Born in 1982, he studied Painting at the Athens School of Fine Arts (2000-2005) under Dimitris Mytaras and Zacharias Arvanitis. He also studied Scenography under Giorgos Ziakas and Printmaking under Vassilis Kazakos. In 2004 during the Erasmus – Socrates programme he studied at the Accademia Di Belle Arti in Florence under R. Dragomirescu. Since 2007 he collaborates with the art director of the Municipal Gallery of Kallithea “Sophia Laskaridou”. He has created set designs and costumes for plays and has designed various posters and book covers. He lives and works in Athens.
Art Prisma Art Gallery•
“Activity”, do you hear?
Until your inhibitions don’t swarm you…
Until you feel ready to show who you are, in the light.
Until you let the gaze of others dress your naked soul, no matter the interpretation or fantasy.
Until you free yourself, from yourself…
My work hasn’t got around much. I want it to be a surprise for the people that were aware of it before. That’s what I want to show.
At the same time that voices, shouts, molotov cocktails were regularly breaking the fragile “shell of a disturbed city”…
Where the desperate people of the Country, like raging ants, ran panicking to save themselves, more from their own selves, than the new austerity measures…
Where each was looking anywhere to become something, maybe, somehow… Gentsi Routsis, disciplined, focused and patient, painted for about 5 years, staring Time in the face, until Time said: “Now.”
“I was working a lot, but I didn’t feel ready for an exhibition yet. I wasn’t sure.”
I learned that Gentsi’s work hasn’t changed as much as his old work. I understand, however, that the paintings he is showing me now are their evolution. He explains, “First of all, the figures are more defined, and worked on for more time.” And I come to think, that beating yourself into an emergency state to create something, in case you don’t make it, is as pathetic as begging for incredible godlike “delivery boys” to bring you an order of inspiration in 30 minutes or less. But, what actually counts? Producing everyday work, like baker’s bread? Buzzing around like bees, looking for pollen? Chasing incredible enlightenment, like our own demonic obsessions? Gentsi is straightforward. A work of art must be exhibited only when it’s ready. No matter when that is.
In the full time that painters look for the signs of their own future paths… the time that they discover, through their own intuitions, the driving force of their creative visions, the influences of the Maîtres are imperceptibly lost in ‘polite mists’ that allow them to gradually understand who they are, and what they want to say. In that way, Fauves and Matisse, Art Nouveau and Klimt, the Renaissance, pottery painting but even Pop Art whispered a few secrets into Gentsi’s ear and let him, in the end, become the master of his own artistic plane.
And here I am, the lucky one, enjoying this immediacy in his works. They speak to me… they call me: “Marina, come, let’s meet each other.” “This immediacy”, Gentsi indicates, “is the product of much work and searching.”
Outside is far away for me now. In this new painter’s cavern, current affairs look like a fading memory. And yet, Gentsi speaks of them always. In his voice as well. And through his works, which he shows me one by one. I listen to him, whilst his vastly charming images win me over more and more: “All of us, we’re living through this crisis, through these times. We all have to think about how we’re going to get by. This is a tangible matter, not a philosophical one. We need to think about it practically. In this state, we’re supposed to be artists, although I don’t know how that’s going to turn out. In 80 years, we’ll see if it’s true or not. I make these paintings living through this crisis, and yes, I do comment on my everyday life in my work. There are concerns, there is questioning, but I don’t want to become vulgar. Vulgar doesn’t express me; doesn’t do it for me. Vulgarity begins with cursing about anything. In this crisis we’re living in, I see a lot of vulgarity. But, we don’t think what we’ve done to get here.”
You know, Gentsi, if there’s something that reconciles me with these hard times, it’s when I suddenly meet the hopeful tongue of a stylish personality, of whom the imagination artistically reorganizes the indescribable and stressful chaos that we’re living in. And when my eyes can focus on the obvious beauty that is born right next to the mud, I feel grateful, because I can still be humbled in a time where cynicism and apathy rule. Gentsi, with irresistible grace, you reveal to us hidden folds of reality, which you transform into a special, strong, visual poetry. Your creations impose their rules upon the undefined spaces of my imaginary flights. And through you, I come closer to a universe of incredible views that definitely reflect the exciting spaces of your inner self.
You continue to say, “I really don’t like the attitude of “I do things that are easy, and I speak of them easily, and now all of a sudden we’re all desperate, and we’re all against everything, but none of us thinks about – and I put myself in there, as well – about what we’ve done. So, we’re all in for it. Some of us more, some of us less, but we’re all people that are trying to do something with our lives, in this mess. The point is this: are we going to sit around and cry about it? I won’t. You look at the problem, you face it, and you move forward. You can’t just stop things. We need to keep going, we need to keep doing. It may be stupid, it may be really good, it may be pointless, but it’s really important to keep moving and doing things. That’s what we’re made for.”
Elegance is splashed all over Gentsi’s work. Luxurious contrasts, never ‘easy’, nor common, beget very personal compositions where the Beautiful, genuine and imposing, refuses any sensationalism, arrogance or conceit. Gentsi remains serious inside the life-giving sensuality of his images, where spirituality speaks with the clearest and most correct visual speech.
Gentsi, where is the crisis you speak of in your work? I see happiness and cheer. In contrast to the gray of today, you grant me colours and shaps that soothe my soul and soften my heart. “Outside” is not far from me anymore, like I said before. “Outside” has changed face through your gaze, and now I accept it inside me as an encouraging word. What did you see that we couldn’t? You went outside, you captured the invisible and you laid it, with mastery, on accepting canvases that we look at today and realize that we often close ourselves in dark “mental boxes” of awkwardness and fear.
But, it wouldn’t be simple to trap you in one of those boxes. You seem to instinctively pinpoint any crack of light in the dark theater of the “quitters”. You fight against today’s vilification of our substance, with your brush as your weapon and the decisiveness of a winner.
“The easy thing would be to paint a demonstration of people throwing rocks and things. I don’t like easy things. We see the black all around us every day, I don’t want to see it in my paintings, too. I’m looking for the antidote. My themes don’t describe the recession. I’m trying to go through to the solution. We’ll always see hardship. Let’s find something to get us moving. Other interests.”
And I, Marina, as a spectator and factor of this discordant modern time, I await artists that will help me to rethink reality through natural harmonization with their own idealized vision. Artists that are able to illuminate the rocky roads of my resistance. When some ‘factors’ take care to sweep their garbage, along with the deprivation and the alienation of our existence under the rug, others, creators, in their clarity, bring us surprisingly closer to our essential mental being. They cloak a different genuine view of things and release whatever innocent and unblemished feelings we have left. Feeling our hearts warmed once again, we find our dignity.
I look again and again at Gentsi’s work, and I realize once more, that Art reconstructs anything ruined. In today’s everyday routine life, just like extras in a movie, we spread ourselves out; we get carried away by meanings. By “I need to be on time for…” But these are chains that bind us every so often! We constantly move about in a universe fragmented into “small multiple modules”, thinking that we are free, although we’re not allowed to be skeptical, or to question. When you jump from one worry to another, you don’t perceive the World in its whole. In a nutshell, it’s not possible to understand Life as a whole, with its tiny, infinite beauties, since the Dishonest ‘serve’ it to you chopped up in ‘poison-dishes’ that eat away at your disposition to turn your look up to the stars.
Gentsi’s art provides a coherent and innovative vision. It collects impressions, concluding in strong images that reorganize, into a robust unity, the human existence that often explodes into “wherever”. And it replaces our chains with well-intentioned bonds. That thin red thread, visible in most of his works, is the warm element that connects us between each other and with whatever is around us. With Gentsi, we’re absolutely free, without any boundaries, but still connected. Never separated. “I always connect things. Because everything has continuity. If there’s no connection, there’ll be no beginning, no middle, no end, no future.” Yes, Gentsi, make us not be alone! Because I am desperately searching what connects me with what… Life is full of contrasts, but from within contrast, you show us the connection once again. I observe the image with the two crossed hands (in defense, or in waiting?)… and underneath, I find the strange answer to our unsaid question. Two pieces of tape stuck one upon the other, crossed themselves, that become something like an echo of the hands’ motion, but speak another language. “The utilitarian language,” you comment. “Things don’t only have one side. Sometimes, there are more than one reasons for the same motion.” Through Gentsi’s work, I travel to the exciting territory of parallelism within contrast. He wants the forms “plate-like”, as he says, but in motion at the same time. He mainly asks for motion in all its versions. Most of his figures seem to be dancing. Often, there are soap bubbles floating around like traces of hope in the huge Unknown. All the figures seem to be going ‘upward’. In one painting, I am impressed by a little bird perched on a man’s head, sitting by the water. And I ask Gentsi: “Did you put the canary there to light up the composition?” “Not only”, he answers; “If it was a matter of composition, it could also be the lemon. But the bird will fly away. That’s the difference.” Elsewhere, a woman with a flowery dress, went up on her tiptoes, as if she herself wanted to reach up higher. “Yes, she’s looking at the sky, and calls for air,” Gentsi explains. I, again, see the red thread connecting her to a rooster! How far could a woman go when such a proud flyer is overseeing her? However, those soap bubbles are next to her as well; free, albeit ephemeral. Perhaps the hope they bring bursts within a second if they should proceed to the borders of the disheartening “sit downs!”? Gentsi reassures me instantly: “They are absolute motion. Those bubbles never return to the same spot. They are created, they move, they perish, but then more will come. They are not bubbles in the bad sense, and I insist on drawing them in the most photorealistic way. They exist, and they show the contrast with the ‘plate-like’ forms with precision. I also love the ‘Hey, that’s real!’ in the whole picture.”
Constrast… perhaps one of the most natural expressions of a thinking soul, within the roar of the disoriented. Somewhere, a woman looks at herself in the mirror. But who is she, being naked? Who does she become while dressed? Does she see what others see? Do others see what the mirror shows? We run around ourselves, while we disguise ourselves to fit in some ‘drawer of normality.’ Naked we are vulnerable and perhaps genuine. But dressed, we are ‘armed’ and specific just like the cupboards in which we like to hide. So, contrast inspires Gentsi, who often inserts a tone of mythology in his fine visual representations of Today.
Thus, at the rich crossroads of his visions, we meet the Dioscuri; or is it a cue to deeper meaning? A reference to mythology, in a time of crisis? What connection hides underneath the “Solution” that Gentsi tirelessly searches for? “I want people to think. I don’t want to tell them what it is,” he confides in me. “I really like the myth of the Dioscuri, and I wanted in some way to get an impression from that. But I didn’t want the classic expression of taking a myth and fixing it. Meaning, this painting in the end, has nothing to do with the myth. There are two people, who ostensibly are alike, and an egg. The egg from which they came out of. Those are the only symbolic elements that tie them to the Dioscuri. I’m interested in bringing out a feeling. Not to narrate the myth. I do, however, want to make others think about the Dioscuri. And after seeing that painting, I want them to go read a bit about them. Mythology has many wonderful stories. And we can search about how they tie in with our own everyday lives. Essentially, I speak of motion again. Spiritual motion. What I do in my paintings, whereas the figures are static, they move, I want in my own existence as well. We are static nevertheless because we are heavy objects; we do not float upon the air. So, let’s move around. And let our minds move as well.”
Gentsi never stops surprising me. He now brings a seductive piece with two irresistible figures: one, pink and sitting down, holds some confetti, while the other, blue, wearing a crown, dances, making bubbles. I am already being transported to the kingdom in which every common position becomes a sight for sore eyes. He simply asks me: “Isn’t that totally Bacchic?” And while I am overcome by a salutary feeling of lightness that takes me beyond whatever is seen in the painting, I wonder how a ‘plastic’ and ‘plate-like’ intensity can nullify, with such subtlety, the laws of gravity. Gentsi continues: “I realized this phenomenon in my sketches. I liked it as a composition, and it came out totally Bacchic! Almost carnivalistic!” From my part, I feel that the dancing, albeit structured motion in his work, could become something of a symbolic benchmark of a revolution, when the confusion of the souls ‘discolours’ and bleeds onto the bodies which become ragdolls that tear apart and are sewn back together amateurly. Gentsi shows us that we have spines, bones and muscles. Blood flows within us restlessly, and never stops. As an ‘upright artist’ he wants to get us standing up as well. To dance. To leave our heavy baggage behind, full of evil memory stones and lead fears. To look up. And if our eyes aren’t able to immediately sink into the blue skies, at least our bodies can stretch until the point where birds fly and bubbles fade into mist.
“Most of my work is outside; it’s in nature. But I don’t have to define the place. It’s wherever.” Your “wherever” is my “here,” I think while I converse with the protagonists of your stories.
A figure with striped clothing, surrounded by olives, oranges, pomegranates, flowers, and a masking tape cross. I believe I recognize you, Gentsi, within a scene of optimism, looking at us in melancholy. “Tell me; is that you?” Gentsi leaves the mystery intact and answers: “There are seasons around. Not necessarily the Four Seasons. Just seasons…” And I ‘enter’ the outline of this introverted figure. And I question its obscure face. However, the figure asks for discretion. So, I turn to Gentsi once again, and I confess how much it impressed me that, even though he doesn’t draw any facial features, all of his figures have a strong personality. Those ’empty heads’ are anything but empty. They are inhabited by temperaments and experiences. There, someone curious pets his dog, but at the same time looks behind him, in case he’s missing some remarkable event. What are you doing? Why aren’t you looking at the dog that’s smiling at you? Oh right, there’s also that familiar red thread that guarantees your connection! I’m still trying to conceive how something so ‘plate-like’ can bring out such friendly and recognizable feelings. “That’s the thing. I look to give clear impressions of what I want with the least possible means. And I provoke memories. It’s not about creating a very nice eye. Whether I can create it or not is shown in the sketches.”
I feel that the intellect of the gesture of drawing is most likely the most appropriate to show instantly the personal side of a theme, without any description. I understand Gentsi’s approach, and I appreciate his intention. I also am aware of how demanding the experience of an artist is, whose conscience is totally facing the fulfillment of the correct gesture. Some things can’t be explained in books. You need sensibility in order to ‘converse’ with the images of a painter that doesn’t have a sign, but a specific temperament. On this tenter, someone recognizes Renaissance musicians painted in Gentsi’s way. Another “hears the sounds of their colours; listens to their shapes…” and she likes the piece! From his side, Gentsi refers to the technique of explaining the ineffable: “This figuration, this ‘plate-like’ creation of a specific colour, needs a lot of work, that no one will teach you. There is no one to tell you, “this is how you will do it.” You have to do it by yourself. What you put next to what, and why you put it there. My works look like acrylics, but they are all oil paintings. Oil has to dry well in order to work on top of it. I use that time to look at the painting and think on it, wanting each time to see it from the beginning. Above all, I’m interested in keeping the impression. The impression that the painting gives. I don’t want it to be stale. I want it to be fresh. However, since I wanted to create some real paintings, I preferred to do that with sketches. That ‘plate-like’ impression exists in the sketches as well, but in essence, they have another realism that fulfills my suspense of “okay, what are we worth?” With the oil paintings, I believe I have reached up to a certain point. What do we do with any other material?”
Gentsi, with his connections and his conflicts, is now also facing against his own self.
In pencil, he drew an “empty work shirt”, like he characterizes it at first. “But it doesn’t look empty; if it was empty, it would fall flat. It’s not empty. Where is the person that is inside?” Gentsi, giving my question an immediate end, answers with two words: “the egg.” I look at the sketch closely, and pinpoint the egg, exactly where the neck should have been… Where you are usually tightened by emotions. Where you swallow a pill, or your own anger. In any case, where your whole head that fits your ‘self’ is rooted. Gentsi then explains to me that, when the egg breaks, the work shirt will fill up with concentrated information. And that we have to break it, in order for the work shirt to have a purpose. However, I understand that breaking is a violent act, with no return. And I notice a work shirt that isn’t empty at all, but full of air. A light shirt that, just like a kite, can also fly high, and perhaps meet a soap bubble. However, Gentsi tells me that the egg has to break. So, I adapt my version, assuming that, instead of air, there will be life in that shirt. And life, as much as it may weigh, isn’t refused so easily. This conclusion is confirmed in another sketch: in the city scape, which is somewhat ‘geometricized’, with a plaid quilt and sharp antennae on the dry roofs of apartment buildings that do not daunt Hope, incarnated in the white dove that is hiding in the corner, but stands out in the foreground.
There are times that hours get mixed underneath the caress of bright and velvety colours… Then, my ‘here’ becomes Everywhere. And I find a coveted balance in Gentsi’s materialized vision, whose disarming simplicity is in conflict with the intensity of his powerful images. His vision becomes my own harmonious, poetic and rich dream. And there, somewhere amongst the curious, bizarre, magical, playful, perhaps even dramatic, compositions, I find a path once again. I stand speechless, opposite the strange beauty of his works, and my space is extended up to his worldview. In a universe where a modern concept of “what do we do now?” meets an untold Classicism (again!)”. So, what is Reality in the end? Outside, they still haven’t stopped talking about the recession. Here, with eyes bulging, I don’t let that dream go, that can win over their “real” space-time, where we are lost.
Artists are enlighteners that reveal the impalpable and promote the present. Gentsi called me between earth and the sky. I became a soap bubble, and I’m going far away… Through the ‘door’ he opened for me, I continue towards the immaterial place he is at, and from where we return calmer, fulfilled, and standing. But, “watch out!” he whispers, giving me a tape that says “Fragile”… Yes… we are all soap bubbles… We are human… We are vulnerable when we are at the boundaries of aesthetic disruption and inevitable social conflict. “Activity”, Gentsi tells us… It took him five years to say it.
Art Historian – Museologist