The most recent collection of paintings, entitled “In the Embrace of Morpheus…,” by the important Cypriot painter Andreas Nicolaou is a challenge to himself and, at the same time, to his audience.
In essence, the painting are a diptych of works centered on the young sleeping girl, which gave the title to the collection, and of a series of portraits of the same model.
The artist processes each of his stimuli –still lives, male and female nudes in compositions with metaphysical texture, the Minotaur, children and butterflies—by fully developing the object of his inspiration. In his latest work, he renews himself in scope and potentiality so that in each case, he substantiates both that renewal as well as the unity of his personal idiom. Indeed, the iconographic diptych of his present work is rooted in the swaddling of the male and female nudes in various poses as well as of the children with butterflies.
The prepubescent girl, resigned to Morpheus, is not in any essential opposition to the young female face, which in the portraits experiences a variety of emotions and states: from joy to bliss, to melancholy, panic, and aggression. Watching the young body reclining in various poses, one discovers an intensity, which is not expressed solely by her pose but by her very anatomy. Her resignation to Morpheus is only apparent while, in contrast, the underlying intensity impresses and mesmerizes the spectator much more than in a more apparent projection.
The indispensable collaborator of the latest works is Nicolaou’s omnipotent and charismatic color, which orchestrates, in the composition itself as well as its environs, a specific atmosphere or rather a sense of atmospherics. It is an idiom that fortifies in potentiality the suggestion that the work exercises by exciting the spectator beyond his vision and psyche. It is telling that Nicolaou manages to always orchestrate the co-existence of many, supplemental compositions in any one work; a characteristic that expands the horizons of every composition of his by endowing it with a dynamic pulse. Cultivated through this approach, the reclining form of the girl also becomes organically, not simply thematically, the epicenter of the composition and at the same time the departure point for enigmatic states and surprises.
The young girl truly appears as a receiver and transmitter of emotions and experiences,which she has been called upon by fate to know during her earthly journey. Leverage to the entire composition is the bed on which we detect the actions of the body and which surrounds the girl; it is illuminated or shaded accordingly but, always, instinctively by the artist so that its suggestion is magnified and appears as a mere excuse.
Through technical perfection that directs us to renaissance art, and through an unparalleled sensitivity of color, which reminds us of Venetian renaissance creators but also through a completely contemporary perception of composition and optical angle, Nicolaou has once again surpassed himself. Indeed, in his present work, even the obviously visible and comprehensible draws us, by virtue of its charisma, towards an excitable puzzlement as well as towards constantly renewing surprises.
These are characteristics, which, always in a creative comparison with previous works, are openly projected on to the girl’s portraits. Portraits that correspond to different and, often, antithetical experiences and emotions and which the painter has decoded as artistically as possible. Decoding in this case is a motivated approach and the very essence of Nicolaou’s creative passion; a passion which in each case reveals the artist as an authentic creator according to the time –honored definition of art; a passion, finally, thanks to which Nicolaou can transubstantiate the most daring facial expressions of his model, given the beauty of her face, into aesthetic presence. Indeed, the objectively very beautiful girl perpetuates her beauty thanks to the vibrancy with which each of her expressions have been decoded and to the transubstantiating artistic process that we identify with the talent of the artist.
It is a beauty, which, even in its most extreme expressions, does not deteriorate thanks to the spectacular expressiveness of its form. Precisely because irrespectively of each grimace, what predominates and radiates here is the model’s magnetic personality, her psychic strength and the intensity with which she experiences and expresses even the most extreme emotional states. These states have been tamed by Nicolaou’s brush and dynamic talent, thereby orchestrating through the portraits of the girl a visual psychic profile. It is difficult task and, at the same time, a challenge for Nicolaou who, nevertheless, rose to the occasion and managed to bypass the purely material and avoided imitating with his brush a face. Instead of approaching it purely as skin surface, he decoded exclusively the very essence of its psyche or, better, the idea-spirit of each of its emotions.
It is an attempt -- as we have pointed out with the corresponding intensity in the young life that is only on surface resigned to Morpheus -- that substantiates fully and exclusively for the capable artist the platonic definition of the authentic artist: that instead of imitating he should express the very Idea of his original stimulus. An Idea, expressed doubly here through the double ‘psychography’ of the body-soul that Nicolaou has attempted visually and with a primarily poetic manner, defines every creation of his in an ingenious threshold between physis and metaphysics. And this, because his work consist of both matter and spirit, the two faces of the very same superlative truth, of the energy that governs the universe.
Dr. Art Historian and Art Critic
Translated from the Greek by George Syrimis, Yale University