Information overload, chaotic structures, digital culture, incomplete narratives, history of art and memory, have been the stimulus that created the need to somehow manage this overwhelming material, with work, turning it into art.
Therefore, I explore the role of painting in the era of digital evolution by creating dynamic paintings of vibrant color that are built up through fragmentation, individual micro-stories as well as moments of sheer abstraction.
As an image collector, I begin the creation of my works with a two-way tour of both the virtual and physical worlds. The gathered images of various origins such as pixels, plant motifs, animals, ancient Greek architecture, renaissance engravings, children's drawings and scraps of my own works, serve as ready mades for the creation of hybrid compositions. The digital processing of the images, gives rise to new structures, which are then manually applied to the canvas. There is a reuse of pre-existing data that returns it back to material reality.
From abstract landscapes to scenes reminiscent of video games, my paintings play with the boundaries between the familiar and the unexpected, while an underlying sense of whimsical mood lurks behind the brushstrokes. These playful scenarios are articulated in an unencrypted language that invites the viewer to interpret it from scratch, like a psychological test.
Nucleus 160 x 300cm Wall installation, acrylics on aluminum and spray paint 2022
The integration of Digital and Painting aspects in the work
of Christina Papaioannou.
Christina Papaioannou presents us with such a rare proposition: a kind of painting (or should I dare say ‘post-painting’?) in which the integration of Digital and Painting aspects creates a newly born form. In my opinion, the fact that the ensuing artistic product does not lean towards either of those two elements, indicates the completeness of the integration itself.
Papaioannou’s artistic process works like a blender, grinding together scattered references to Art History (with a prominent love for Durer’s engravings), countless painting styles (the coexistence of which, has long been an insurmountable artistic taboo), various interactive procedures (such as children’s paintings made by the artist’s pupils) and, of course, Pixels, videogames and the digital world. It goes without saying that, if all those obviously contradicting elements where to coexist in a lifeless way, they could easily become a postmodern extravaganza (nothing wrong with that). Yet, this is not the case here. Surging through the interference produced by the transmission of segmented images, the final result seems to have a special balance of its own, as if it preexisted as a form in its own right.
By chance? I wouldn’t think so…
Her composing methods are closely related to the 20th century collage legacy. Yet, in Christina Papaioannnou’s cocktail, the different elements (used in considerable abundance) are being dissolved. In the end, they remain fragments or scarps (detectable only by the acutest eye) of a world shattered through a process that we, as outsiders, cannot decode. I surely can’t, even though I am the one writing these words looking at the very works of the exhibition. I think the source of the enigmatic nature of Christina Papaioannou’s painting is an element of randomness - as I’m tempted to call it, although I very well know that it is not so. In reality, there’s nothing random about it since the artist is in full control of her creative means, from the start to the very end. But there is one element in this planetary collision of forms, shapes and references that does not allow, in my humble opinion, the implementation of any established aesthetic rules. Undoubtedly, the 20th century has already challenged all of them.
Yet, in my eyes, Christina Papaioannou’s painting has an eerie relation to the art of an alien civilization or, better yet, that of an Artificial Intelligence. What I just wrote may sound strange, but I honestly cannot express it in a better way. If I wasn’t acquainted with her (basically handmade) artistic procedure, I would be talking of Data Visualization in chaotic collision or an Iconic Rorschach Test invoking the viewer’s deepest fantasies or fears. The entire Art History – especially that of the non-representational art – could be conceived as a constant Rorschach Test. This psychological test presents the participant with symmetrical, but randomly created images. Most participants identify those shapes with images of their subconscious – their fears and desires. They usually imagine abstract shapes or forms but most of the times, even though these images are not the product of human intellect, they recognise human figures. This augmented role of the viewer can be applied (if it’s not already being applied) in painting, as well.
It rests upon the viewer to interpret a work of art by letting his/her imagination free. When Jackson Pollock released the Wind- bag of Aeolus, he turned the whole artistic experience into a Rorschach Test, calling upon the viewers to either aesthetically admire an abstract work of art, or try to interpret and explain it. The most recent effort of stretching this notion of randomness, was made by Damien Hirst. In my opinion, Christina Papaioannou’s painting takes the viewer’s self-psychoanalytic process to an even higher level (as gamers would put it).
Returning from Non-Matter to Matter
Today, the developments in digital applications surely present us with limitless versions of an altered reality. Nevertheless, we must also take in account the two significant philosophical shifts which have recently occurred: the fact that the importance of photography as a form of documentation has long been exhausted, while the high image analysis produced by new generation computers and new editing programs has eradicated the magic of the undefinable which has haunted the earlier material.
On the contrary, the ambiguity of unfocused printing, television interference or pixels across a witness’ face can intensify the mystery as much as the connection of the unseen dots, thus promoting the viewer’s role. It reminds us of a thriller movie, where the unseen is often more frightening than what we see. I’m referring to the traits which marked, above all other things, the evolution of modernism and abstraction. What is important here, is not what you see, but what you think you are seeing. The final goal is the challenge of narration or a challenging narration. I feel that Papaioannou's work offers a significant new path to the adventures of painting, as it enters the digital era. At the beginning of this piece, I wondered if it’s a kind of post-Painting.
I am still wondering…
Thanassis Moutsopoulos, Art historian