Achilleas Pistonis: ‘Within Oneself’ @ Thanassis Frissiras Gallery

Thanassis Frissiras Gallery in Athens presents the first solo show of Greek artist Achilleas Pistonis, ‘Within Oneself’, consisting of fourteen oil on canvas paintings.

Pistonis’s iconography involves a range of human figures, all engaged in locations of unidentified topography. His characters are directly positioned in front of the viewer starring at them, and although the initial impression is that the artist ‘s intention was to create an undeviating dialogue between the viewer and his characters, we soon realise that the latter are lost in their very own inextricable thoughts. The use of a limited colour palette mainly employing blends of white and black, generates a taciturn environment where one feels isolated, facing their own self. This esoteric journey leading towards a personal serenity and tranquillity is probably what Pistonis here deals with.

With clear references to academic painting techniques the artist fervently reveals his portraiture skills while at the same time he flirts with expressionism and abstraction challenging his own comfort zone. The exhibited work reflects Pistonis’s own journey balancing between old and new(er) techniques and exploring the possibilities of his own temperament and talent; a promising talent that unquestionably rises our expectations for his work of the near future.

Achilleas Pistonis talked to REVma -/+ about his work:

REVma -/+: “Within oneself” is an exhibition exploring the esoteric world of your characters. How did you decide to work on this narrative based on human portraiture as opposed to a more abstract environment?
A.P.: ‘Within oneself’ is, indeed, an exhibition that is trying to show not exactly the esoteric world, but mostly the emotional world of a someone’s character. The decision to do that, is based mostly on personal experience. Sometimes, even when I am with a group of 20 people, I find myself contained and protective over the ‘inner me’, as if I am locked in a non-existing room. The idea to do this section of paintings didn’t just occur to me one day. One could say that it is a kind of obsession and you can’t do anything else but to make it happen. I’ve dealt with many difficulties trying to find a way to create spaces in these portraits so that they can feel like rooms that don’t exist but can be clearly internal. As very well described by Dimitris Milisis in the prologue of the catalogue of the exhibition, ‘it is the place we resort to feel more familiar’. This place for me couldn’t be painted in the same way my models were painted and of course it couldn’t be colorful. Using shades of white and grey, otherworldly tones are created so that the final impression feels rather accurate.

REVma -/+: The majority of your paintings involve the presence of a different person. What is the source of inspiration for your portraits?
A.P.: The people I paint are always people close to me, people I know very well, people I live with and I have shared with intense experiences, good and bad. In order to paint someone I have lived with for long enough, I must see things in them that are mine as well, to see myself in that face. So, I thinκ the source of inspiration is probably myself. Not literally of course, since my purpose is to make a portrait that will be connected with a specific role. Most of the time, the idea of a composition springs to life on the most unexpected moments of my everyday routine. The fact that in my new project we see the same person in the same painting two of three times, it’s closely related to that esoteric space I’m trying to ascribe and which I mentioned earlier. In that way, apart from the visual interest that this has for me, it gives me the opportunity to present people not only as one-dimensional beings but as individuals with influences that vary and playing different roles each time. Despite all that, though, it is one person with one personality -usually the central figure of the painting- with a variety of psychic parameters.

REVma -/+: How do you see the arts world evolving in Greece at present and do you feel there is still potential for young artists to develop their career within the Greek borders?
A.P.: Look, my first reaction to this question is to say NO. It is very difficult for young artists to work and develop in Greece. But, I can’t avoid mentioning what has happened to me and how lucky I’ve been. As soon as I finished my studies in Athens School of Fine Arts, I collaborated with Thanassis Frissiras Gallery which for me was (and still is) a dream coming true. It is a gallery whose name in my mind and in most people’s mind who follow visual arts in Greece is connected with anthropocentric painting. Back then it was still a new gallery but behind this was Frissiras Museum, which is known in Greece as one of the only places where you can see exhibitions from artists from all over Europe. When the gallery first opened it was a new, modern place but with the quality and the sensation of an art space with power and experience. When I presented them with my work, they never treated me like the new artist they don’t trust. They saw my work, they supported me and they did all they could, so that people can find out about me and my work through group exhibitions with other fellow artists, established or new. Later, I had the honour to participate in some exhibitions at the Frissiras Museum and see my work amongst artists that I’ve admired for years and young artists such as myself. Thanassis and Vlassis Frissiras are people who never hesitated to see and appraise the work of a young artist and to promote it. So these facts really change my initial answer to YES. If a young artist is patient enough and doesn’t give up easily, he or she can find different ways to develop one’s art in Greece today.