Born in Kosmas of Kynouria (Arcadia, Peloponnese) in 1963, he was an Athens School of Fine Arts student of Panagiotis Tetsis and Yannis Valavanidis (1982-1987). He pursued his studies at the Parisian École nationale superieure des Beaux-Arts under Leonardo Cremonini (1988-1991) thanks to a Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation scholarship coupled with a P. Bakala Bros Foundation grant. He worked with “Apopsi” Cultural Centre between 1996-2002; as of 2002 he has been working with “Simio” Art Group, where he tutors painters. In 2001 he received the Academy of Athens award for new painters under the age of 40 and in 2006 the Alexandros S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation conferred an honourable distinction for his work. He maintained a permanent collaboration with Medusa Art Gallery, in Athens, since his first solo exhibition there in 1988 until the present day. Works by him can be found in public and private collections. He lives and works in Athens.
On Art and His Art: Giorgos Rorris
The painter Giorgos Rorris talks about his need to sense behind a work of art the soul of its creator, highlighting the intense physical experience of a viewer before a great work of art. He confides that his painting is a means for him to overcome his personal weaknesses and get to know his deeper self. Speaking of his exhibition at 16 Fokionos Negri in 2016, he describes how a painter, through a retrospective show of his work, can see the history of his physical and emotional expression recorded in his works. Highlighting his love for Painting and his need to get to know the work of other artists who represent, in his eyes, different interpretations of the world, he underlines the weight of culture borne by Greek artists, in contrast to artists from later civilisations. He also expresses his belief that a collection reveals its collector while, at the same time, reflecting the times he lives in. Discussing, finally, his work Blue Alexandra, which is part of the Sotiris Felios Collection, and his influences in creating it from specific works by great artists of the past, he explains the reasons why his painting includes references to the art of centuries past.
George Rorris, The Nobleness of Purity •
Museum of Contemporary Art, Basil & Elise Goulandris Foundation•
The Sotiris Felios Collection. Giorgos Rorris: The Hidden Image •
16 Fokionos Negri•
(curated by Elizabeth Plessa)•
Medusa Art Gallery•
Portraits and Nudes •
The Foundation for Hellenic Culture•
Medusa Art Gallery•
Medusa Art Gallery and Medusa + 1•
Medusa Art Gallery•
The Visible as Dream
Writing about a painter you undertake the task of conveying to the reader and viewer of the artist’s painting, as insightfully as you can, what you saw. Unfortunately, it is not enough to trace the routes of the brush and whatever the oil layers are hiding. You have to find the words that match them without losing your own. Your writing should be aware of its charm but not of itself. You must not forget that your existence is attributed to the very painting that you are talking about. You have to go deeper and deeper, to know and forget, to bear and to discard. You have to, if what you will write is to have some amount of truth. Too much already. The dialogue on your paper is not with the reader, but each and every time, with the painter.
A piece of writing about Giorgos Rorris is both a complex case and a great responsibility. First of all, because an important bulk of texts on the course of his work to date already exists. But, mostly, because the indisputable admiration that has enveloped his painting, years now, has created an entire mythology that often leads parallel lives, and which one should be able to perceive but also push aside, if one wants to escape the grave, yet so attractive, danger of theory – talking around the works and not about the works.
When writing about Rorris’s painting one should know the childhood memories of the village; the sounds, the smells and the darkness he always carries within; the great painting of the past that shaped him and keeps shaping him; the aura and the ritual in his studio; the contemporary art that he personally distinguishes; the literature that absorbs him; the plays that captivate him; the music that stands by him in the battle with painting; the canvases that were added to the initial canvas; his obsession with woman’s world and the female body; the wonderful stories behind the works; the teaching; his love for particular people, for people, and for life itself.
Nevertheless, painting is an art which, even in its greatest abstraction, or perhaps even more so then, asks for the eyes first and then the thinking. Rorris’s images, painted on the spot and never by memory or from photographs, trust in the end the self-reliant knowledge of the gaze, since they were born from it, and it is the gaze they address in order to shake the body of the person who has the great fortune of facing them for the first time. From the intensity of the senses they may, one day, reach the deep emotion kept in those “back rooms of the mind”.
The thread that connects the thirty-three works presented here inevitably leads to the gaze of him who distinguished them by meeting the gaze of the painter from the first steps of his painting to this day. The early interiors by Rorris with the female figures, his urban and rural landscapes, the still lifes, the dressed or nude models inside his studio, the constant presence of woman and space – all the brief stops are here, in a course that declares its faith in the visible and to that sort of painterliness that will render it on the canvas as a “piece of painting pulsating and alive”.
If a portrait is the struggle with the rendering of the visible against the ravages of time, then everything in Rorris’s work is a portrait, since for him, the painter is the “interpreter of the visible”. His models are not only the human figures posing on the stage of his studio. It is no less the tin barrel of his first exhibition, the heads of carcasses and the fruit in his still lifes, the orange trees of the landscapes, the old motorcycle, that has a name like all his women models, the neighbourhood garage, the furniture of the studio, the reflection in the mirror, the objects placed on the small coffee table, the desolate walls, the cliff-like staircase, the dirt yard in Kosmas and the wooden floor in Trofoniou Street, the glows and the shadows, the outside and the inside exactly the same. Rorris’s model is whatever his gaze pins and brings it as a protagonist onto his canvas.
In his juxtaposition with the image of the real, Rorris’s realism is faithful, yet not relentless. He deals with matter but is not constrained by matter. The light coming from the side and the usually moderate matière in his works depict the subject with no exaggerations and in accordance with the dominant painterliness that shapes the forms excluding a dramatic viewing of reality. It is a sense of trust that stands out as the main feature in Rorris’s realism – it conveys to us the painter’s admiration for what he sees and what he learns from it every time, his astonished gaze. Rorris’s realism comes from the soul.
The same admiration is served by the dramatic perspective of the works which depict the conversation of the figure or figures with the space of the studio, introducing a unique tension in the composition and the atmosphere of the painting. The wide-angle view in these interiors though, is not the result of an arbitrary will of Rorris to create a disturbing viewing of the real by means of a visual trick, it is not a distortion for the sake of distortion. In the rooms of his studio, seeming to invade reality, the widening of the viewing angle, which defines them and characterises them, occurs as a natural consequence of his perpetual longing of fitting on the surface of his work as much as possible from what he lays eyes upon, the whole world if possible: “If I could, I would extend my canvas to infinity”.
For the same reason, Rorris adds, almost without exception, small canvases to his initial canvas from which he started the work and which always includes the human figure: because he wants to discover the unknown ends of a hidden image of the visible and to reveal it by painting it, offering it anew to his eyes and our eyes. And vice-versa, Rorris’s small works on rectangular pieces of canvas and, even more so, all what is painted on lopsided remains of larger paintings’ cloth work as reflections on precious fragments of a painterly mirror.
Rorris, after all, selects and assembles in his canvases pieces of images of the real, thus disclosing the sincere awareness that his works are suggestive fragments of a reality that will not be conquered because it will never be depicted in its entirety. That is why painting will always dominate him with an almost erotic desire, until the next work, the next work, the next work.
From Giorgos Rorris’s course to date, perhaps “Blue Alexandra” gathers together all the traces of his route, while constituting at the same time a unique casein his artistic path.
In the painterly condition of the Trofoniou Street studio, a long diagonal divides the work in two: darkness and light, floor and wall, brown and blue, earth and sky inevitably. In between, Alexandra, “dressed in her nudity”, is seated on the edge of an armchair.
Rorris paints today while aware of the past of painting, which once met with his own past. Since those initial sloped boards of the “Children’s Concert” by Iakovidis, “imprinted inside” him, the torrents of his brush strokes still sweep the planks that Alexandra barely touches with her foot, emerging into our own reality. Alexandra’s image is thus transformed into a living presence floating amid the space of painting and the space of reality. Her exquisite flesh constitutes the verge between the empty space of the floor and the walls, both privileged fields of the very abstraction that already claims, since the first canvases Rorris painted, the subject of his works, while featuring at the same time their realism.
For a painter-follower of the gaze and master of the canvas, perhaps this may come as a paradox. But in the ‘doubtful’ areas, in the peculiarities of the wall which do not describe anything, lies hidden the very substance of painting, an unconcealed hymn to painterliness itself. The scars of the blue wall plaster are traces of the visible, remains of decay as endurance and resistance against time, tending towards a non-visual spirituality, free of the restraints of meaning.
It does not matter if the magnificent blue of the wall is the Scrovegni Chapel or the wallpaper that was hung as a background. Emotion lies not in the knowledge or the resemblance, but in the dream of the visible that we shall recognise in the hidden image.
Through the penumbral mortality of the blue wall and the chthonic floor Alexandra emerges both divine and human, of a time past and present – surrounded by her blue melancholy, her sandals lying on her side and the seams of the canvases, which reveal the viscera of a work of the present. Her body, still unspoiled, casts behind it the shadow of the Self. Yet, from her slanting head, perhaps a soft murmur resists the silence, because Alexandra does not know she is the regulator of space and light.
It is of painting Alexandra dreams in the twisting of her body, herself already the memory of her own, fleeting beauty. Alexandra is Painting.