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For Vassilis Salpistis
A few recollections of a meeting in Saint-Étienne, city of weapons and bicycles and a few
creaking sounds in connection with a staircase; of course all this remains obscure to the reader.
But the first meeting I remember took place in front of a painting of a staircase that I interpreted
as an ascending one, but whose steep steps, by some trick of perspective, revealed to us that
it lead nowhere. At the time, I didn’t know if I should consider this as a melancholic ruse of the
painter or a flaw.
Then came another painting, made several years later, that clarified this doubt while
confusing matters a bit further. Two celestial globes, an emaciated dressmaker’s dummy wearing
a white gown, and in the forefront, a toy horse; at the time, I played at trying to decrypt the
enigma. The title of the canvas was “A dada”, and the obvious reference seemed clear: “The
hobby horse” by Gombrich in the forefront; the two globes represented the Earth and the planet
Saturn. As for the dummy / doll, we know the reference to the woman who is impossible to paint
by Degas (“The man and the mannequin”, from the Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon).
The redundant aspect of each element presented on the surface of the canvas throws us
directly into the arms of the painter’s melancholy, and the immediate vision of the whole forbids
what language here allows: a partial, discursive expression of the key “eye-catching” elements,
whose overly dominant blatancy blocks interpretation in favor of a dream-like quality that
cannot be expressed through language; Salpistis goes even further in his exposure of this still
image with a short film that begins with the “finished” work and travels back to the bare canvas,
unwinding time in a backwards direction.
My memories of these two works seem to be a starting point for the “irony” of those that
have followed, right up to the present. Personally, writing – its limits, its incapacity to describe
completely what can be captured through vision in a fleeting instant, playing with the duration
of words, applying oneself to be precise in their description, both in the precision of what is
represented and in the matter that (re)presents – is not to my taste, and I prefer to leave the task
The extent of this work, the perversity of its pseudo-narrativity, places us in silence; questions
originating in non-enunciation, disquieting in their impossibility to be formulated, this is the
paradoxical ruse of a repressed iconoclast. And the artist adds another layer, of the “me, myself
and I” type, like the musical group denouncing intimist drool; the same goes for his
“over-experience”, and on through to the “execution” of the subject painted and of painting itself.
The uncertainties buried beneath all the affirmation of skill and veiled references (the
phantom and his flat sock) are a confirmation of the anxiety of being in the world and of the
profession chosen; all the while laughing, a laugh whose rhythm creates an empty space inside
us, inciting us to go further. Perhaps just like this dog, whose eyes see, yet reveal nothing.