoffman, Explorations. The Visual Arts since 1945, New York, Harper and Collins, 1991, pp. 121-128.

[10] Personal statement of the artist.

[11] Jacques Lacan, « Le stade du miroir comme formateur de la fonction du Je » Ecrits I, Paris, Seuil 1966, σελ. 89-100.