Labyrinth: The Darkened Wanderings of Myth

Eleni Depou

In his recent work Andreas Nicolaou has added to his earlier group of paintings on the Myth of the Minotaur to create a complete body of work which takes as its frame of reference the same powerful imagery. Nicolaou’s painting is immediately experiential in character, romantic and familiar. It is inspired by Greco-Roman antiquity, the symbolists of the last century and by German expressionism. His subject is the human body, depicted in a plastic, lyrical way, using the anatomic details of classical sculpture and pulsating with inner emotion and tragedy. The forms, whether they are upright and leaning over, or whether they are lying prone, take their positions as if to stand as a monument to Eros-Thanatos, carrying with them a dreamlike breath from the transcendental metaphysical world and thereby become imprinted with values and strengths which according to Plato are the greatest confirmation of true art. These engaging bodies radiate Eros-desire, which plays itself out with a spiritual anguish, as they emerge to be redeemed with the parting of soul from body. Multimeaningful figures in a poetical space bring forth quests that are ever timely, abolishing the boundaries of time and place. They are forms which myth has bidden to walk on the sepulchral bed of Greece's earth, where death gives a sweet fragrance to distant memory, the last star to accompany their passage into yet another light. This is the new beauty which Nicolaou wants to illustrate, like a Hosannah to the pubescence of a shadow, which, after midnight, becomes a resplendent sacrifice in the land of the winds.

Naked bodies, spiritual and at the same time suggestively sensual, resplendent with flesh and bones, immobile and alive, primeval yet familiar. They give voice to an expressionist excitement with the musical harmony of their limbs in a sensual ballet. They become a part of our soul, revive emotions within us, these forms which are weighed down by absolute silence. It was there that the poetic Word lay buried, prologue and epilogue to a fiery silence, a holy whisper along the lonely pathways in the imaginary universe of the Labyrinth. In the hermetically sealed footprints of the abyss at the approach to the Cross. Bodies alone, or grouped together where the shadow begins of a mystical wandering in the abyss of their own selves; the veils must be ripped to shatter their illusions and reveal themselves alone, to measure up to their fears. Bodies with archetypal figures with the atmospheric tying up of the form and their kind of tenacious relationship with the Myth compose repeated metamorphoses which are entangled with the fact of erotic desire and sacred pleasure. Here for the shapes to exist they must lose themselves (divine drama) to be sanctified. From the deathly marks of a catastrophe it would be enough for the lonely beauty in the thought “die and be born” amidst sanctuaries, divine oracles, the naked voice of a worldly doubt. Nicolaou, in the symbolic juxtaposition of the Myth of the Minotaur draws us away into other worlds in a fascination for the past so that we may forget the harsh realities of today. The fixing of this world seems not to put an end to the disarray and the Minotaur’s labyrinth continues along Ariadne’s thread into another “universe”. But the Minotaur lies in wait for our own fears. In this dream time the body is subdued by evil and innocence or else it is attracted by an inner Ariadne-Theseus passion for pleasure. The two faces hang in mid-air in a poetic space looking for a divinity to give them a retrospective entitlement. The Minotaur proposes reality as myth-making like a magic picture of inner reality. The work has a lot to do with the artist and less to do with the onlooker. Nicolaou records his method and his self with a rich narrative and with the contemplative approach of a concentrated experience of life. The dense colouring of the empty background, a sacrificial contemplative space and a female body which suffers or desires. It sees different things, it remembers symbols around feelings (a feminine sensibility) in the place of lovers’ monument which “remembers the body”, a woman to be pitied (Ariadne on Naxos) who recognizes what is going on around her but doesn’t have a voice to say the things that she has been afraid to say. The bodies have a history, they give secret testimonies from yesterday. Nicolaou, from within the ceremonial eleement guides his human forms into the eternal light of a loveliness. The whole myth was made for the love of Ariadne with Theseus which remained unfulfilled as eternal love, “the impossibility of eros”. Nicolaou, a true artist with intention and perseverence in what he does, presents his own symbols with a characteristic originality of expression.

As he progresses himself towards the unknown, he tries to fashion a vision of the future, within the new pictorial potentials as to the form, which function at the same time with the already experienced descriptive method. The artist urges a contemplation of the emotions, searching for its mythical roots so as to reveal the - wherever they can be recognised - marks of the past without repeating the moments but achieving a transfer of its consciousness. Within his stage-set, the kingdom of eros: There is a complicity between place and form. The embodiment of movement in his work shows that movement must be freed from everything with which it has been traditionally linked. Meaning movement, rhythm: the true as well as the illusory movement which is perceptible in the flow of the lines and shapes in painting and sculpture. A new manner of expression which resembles contemporary dance. The risen body which describes a curve, stretches it, tears it and lifts it into the air, a revealing and natural silhouette. Viewing the work means nothing less than delivering up the soul to a sensual inspection of form and the strength of the Myth which it exudes as a whole.

Eleni Depou
Art critic

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