Pantelis Chandris

Chandris Pantelis

Born in Athens in 1963, he studied Painting at the Athens School of Fine Arts (1982-1987) under Dimitris Mytaras. Since 2007 he is a Lecturer at the Athens School of Fine Arts. In 1992 he won the first prize of the Jannis and Zoe Spyropoulos Foundation and in 2010 he was awarded by AICA-Hellas for his work “Ens Solum”. Since 2008 he has been appointed Assistant Professor at the Athens School of Fine Arts and teaches at undergraduate and postgraduate level. His works can be found in National Sculpture Gallery, the National Gallery – Alexandros Soutsos Museum and in private collections. He lives and works in Athens.


Solo Exhibitions


Orbital Objects Citronne Gallery Athens


Schattenentblösster Elika Gallery Athens


Stealth Elika Gallery Athens


Question of Faith Elika Gallery Athens


Man Is An Island Gallery Athens


Ens Solum Gallery Athens


Almost – Between Gallery Athens


Hypostasis II TinT Gallery Thessaloniki


Hypostasis Gallery Athens


Medlent Epikentro Art Gallery Athens


Parallel Images II Art Athina Athens Kreonidis Gallery


Parallel Images Kalfayan Galleries Thessaloniki


Notes on the Blackboard – Kaleidoscopic Images Kreonidis Gallery Athens


Trophies Kreonidis Gallery Athens


Reconstructions – Alterations Desmos-Doma Gallery Athens


The Artist as Shipwreck / The Artist as Gunner

I had a dismal prospect of my condition; for as I was not cast away upon that island without being driven, as is said, by a violent storm, quite out of the course of our intended voyage, and a great way, viz. some hundreds of leagues, out of the ordinary course of the trade of mankind, I had great reason to consider it as a determination of Heaven, that in this desolate place, and in this desolate manner, I should end my life.

Daniel Defoe, “Robinson Crusoe”

It’s curious. In each of his exhibitions, Pantelis Chandris constructs a stand-alone world, entirely different to his previous exhibitions, but with threads that connect them all into a single unit. For the needs of this latest exhibition, he creates an Island as the centrepiece of a complex ensemble, whereby, through a series of drawings and structures, he invents and fortifies a space. He builds a closed, defensive domain and uses it to delineate a space of the mind, where the only way out for the thought is the projection of text. The text is a monologue this time, as opposed to the dialogue that featured in his previous work, which, through a projection, connects and develops along with the other works that make up the exhibition. He begins by writing: “My island is a low island. I am the master of my land. My island is my refuge, my island is my trap”.

The artist constructs a fortress / island with references to martial architecture while, at the same time, the overall structure also functions as a metaphor for the human body, the human universe. The artist-as-self supervises the world through a gunner’s slit.

On this island, cut off from the rest of the planet and humanity, is a fortified building which is surrounded by a huge human jaw. It is within this building, as it quickly becomes obvious, that the artist dwells. Isolated from everyone, defending his existence against an invisible enemy. The artist attempts to chart both the current condition of the artist at times of crisis, and the tragic fate of loneliness. And, of course, loneliness is a tragic fate not limited to artists. He is talking about the human tendency to barricade ourselves behind certainties which, instead of acting as refuges of redemption, often become fateful traps. Chandris invokes a romantic version of the artist, who works feverishly, secluded in his attic studio, excluded, a pariah, from the developments of a society that seems, increasingly, to have no need of him, and which he transports to the dystopian land of a timeless island. If one thinks about the model of the corny cosmopolitan artist projected by contemporary Greek media, these reflections take on a tragically pertinent significance.

The artist, then, is a new Robinson Crusoe. Gerasimos Vokos writes: “In the 17th century, Defoe writes of the adventures of Robinson Crusoe. A shipwreck, alone, with the accumulated experience of the civilisation he carries, creates on his desert island the world anew. In the second half of the 19th century, Verne writes ‘The Mysterious Island’. Here, a group of people prevails over nature, thanks to the inventiveness of a mechanic and the tireless efforts of all, to discover, ultimately, the one, the head mechanic, who gives the island meaning and solves the mystery that surrounds it. In the first book, the hero is Robinson Crusoe. In the second, the protagonist is the island, which, however, finds meaning in the one, the subject hidden in its own depths. With the book’s title, Verne defined once and for all the island’s destination: mystery”1. In the case of Chandris, the “head mechanic” of the island is, of course, the artist himself, who is also, in this event, Robinson. His island is not a mysterious divine natural creation, but the contents of an artist’s mind working away in his studio.

In this exhibition of Chandris, the organic forms that had already appeared in his previous works return as definite references to the anatomy of the human body. The jaw with its set of teeth is the first of these forms. It surrounds the bunker building of the island, adding an extra layer of fortification, while introducing us to the subversions of scale that Chandris specialises in. Are we talking about an island / body that contains the model of a building, or about an actual island with real architecture, where cyclopean human relics mysteriously appear? And that human jaw is deconstructed and presented again as a new articulated form, without precedent. Another organic form that appears in this group of works is something resembling a digestive tube, a ‘soft’ form, which, albeit compressed into a spiral to cover the limited area contained within the human body, unravelled as in an architectural elevation drawing it spans dozens of metres. Chandris, throughout this unit, plays with the contrast between hard and soft forms. The ground, the soil engulfs a cave-like architecture that is implicitly constructed with reinforced concrete, cement strengthened with steel, as is customary in bunker construction.

The defence line of the Germans in Normandy, just before the end of World War II, brought even to urban areas (Calais) the typology of the bunker, a defensive building / gun turret, almost within the network of the city2. Two slits are generally the only (visible) openings that connect a bunker to the outside world and the enemy. As J.G. Ballard writes, a bunker must never hide itself entirely but cause confusion to the identification system by being one thing and then another3. In times of peace, these defensive structures seem oddly disturbing. Like a survival machine without a reason for being, in the absence of enemies. Like a shipwreck from a submarine washing up on the shore. On Pantelis Chandris’s island, the bunker appears as a timeless (like the island itself) ruin, a fragment from a time unknown, but also as a building under construction because it remains unfinished, bare concrete, given that no aesthetic need imposed its completion with plaster and frames. It is, in all likelihood, an immortal structure because these materials, unless bombed or under nuclear attack, are indestructible. But then again art is (or ought to be) immortal…

Pantelis and I talk and list movies with gunners:  The German “Das Boot”, the most claustrophobic film of all time, with the periscope offering the only glimpse of the outside world. Or “Τhe Beast”, about a Soviet tank in Afghanistan, cut off from its unit, lost behind the lines of an invisible enemy sought through the gunner’s slit. Or the more recent Israeli film “Lebanon”, where another tank experiences similar situations in wartime Lebanon….

At the same time, this gunner / observer supervises the world, panoramically, through a slit. This seems like a metaphor on the camera obscura that introduced us to renaissance perspective. To the contemporary artist, claustrophobia refers to the relationship between his studio and the outside world. A type of asceticism? Is he a stylite who observes the world from “the height of his pillar”? As we know, sculpture must be prominent, the viewer must walk around it and observe it. But here, on Chandris’s Island, we can see that the gunner’s back is exposed. The enemy can strike him anytime from the rear, while he remains occupied with looking ahead. Who is the artist in danger from?

Pantelis and I are still talking about movies (it doesn’t matter that he’s no longer here). Movies about total solitude, about the last man on earth. Three of them are based on Richard Matheson’s book, “Ι Am A Legend”. One of the movies based on it was “The Last Man on Earth”, and another, bearing the same title as the book, was recently filmed. Humanity has disappeared and threatening zombies lurk at night, while the last man patrols during the day, in the company of his dog…

Lady Helena, the protagonist in another book by Jules Verne, “In Search of the Castaways”, advocates for sociability against an aficionado of solitude and asceticism: “Man is made for society and not for solitude, and solitude can only engender despair. It is a question of time. At the outset it is quite possible that material wants and the very necessities of existence may engross the poor shipwrecked fellow, just snatched from the waves; but afterward, when he feels himself alone, far from his fellow men, without any hope of seeing country and friends again, what must he think, what must he suffer? His little island is all his world. The whole human race is shut up in himself, and when death comes, which utter loneliness will make terrible, he will be like the last man on the last day of the world. Believe me, Monsieur Paganel, such a man is not to be envied.” Pantelis Chandris makes the Island as a metaphor for isolation, the loneliness of the artist, of man. He leaves no doubt that this structure is not an artificial paradise, quite the reverse, it is nothing but a prison but, at the same time, an exile without safety since, at any given time, he may come under attack by an invisible enemy. Who said that the position of the artist today is enviable?


Thanassis Moutsopoulos

* From the catalogue of Pantelis Chandris’s exhibition “Man Is An Island”, Gallery, Athens, 2010.
[1] Gerasimos Vokos, “The Island”, “The Aegean: A Scattered City”, from the catalogue of the Greek stand in the 10th Venice Biennale of Architecture, 2006, p. 184-6.
[2] See Paul Virilio, “Bunker Archeology”, Princeton Architectural Press, 1994.
[3] J.G. Ballard, “Project for a Glossary of the Twentieth Century”, Incorporations, ed. Jonathan Crary, Sanford Kwinter, Zone Books, 1992, p. 277.