The Love of Painting and the Painting of Love
“The act of making love! Painting is, after all, similar to the act of making love in the intensity you find yourself in and that you feel for the other person or the other thing, namely the artwork that you have before you! The intensity of longing in painting springs up, uninvited, through the cracks of contrasts, erasures, subversions, corrections and repetitions”. So wrote Irini, in a note she pledged to me in the margins of the first interview we did, on the occasion of her exhibition “Mare Mineralis”. But that parallel she drew crossed over, with its value, from the ‘margins’ of the single column to the main title of the feature that was published in the Sunday edition of “Vima” newspaper on March 8, 2015: “Painting is similar to the act of making love”…
That title put into words the pervasive sense that wrapped itself around me, more and more tightly, while I was in Irini’s studio, that a love of painting found its completion here. I didn’t know, of course, that next to me, in the secret and confidential sketchpads of 2014, there was also the painting of love. Later, when I earned her trust to become one of the few to see Irini’s erotic drawings, I found myself suspended between two challenges, towards my gender and towards my aesthetics. Which was weightier? My nature or painting?
In the initial drawings, made only in pencil, sexual tension was expressed in perfect clarity, through the power of the line, leaving nature free to impose itself upon painting. Irini has never believed that painting is innocent, nor does she think that of these drawings. What she wanted to put into them was more painting. Which is why she subjected them, as she often does, to the primeval catharsis of cataclysm. To her, painting is an adventure in progress. The good that appears from the start on the surface of the canvas commits you to entering the adventure of the better. The creator lies in wait to emerge through the waters that flood the arbitrary work of art and become a conscious part of the composition. She sacrifices small certainties for the sake of the new that will come. And it always comes.
Jean-Paul Sartre reminded us that there is no other love than that which is built and realised. There is no invisible love; only love that is visible, expressed. As the watercolours flow over the drawing, they ‘smooth out’ the faces, they unify the bodies, they cover the telling details with a colourful cloud that’s heavy with promise, transmuting the realism of the line into atmosphere. The drawings, which were coloured in 2017 and 2018, become more intimate and passionate, while remaining ‘explicit’, which means honest, and provocative to the body, the mind and the senses. As a result, exhibiting them seems like a bold move but, to those who know her well, it is a natural expression of her personality. Because Irini, aside from the canvas, listens first of all to her ground-breaking and daring nature, both in her painting and her life, which tells her that there is no point in doing something that you already know how to do well.
Nikos G. Mastropavlos
* From the catalogue of Irini Iliopoulou’s exhibition “Erotic”, Gallery Genesis, Athens, 2019.