“D’ you want a hand?’ he asked,
Taking a step towards her. ‘I can manage,’
She answered, feeling for the stairs.
Three times, like that, he tried to reach her.
But, being so little practiced in such gestures,
Three times the hand fell back, and took its place,
Unmoving at his side.”
Bernard O’Donoghue, Ter Conatus
conatus [from the Latin cōnārī, effort]: endeavour, striving, impulse, tendency. According to Spinoza’s philosophy, the tendency of each thing in and of itself to strive to persevere in its being, maintaining the hope of happiness, which is none other than the foundation of virtue”.
“George Sampsonidis, in Conatus, his first solo exhibition, re-invents black-and-white anew in painting. Black as ashes, white as the fluttering of doves, tonal gray as in unforgettable memories.
In the meantime, the young painter feeds his images with dark ferns and fresh snow. He dreams of pale Ophelias, who drown silently amongst the waterlilies; angelic Valkyries, who feed on twilight and the anxious breaths of adolescents; the soft sweep of young girls’ lashes shielding their eyes under noble foreheads, lying in places where forgetfulness expels sorrow.
And afterwards he draws transparent undelivered letters to his underage self, enigmatic smiles of a birthday–celebrating Mona Lisa. Wax flowers for the Holy Shroud and Descartes’ hand-cranked movement mechanisms; wooden sleds that drown in hyperborean lakes and army boots that fade into the woods. Captured prophecies of a butterfly fluttering in its death-throws as it is doubly bayoneted by sharp scissors; confirming my first impression exactly one year ago, when I saw his thesis project: his exceptional skill in draughtsmanship in tandem with his moving ability to designate a personal field of magic in painting, bringing up from the depths the very slightest of differences and referencing amor naturalis, the natural force, which according to Augustine and Thomas Aquinas raises up or dashes down every object.
Painting, painting, painting. Vibrating to the transcendent poetry of Tarkovsky and Rimbaud, passionately involved in the philosophical cogitations of Aristotle and Dante, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche; a guest in the secret rooms of the Waldhaus Hotel in Sils Maria; delving into the depths of Castle Kafka, or the Berghof sanatorium on Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain.
Painting, painting, painting. Moving between the small hells and bright clearings of heaven, listening to grey family memories as they encounter the sweep and the turbulent footprints of latter-day European history.
George Sampsonidis, memories from a world of forgetfulness
With his first solo exhibition at Gallery Genesis this young artist presents an oeuvre of superior aesthetics.
As you stand, without many preconceived ideas, before an artwork by George Sampsonidis, you feel something change within you. Small fissures open up, as if a pane of glass were fragmenting without actually falling to pieces, as if ice were being engraved or a window partially opened: contact with the paintings of George Sampsonidis is an experience.
First and foremost, it is a passage, as from the street level at 35 Haritos Street, where Gallery Genesis is located, you have to change internal levels and focus your inner eye to envision the vast and obscure world of George Sampsonidis, behind latticework, filmy membranes, shadows and fluttering. With the compassion of a mature individual and the ability to navigate a cave-like world of dreams, forgetfulness and transitions, with a sense of great respect and immeasurable grace, George Sampsonidis has orchestrated a universe that sucks you in, in waves of beauty and ambiguity.
His forms are drawn from the land of Hypnos, Sleep, or Lethe, Forgetfulness; shadows that have gained flesh, they balance on a knife-edge between vision, nightmare and paradise. With the dense gray of charcoal acting like a landscape of a land out of time, the forms, the doves, the undelivered letters, the closed eyelids and mountain sides sleep through a process of silent, invisible dematerialization. It is a land redolent in symbolism. In the beautiful catalogue that bears the exhibition name Conatus (endeavour, striving, impulse, tendency), I read the dense text by Iris Kritikou, the exhibition curator: “the young painter feeds his images with dark ferns and fresh snow. He dreams of pale Ophelias, who drown silently amongst the waterlilies; angelic Valkyries, who feed on twilight and the anxious breaths of adolescents; the soft sweep of young girls’ lashes shielding their eyes under noble foreheads, lying in places where forgetfulness expels sorrow (…)”.
This is the world of George Sampsonidis. In and of itself, it forms an “installation” as it unfolds in the white space of Gallery Genesis, like a labyrinth of the mind, full of fun-house distorting mirrors. As if he dives into dark sea of night, with shadows of family history, George Sampsonidis stirs up common memories, small tragedies, mute laughter and sad smiles, and brings them to a frothing boil, shaded by a constant lapping of the waves, that rinses them out, makes them fade and peels them down.
As I became a recipient of this body of painting, I felt like I was sneaking a peak, through the tulle of time, at a geophysical map of a memory of a vanishing world.