Human geographies

Nitra Gallery, Thessaloniki, October 2011

Creating geography for stories: notes on Stella Meletopoulou’s painting

The dominant issue in Stella Meletopoulou’s first solo exhibition constituted the perceived interior and exterior architectural space: spare yet exceptionally clear designs of landscapes with multiple points of view and mainly hinted human presence.

In the current chapter of Meletopoulou’s work, with its eloquent title “Human geographies”, the human presence becomes transformed into the focus of the gaze, following, however, the logic of a scribbled depiction of reality and seeking concise coordinates for a geographically precise corporeal and intellectual human existence, that delineate a living time space continuum moving in parallel to the painted field of each painting.

In attempting to define the concept of time, Kant described Time as a pre-existing concept, which, along with other pre-existing concepts, such as Space, allows us to comprehend what we experience through our senses. Kant denies that time or space consist of substance, self-sufficiency or empirical knowledge: mainly he considers both time and space as elements of a systemic field on which we construct our everyday experiences. According to his interpretation, spatial measurements are utilised mainly in order to calculate the distances between objects; while time measurements are utilised in order to calculate the distance between events (or the duration of these). Thus space and time, without being self-sufficient, due to the existence of this systemic field, remain as concepts that are experientially real and not mere illusions.

The question in a systemic spatiotemporal field, within which the human existence moves and converses, creating imperceptible visual and unseen spatial motifs, constituted the main working layout for the painter’s “human geographies”: palimpsest landscapes which deliberately appear unfinished, as the narrative gives way to semeiotic punctuation; traces of cities, where the concise linear volumes are deposited on light; human figures are encountered in the interstices between streets or rooms, at times incurring unbreakable bonds and at other times elusive relationships, at other times breaking up definitively and at yet others remaining permanently unknown, and yet allowing in their sum total a degree of familiarity to the viewer’s gaze, which they themselves do not fear to meet head-on: “these are friends and lovers, who touch each other; children and parents who are gradually weaned of their daily co-existence; strangers who meet, or encounter each other at some point in time without even realising”, the artist explains, speaking of her need to locate and to mark indelibly these cracks of familiarity in the visible space, incorporating at the same time on her canvases palimpsest attacks of time, rendering their slight shadow more robust through the hovering perspective of successive drawings, through her image making, which is open to every form of subversion.

In Meletopoulou’s oeuvre, people are never indifferent or unconcerned with the external world. Avoiding every form of stylisation, organising space into mid-sized or small fields, which constitute distinct self-sufficiencies, proposing an eclectic design that does not seek perfection as an end in and of itself, or the non-finito when the basic substance has been already said on the surface of the canvas, choosing to insert words or phrases into her canvases wherever these are needed in her opinion (mainly when the human presence vanishes), insisting often on the therapeutic qualities or the self-aware truth of white and at other times startling the viewer with her bold use of a pleasing pink colour. In this second exhibited chapter of work, the young painter proposes inhabited spaces with inscribed psychological conditions, which ultimately concern the viewers themselves: confessing through her work the personal truth of the world she personally experiences, Meletopoulou invites us to commence a difficult process of self-knowledge, in an attempt to locate our own personal geographical space and time, in an attempt to locate the hovering coordinates of our own relationships with those we know and those who are strangers to us, who are established daily in our visual and emotional field.


Iris Kritikou