THE BLACK LINE
Inspiration for this series of works came from two paintings in my solo exhibition “Faces” at the Byzantine & Christian Museum of Athens in 2012, which depicted officers and were placed in the main hall as guardian angels.
Along the way this nascent theme began to appear in more abstract forms, acquiring metaphysical elements as well as a ‘religious’ aspect thanks to the transcendental feeling exuded by the works with their light, the featureless figures they depicted (fleeting figures, immobile, dominant; at once subdued and unbridled) and the landscapes around them...
Following the same logic, I went on to paint men and women in typically oriental attire. Even I was surprised to discover a subtle relation between this series and the one before it; a relation revolving around duty, religion, the “sursum corda”, the hereafter... What interested me most, however, was faith as an element at once spiritual and revolutionary; I was interested in introspection, seclusion, the inner communication with the universe, with the unknown; in Man who, feeling betrayed and at an impasse, tries to communicate with God as a last resort. The earthy has assumed the form of the sublime, and matter is almost disembodied in a vacillation between perishable and permanent, ephemeral and eternal.
Dominating this silent, transcendental rallying are the angels, unclear and indefinite like shadows before vague, metaphysical landscapes like those in Leonardo da Vinci’s Virgin of the Rocks and La Gioconda. Angels/self-portraits of the artist, whose only certainty is that of debt and awe as he treads the narrow path of his mission, at once fallen and risen; he, too, is commanded from above.
This painterly approach brings to mind the work of some German artists who did not use paint and brush but the process of photography, unlike the American Ed Ruscha whose handling of the image is purely conceptual. In the early 1980's Thomas Struth, Thomas Ruff, Andreas Gursky e.t. all wished to remove the social and historical context from their work by photographing industrial relics and largely replicating the atmosphere in the works of de Chirico. Their clear references to the New Objectivity of the inter-war years become even more pronounced when the first two turn to portraiture, in the late 1980's. Ruff, in particular, enlists the aid of tradition [New Objectivity] to counter the argument of conceptual artists about the deconstruction of portraiture because it projects a subjective approach and false descriptions of the subject. The propositions of Struth and Ruff, but also of Gursky, are based on an anti-modern approach to the matter and rekindle the interest of conceptual approaches by demonstrating the radical nature of photo-conceptual practices. Lassithiotakis moves in much the same way, the difference being that he employs the photographic method rather than the medium of photography. In the series of Earthly Portraits he appears as an 'objective' observer but preserves the right to make visual comments which he expresses through his play with light. Like the German artists, Lassithiotakis also resorts to the valid model of New Objectivity but does so using the historical version of painting.
art historian and critic
44th Demetria Thessaloniki 2009
For those who are not familiar with the overall work of Lassithiotakis, a brief overview would be useful at this point. The artist emerged in the early 1980's and his work is basically divided into two phases. The first phase, in the 1980's, was anthropocentric, colourful and enriched with elements borrowed from expressionism and pop art. The atmosphere was almost invariably gloomy and concepts where of central importance to the composition, as the artist was influenced by conceptual art. He is, besides, one of the few Greek exponents of transavanguardia and this is now understood by collectors who eagerly seek his early works. Around the same time he experiments with colour, material, three-dimensional art, even sculpture. Yet in the '90's his work takes a different direction. The bright colours are gone as he uses only earthy hues: his paintings become filled with deserted, nostalgic landscapes where the human presence is either implicit or removed altogether. The artist seems to distance himself from tangible reality as he becomes concerned with memory, the fusion of past and present; his work acquires a dreamlike aspect, an introversion and he rejects everything superfluous in his quest for the essence. The painterly character gains ground.
art critic 2001
IMPRESSIONS OF A VOYAGE
<<...Compass cards anw eather vanes; magic instruments measuring time and place. Lonely courses across metal lakes in wooden ships.
Magnetic needles in a dynamic balance fleetingly immobilized by terrestrial and celestial forces.
Magical circles of fish and birds in an endless pursuit of ebbing time, of matter resurgent. Whirly wings of earthly material, navigators of the dream and the imagination, fashioned out of wood, charcoal, metal and clay...>>
<<...My mind is haunted at present by the dualistic relationship between cyclometric disk, symbol of the perpetual flow in the sequence and continuity of events, and the needle, confining the momentary, the unique and the absolute to one point.
Indices, children's spinners, small wooden boats and utopian plants all seem to move or be still in a fragile equilibrium.
Compass needles, the hands of a clock. In motion around the same synthetic axle, ceaselessly revolving inside the world of the rectangular. A tangible surround, reflexible boarders. The substance of the frame beside the blur of man's existence.
It is the now that has been trapped. All else is either slightly before or after.
The discs, metal circles of light; marks in the clay like messages traced with a finger in the dump earth.
Endeavors in the metrical, uncertain passages of the subjective self. He who attempts, improvising his own life to capture infinite space and immeasurable time.
In my earlier work, decaying material represents time. Now it is instruments that measure both time and place, chasing the thread of myth, its beginning and its conclusion...>>
The projections into space observed in the previous work of Y. Lassithiotakis have now become integrated into two dimensions. The aggression and violence of movement have been transformed into a more interiorized, suggestive efficacity. The neo-expressionist shapes of his earlier alienated imagery now return as ectoplasmic coloured shadows to shed an immobilizing, unearthly light, activating this new firmament spangled with galaxies of action, doubt shifts of position and revisions of the very artistic phraseology. The symbols, in this case, simply by their appearance on these screens are undermined just when the meaning of the painterliness opens up its materials and their manipulation, revealing its media and values. The meaning of the language, indentifying with the figurative concept and act, rearranges its elements in order to contain the new ones, which necessarily dictate a fresh approach of these compositions.