Born in Athens in 1974. He studied at the Athens School of Fine Arts under Nikos Kessanlis. In his first solo exhibition in 1996 in Artio Gallery his installation of numerous match boxes was of constructivist nature with arte povera elements. In the two solo exhibitions that followed (in Zoumboulakis Galleries, 2000 and Titanium Gallery, 2006) Papanikolaou enriched and extended his problematic- conceptually and semantically- in artworks-constructions using cigarettes, and in colourful collages and objects.
In 2006 makes a shift and goes to painting without missing on minimalist touch in his compositions. Varied figures and motives, spot colours and etching-like brushstrokes, Papanikolaou combines and transforms elements from ancient painting (lekythoi, Pompeian wall paintings), the byzantine icon stratigraphy, the Shadow Theatre, painting by Matisse, Cezanne, Dufy, Chagall and the japanese estampes, Papanikolaou unravels a new, personal “Dream City”.
He has also participated in numerous important group exhibitions, auctions and art actions. His works can be found in private collections, museums and corporate collections, such as Municipal Gallery of Patras, Municipal Gallery of Kalamata, Athens School of Fine Arts, the American College in Greece, Heineken Company, Kapelouzos Museum, Vorres Museum, Sotiris Felios Collection, Oliver Stone Collection, Logothetis Collection, Drakos Collection, Karelias Collection and others. Elias Papanikolaou lives and works in Athens.
- 2011 Cube Gallery, Patras
- 2011 Melanithros, Athens
- 2009 Astrolavos, Athens
- 2006 Titanium Gallery, Athens
- 2000 Zoumboulakis Galleries, Athens
The multifaceted image
In his latest series of paintings, Elias Papanikolaou draws and colours an austere-looking yet multifaceted image which dialectically assembles its juxtapositions and rhythmically tunes its ballad-like elements. With the delicacy of the ‘substance’ of things and through the gusts of a light wind or some Mediterranean breeze, the painter’s landscapes depict notions and acts, actions and situations in a scene made up of moments of life. This is a life that joins together its tesserae—made of visual impressions and hints of the visible—to elaborate the plot in a narrative which ‘writes’ its question-marks and its dots between light and darkness, closeness and distance, on the hovering motions and the unexpected standstills of a series of views from life and its incidents, which usually evade even the ephemeral.
Using varied patterns and motifs, solid colours and the occasional brush stroke that reminds one of printmaking, Elias Papanikolaou moulds his shapes almost like ideograms, erecting bridges between the outdoor and the interiors of the houses in some coastal towns of his own making. In summer or at dusk, their clearings spawn tree trunks with an inbuilt contrast to the arbitrary life that exists in their roots. The branches among the foliage turn into the leaders of a sudden bolt of lightning, while the journeys of clouds in the sky seem to be the rhythmic retorts to the motion of waves in the sea, where a distant ship turns into an island and a boat becomes a kite or a forgotten sandal on the beach. On the other hand, the grading of the hues and the passages from one surface to the next, like successive, translucent luminous bands, stage a game of figuration in these works where the figures—like dissected shapes—promote the symbiotic contradictions of time and space, of allocation and succession, without giving up their coordinated autonomies.
The drawing gives meaning to colour, and the abstraction gives meaning to the poetic spirit of these works where coexistence shares the limelight with the subversion which the artist creates between the two and the three dimensions of the forms and the painted surface. Are these figures traces on a map? Are they imprints? Fossils? Do the forms become ideograms of their volumes, especially since they combine tangibility with visual plausibility? How reliable is this plausibility when proximity alternates with distance and when the artist keeps raising and lowering the horizon, usually within the same composition?
As the aura emanated from each work elicits the viewer’s desire to touch and question, to feel nostalgic and inquisitive, his gaze seems to acquire the gentleness of a gesture that seeks to review the image, to penetrate deep down inside it. The gaze surveys things from above or sometimes stares directly at their paradoxical frontality, as the viewer comes before the cohesion of a discontinuity among the unfolding episodes which is akin to that of a flow of waves in physics. And it is precisely that which makes the viewer want to activate all his senses, at the same time shedding all his rational certainties.
In addition to the visual discourse he develops with the various kinds of perspective, to the suggestive ellipsis of his drawing and to his special treatment of colours, Elias Papanikolaou combines and remodels elements from ancient painting (on lekythoi, but also on Pompeii murals), from the layered Byzantine icons, from the shadow-theatre, from the art of Matisse, Cezanne, Dufy and Chagall and also from the Japanese estampes, revealing his own «City of Dreams.» This is a coastal city with both mythical and everyday traits, with its conflicting elements, its variegations and its rhythmic patterns coordinating themselves on the surface as they flourish with an unexpected elation.
This city as a landscape and the landscape as the tangible form of a psychodynamic city illuminates its almost musical notes as each ‘story’ goes into the other in a chronology of defenceless versions. Ultimately, it is the plot of the narrative itself that reflects the viewer’s nostalgias and expectations, constantly engaging and releasing the joints of its pattern without committing itself to any realistic determinations, since each image acts like a fantasy. Instead of specifying, the painter allows the fascination of the possible to rise through; of what is past and what lies in the future, as it might occur in a hypothetical fusion of the tenses of present perfect and past perfect, albeit within the time of some present tense uttered by means of a hidden or floating exclamation. Besides, this kind of painting demonstrates the catalytic ways in which the image and the various surmises about reality can generate a complex and probably contradictory exclamation of awe and yearning, like the one you feel not at the plumb line but in the oscillation of the pendulum before it comes to rest.
Art Critic & Historian