It so happens sometimes that classifying an artist in one or another of the usual categories appears so self-evident that it becomes dubious. Antonis Giakoumakis is indeed such a case.“Savage Expressionism”, bordering on action painting, is a first impression of Giakoumakis work, which risks concealing those traits that do not conform to the established typology of expressionism. A more careful look immediately reveals that the explosive gesture one usually associates with this form of expressionism is missing.
To be sure, the gestural is at the core of Antonis Giakoumakis’ work, but its movement, however dynamic it may be, does not constitute an explosion, i.e. a break outward but, rather, it turns constantly toward the centre, inward into the picture. This creates the image of an abrupt about-turn which dissolves the figure violently by way of an implosion, the gravitational collapse caused by the vacuum inside material space, as happens with the demolition of huge structures or the supernovae before turning into black holes.Instead of the typical expressionist eruption of matter bursting from the centre outward Giakoumakis impulsively proposes an “explosive” introversion.
His brush-strokes, visible at the edges of the figures, turn suddenly around and lead our gaze back into the inside of the picture. At the limits of its violent dispersal, matter equally suddenly and dynamically condenses once more in its darkness and, in an inverted way as a negative print, reconstitutes the human figure. And this brings us to the next feature of Giakoumakis’ painting, which differs from the established notion of expressionism: his strict adherence to anatomy.
For gestural freedom and automatic painting do not become an “alibi” for an indifference toward the shaping of the human figure.It is not an accident that the artist’s starting point appears to be, instinctively perhaps, the medical x-ray plate. The imaging of the body by way of a negative film links his painting in terms of its origins with the classical tradition of the study of human anatomy; a tradition that takes us back to the Renaissance and the drawings of Leonardo Da Vinci.
The darkness from which the figures set off and to which they end up never becomes so thick as to conceal its inner composition. And this dark tonality brings forth a semiotics similar to that of an anatomical diagnosis.In these “radiographic plates”, form and unformed have a special place and inter-relation. Although at first one’s impression is of an evolutionary passage from anatomical precision to the deconstruction of the figure, a deconstruction that leads at times to the limits of the imageless form, this temporal, gradual process is not present in Giakoumakis’ painting.
The artist himself confirms this, stating that works that differ in terms of clarity were in fact created during the same period. He insists therefore to have us look at his paintings concurrently, the one next to other, and in this way he refutes another expressionist stereotype, that calls for a spontaneous, free expression to break up, all the more dynamically, the limits “imposed” by structure and composition. In the work he presents, the formed and the shapeless co-exit ab initio, from the start, and at the same time – and it is precisely for this reason there exists an essential relation between them.Structure and its dissolution, composition and dispersal, exist certainly as opposing poles, but do not cancel out each other.