Maria Filopoulou

Filopoulou Maria

Maria Filopoulou was born in Athens in 1964. She studied painting at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, under Leonardo Cremonini, during 1984-88. She completed her postgraduate studies at the same school, with a scholarship from the French government, during 1988-89 (lithography with Abraham Hadad). Her work is at the National Gallery in Athens, the Greek Parliament, the Bank of Greece, the Goulandris Museum, the Frissiras Museum, the Kouvoutsakis Art Institute, the Anthony and Asia Hadjioannou Collection, and many other collections and museums in Greece and internationally. She lives and works in Athens.


On Art and Her Art: Maria Filopoulou

The painter Maria Filopoulou describes her relationship to art as a way of life. She speaks of her admiration for the work of other artists and highlights her need to keep up with international developments in the visual arts. She explains how light, colour and space are the dominant features of her work, and confesses that painting gives her the opportunity to create “personal paradises” as antidotes to the harshness of reality. She breaks down the creative process she follows in her work, from observation in nature to the necessity of photography, memory, and models in the studio. She explains how that was the route for her to create large paintings with themes taken from nature, which serves for her as an endless source of inspiration. Expressing her belief that the Sotiris Felios Collection supports representational painting, she remarks upon her work Flow, analysing the relationships between water, rock, flow, the human body and light, all of which she repeatedly explores in her painting.

Solo Exhibitions


Intimate paradise Retrospective exhibition 16 Fokionos Negri Athens (curated by Alexis Veroucas)


Water Fine Art Kapopoulos Patmos


L’Eau comme Liberté Galerie Dutko Île Saint-Louis Paris


Su / Water Tesvikiye Sanat Galerisi Istanbul


Instinct for Water Belgravia Gallery London


Water Zoumboulakis Galleries Athens


Retrospective exhibition Cyclades Art Gallery Syros (curated by Iris Kritikou)


Ierapolis Milos


Free as Angels Gallery K London


Millenia Fine Art Gallery New York


Swimmers Art London 2005 London (Galerie Ariel Sibony)


Galerie Ariel Sibony Paris


Oxford Battered Lentzou Gallery Athens


Swimmers Zoumboulakis Galleries Athens


Mati Gallery Athens


Tzamia-Krystalla Art Gallery Chania


Diary 1999 of the Herakles Group of Companies Municipality of Athens Athens


Zoumboulakis Galleries Athens


Terracotta Art Gallery (TinT Gallery) Thessaloniki


Effet de Serre Galerie Flak Paris


Zoumboulakis Galleries Athens


Terracotta Art Gallery (TinT Gallery) Thessaloniki


Zoumboulakis Galleries Athens


Eonnet Dupuy Gallery Paris


Ora Art and Cultural Centre Athens


Chasing Waterfalls

…Don’t go chasing waterfalls
Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that
You’re used to
I know that you’re gonna have it your way
Or nothing at all
But I think you’re moving too fast.

Waterfalls Lyrics by TLC (1994)

Led from the transparencies of the Argolid, to the dark depths of the Aegean and the ancient cisterns of Ierapolis in Asia Minor, persevering in her search for the tangible quintessence of travelling time and place and, simultaneously, the depths of a catharsis of self-discovery, the most recent chapter of Maria Filopoulou’s work constitutes a natural, experiential, artistic, and autobiographical continuation with her long-term relationship with the life-giving element of water. In her canvases we find again the riveting, unerring vocabulary of paradisiac blues and organic, fluid greens of the water; blinding whites of rocks strewn haphazardly under the sun; murmuring of peach and ochre tones of the horizon, interrupted by dramatic natural volumes; an abstract admixture of transparency, shadow and light, of a timeless mythic landscape with an ideal microclimate. Because Filopoulou’s latest works, once again champion the essential objective of their generous proportions; they propose unexplored, self-sufficient worlds, which demand a viewer’s gaze sink into them and seize the viewer’s emotions; euphoric pictorial planes of midday hours, which pulsate with their own dynamic: they establish her painting along new, exciting coordinates.

This mystical landscape is the vital viscera of Samothrace, which, strewn with waterfalls, ponds and natural cisterns, dissolves into its organic elements: at times seen from above and at other times penetrating the liquid sancta of a delightful universe, dappled with silent bathers, baptised in the pleasure of the water; swimming in the night time along the island’s bays; or abandoning the small skin of their baptized bodies to the white and grey conges along its borders with eschatological intensity and the silent devotion of prayer.

Parallel notes of the landscape itself, female and male bodies shaped with anatomical draughtsmanship and purity of line, volume and colour, they establish themselves on smaller pictorial surfaces, disseminating their bright traces in blinding outflows and niches of water and rock, propelling their realistic painted metastases along to its periphery; offering up to the viewer’s gaze a mythic place of blinding sculptural existence. An unseen world, also populated by the painter’s own body.

Filopoulou’s ingenuous compositions, where the idyllic converses with the primordial and where this microscopic original human flesh is shaken and absorbed by God-imbued landscapes of inconceivable natural beauty, appear to make only infinitesimal references to the almost phobic way in which waterfalls were dealt with, in the modern history of western painting. In those pompous romantic landscapes of the 18th, 19th centuries and the dawn of the 20th, such as those figurative European paintings by Johann Jakob Schalch and Konrad Corradi, literary illustrations by Léon Benett and Henri Meyer, or documentation from explorations by Ernst Haeckel, the vertical pounding flow of the water is an element recorded with ecstatic awe.1

In counterpoint, there are contemporary art works, such as M.C. Escher’s waterfalls, or Olafur Eliasson’s impressively large-scale contemporary piece The New York City Waterfalls, commissioned by the New York Public Art Fund, in collaboration with the City of New York. In June 2008 the project went on display at four sea-front points of the city, and dealt with the topic of the waterfall, setting aside the image of awe, deconstructing its content and shape, and reconstructing them into a different live material, which referenced the magic essence of water itself, its energy, its environmental and collective significance.2

However, looking at the corresponding Japanese pictorial tradition, where the natural element of the waterfall appears frequently, in conjunction with the linear snowy mountains of winter and the pink-blossoming punctuation of the cherry trees in springtime, I can’t help but make mention of Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798-1861), one of the last major artists of the Japanese ukiyo-e school.

The woodcut “Pilgrims in the Waterfall”, worked with the exceptionally distinct design and pure colours, which Takashi Murakami emphatically states were an influence on his own oeuvre, present an exhilarating pictorial elective affinity with the actual psychological and sensorial climate of the new world that Filopoulou is proposing: the initiates of her landscapes quench their thirst, swim, and revel, in the same manner as the pilgrims to the Japanese waterfall. They are christened in the pleasure of the water without any fear of it. And following the secret codes of the island’s ancient initiates, they remove the sense of vertigo, seeking both pleasure and catharsis.3 Turning their backs to the sea, they settle into the natural craters of their new place, and take it over free of any artificial walls, leading the viewer’s eye even further than the natural limitations of the image. Asked about all this, Maria Filopoulou, who has indubitably invented a different gaze, and has dived afresh into the organic ingredients of a metaphysical reading of place, responds, once more, that she simply paints what she sees.


Iris Kritikou
* From the catalogue of Maria Filopoulou’s exhibition “Water”, Zoumboulakis Galleries, Athens, 2011.


[1] In 1780 Johann Jakob Schalch (1723–1789) painted Der Rheinfall vom Zürcher Ufer aus and in 1860 Konrad Corradi (1813-1878) painter Der Rheinfall bei Schaffhausen, both of which depict, with obvious awe, these impressive European waterfalls. Léon Benett (1838-1917) painted a threateningly dark waterfall to illustrate the Jules Verne novel Clovis Dardentor. The sight of a pirogue falling over the waterfall, painted by Henri Meyer (1844-1899) to illustrate Verne’s A Captain at Fifteen, was equally frightening. Naturalist, philosopher and painter Ernst Haeckel (1834–1919), during his waterfall peregrinations around the world, in 1905 recorded the terrible Tjiburrum at the Pangerango Volcano.
[2] This installation by Olafur Eliasson, known for “The Weather Project”, which was constructed in 2003 in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern in London, was set up at four waterfront loci in Lower Manhattan, Brooklyn and Governors Island. The artist sought a reflexive dialogue with existing historical and architectural conditions of the natural environment, and additionally, a dramatically large-scale embodiment of the impressive natural beauty in the dominant urban landscape. See
[3] There is a host of references in Herodotus concerning initiates in ancient times and the mystery cults of Samothrace. See also Walter Burkert, “Greek Margins: Mysteries of Samothrace”: Burkert writes that “myth places Samothrace at its very beginnings, setting it in the non-Greek world and yet also sharing the Olympus of the Greek gods”. The unique position of a small and insignificant island advocates for a ‘sacred’ centre, where, in all likelihood, ‘initiation’ was linked to salvation from the perils of the sea. But it may well be “our inability to know the centre of the initiation, an enigma wrapped as this is in darkness, that creates the eternal fascination of Samothrace”, he concludes.