Dimitri Papatheodorou


The quest for the spiritual in art -for some further awakening to knowledge and understanding and emotion - has fallen out of favour in recent years though it still deserves focus. Kitsch and irony have winked their way to center-stage  Contemporary art can be overstuffed with ideas as the cupboard of pop culture gets emptied out onto the canvas.  If the story isn't always interesting, at least its busy and action-packed. 
 
So it's a charm to come upon the quiet and contemplative panels of Toronto artist Dimitri Papatheodorou which speak of larger truths by simple means.  Charming because Papatheodorou's paintings are seductive and pull you into their stillness, suggesting the possibility of some further discovery if you follow the light.

The critic Mimi Gelman has called Papatheodorou's panels "perceptual thresholds made material in painting that invite the viewer to enter and experience transcendence". In these minimalist spaces larger truths are spoken through the silence. 
 
Papatheodorou builds up each panel with many fine layers of oil (in the manner of Mark Rothko) so that light and dark and colour all sink deep into the image.  In Papatheodorou's work - as with night vision -we are perceptively aware that there is more going on about us if we give into the darkness and let the light rise to the occasion almost subliminally.  Rothko is the master here but Papatheodorou shows skill and insight and allure in his own use of this effect.
 
Papatheodorou is a practicing architect as well as a visual artist and his paintings prove his interest in space and form is profound.  He makes the case that structure can contain us at the same time it opens us up to some further possibility. 

In Intimate Immensity the individual panels quote from such modernist architects as Tadao Ando, Daniel Libeskind and, most meaningfully, Le Corbusier whose Chapel Notre Dame dU Haut is a pilgrim's church not only for Catholics but for those who believe - as Papatheodorou does - in the power of architectural purity.  Faith takes many forms. 
 
The recessed windows, ocular openings, sinuous lines and well-structured spaces anchor the viewer in the concrete and the immediate but then the light comes in to carry our eye elsewhere.  We go from the solid to the sacred in this slow moment.  Papatheodorou knows that to best experience the sublime one must have both feet planted in the real. 

Papatheodorou's paintings in Intimate Immensity invoke the art historical bias that real emotion, even experience, can be gained through a consideration of the plastic arts. Dimitri Papatheodorou's talent makes for a persuasive show.   
 
- Barry Dumka

Biography
Art and Architecture from 1983 – 1989 University of Waterloo, Canada.
Bachelor of Environmental Studies 1987, Bachelor of Architecture (Honours/Distinction) 1989
Member of the Ontario Association of Architects, Toronto Society of Architects,
and Royal Architectural Institute of Canada,
Former Board Member of Propeller Centre for the Visual Arts, Toronto.
Founding Member of the Transmission Commission - an art collective.
Founding Member of the Sherbourne Health Centre Art Committee, Toronto
Principal of Dimitri Papatheodorou Architect
Faculty, Institute Without Boundaries, George Brown College, Toronto
Adjunct Faculty, Ryerson University Department of Architectural Sciencem
Solo Exhibitions
2009    Intimate Journey, Elliott Louis Gallery, Vancovuer
2009   James Baird Gallery, Pouch Cove Newfoundland
2008    Delong Gallery, Toronto
2008   James Baird Gallery, Toronto
2007   Snap Contemporary Art, Vancouver
2007   Gallery 1313, Toronto
2006   James Baird Gallery, Pouch Cove Newfoundland
2006   Snap Contemporary Art, Vancouver BC .
2005   REVEAL Propeller Centre for the Visual Arts, Toronto
2004   Propeller Centre for the Visual Arts, Toronto,
2003   Realtime Gallery, the Distillery Toronto
2003   COOP on Scollard, Toronto
2002   Five Years Gallery 401 Toronto
Group Exhibitions
2009   Summer Love, Elliot Louis Gallery, Vancouver, BC
2007   1313 Queen Street West, Toronto
2006   In Tents City, MOCCA/Edward Day Gallery, Co-curator
2006   SPIN Gallery, Toronto  ticks + Stones
2005   Refuse To Die Show at Propeller Centre for the Visual Arts, Olga Korper Curator,
             DimitriPapatheodorou Coordinator
2005   Fran Hill Gallery, Toronto . Wegway Annual Curated Show
2005   Ray Berndston/Lovas Stanley, Royal Bank Plaza, Toronto
2005   Members Show, Propeller Centre for the Visual Arts, Toronto
2003   COOP on Scollard, Toronto
Commissions & Public Acquisitions
2002   Commission: installation of 30 paintings.Theme:  Water & Body STILLWATER  an urban Spa -Park Hyatt, Toronto
2001   Commission  installation of 10 paintings. Theme:  Bridges Westmont Hospitality Head Offices

Awards
2003   STILLWATER SPA National Post Design Exchange Silver Medal for Interior Design
            HCA ARCHITECTURE Incorporated Architects
2001   STILLWATER SPA Montreal Business Magazine Article
            HCA ARCHITECTURE Incorporated Architects
2000   Park Hyatt Toronto Resorts and Great Hotels Article
            HCA ARCHITECTURE Incorporated Architects
1995   First Step Non-Profit Toronto Historical Board Award of Merit
            HCA ARCHITECTURE Incorporated

Teaching
2003-2009   Ryerson University,  Department of Architectural Science, Institute Without Boundaries: Faculty
2003-2008   OCAD: Guest Critic
2003-2004   Ryerson University:Thesis Mentor
2002-2003  Ryerson University: Thesis Mentor
                     OCAD: Lecturer
2001-2002   Ryerson University: Thesis Mentor
Essays
Mercurial Presence in the Paintings of Dimitri Papatheodorou
By Mimi Gellman



                                             “The world is large, but in us it is deep as the sea” Rilke
                                                                                    

Within these modest-sized portals, the paintings of Dimitri Papatheodorou live out a life where space, time and history overlap. They are interior spiritual spaces, perceptual thresholds made material in painting that invite the viewer to enter and experience transcendence. These rooms that are not rooms, are reminiscent of the luminescent paintings of Caravaggio and Hugo van der Goes, whose use of chiaroscuro and fine layers of glaze achieved an otherworldly quality of light and emanation.

Evoking monastic enclosures, turrets, and Corbusier’s “Chapel of Nôtre Dame du Haut,” these intimately enclosed spaces paradoxically also function as pure unfolding space, as plays of light and shadow. The power of these works arises from their existence as phenomenological chambers, at once architectural and elemental, whose location fluctuates somewhere between the realm of the built, the realm of the body and the dreamtime.

One enters the paintings from afar with curiosity, a faint glow apparent in a field of darkness. Time begins to slow down as the fine particulate nature of the light reveals itself to the eye. As one “walks” through these paintings one gets inexplicably lost within the fabric of their interiors. A sensation of suspension is created within the paintings as it is within ourselves and that is the moment of transcendence, when our interiors combine and we become the shadow and the “poussière ensoleillèe”, the sun-shot dust that Georges Bataille referred to in his 1930 journal, Documents.

In Poussiere/peinture/ Bataille on Painting, Lacanian writer Briony Fer describes a brief essay of Bataille’s that describes this quality of light: “Bataille wrote a short commentary on the paintings by Miró recently shown at the Galerie Pierre. He described how, in Miró’s work, reality disintegrated into dust, a sun-shot dust (poussière ensoleillée). For Bataille, a metonymic chain, where one term migrates into another, is triggered by the metaphor of dust. It is as if a mass of grains or specks occupies the field of vision and forms a veil against the light. Vision is obscured, and yet the sight is ravishing. Forms are dissolved, almost like a modern form of chiaroscuro. Under these conditions, the pleasures of not seeing, or at least of not seeing clearly, are intense.” (155)

Papatheodorou’s paintings deliver this experience of amplified seeing, a synesthetic phenomena implicating other faculties: taste, touch, sound and intuition. As the paintings’ surfaces reveal themselves, the sensation of embodiment is heightened. Their subtle particulation is felt by the body, as a faint buzzing within, a physical manifestation mirroring the visual evanescence of the paintings’ surfaces. These paintings embody Bataille’s notion of alteration: “a partial decomposition analogous with that of corpses and at the same time the transition (passage) to a perfectly heterogeneous state corresponding to the sacred, found for example in the ghost.’

This duality of being at once material and immaterial, secular and sacred is personified in Papatheodorou’s paintings. They point to our sense of interiority and convey a profound dreamlike depth, signaling what the philosopher Gaston Bachelard referred to as “intimate immensity.” With this term, Bachelard is describing a state that reflects a contemplative daydream, where the daydream transports the dreamer outside the immediate world to a world that bears the mark of infinity.

In his seminal text, The Poetics of Space, Bachelard wrote: “Immensity is within ourselves. It is attached to a sort of expansion of being that curbs and cautions arrests, but which starts again when we are alone. As soon as we become motionless, we are elsewhere: we are dreaming in a world that is immense […] However paradoxical this may seem, it is often this inner immensity that gives their real meaning to certain expressions concerning the visible world.”

In describing Papatheodorou’s work as phenomenological art, I invoke the work of American installation artists Robert Irwin and James Turrell whose conceptual installations use light as their primary form and material. Like Irwin and Turrell, Papatheodorou has a keen understanding of, and interest in exploring creative directions that merge the themes of architecture, duration, space and light.  In Being and Circumstance: Notes toward a Conditional Art, Irwin clarifies this paradigm shift.

“What appeared to be a question of object/non object has turned out to be a question of seeing and non- seeing, of how it is we actually perceive or fail to perceive “things” in their real contexts. Now we are presented and challenged with the infinite, everyday richness of  “phenomenal” perception and the potential for a corresponding “phenomenal art.”

The paintings of Dimitri Paptheodorou exist in an interstitial zone where the confluence of image, emanation and the body become one. An ongoing conversation with these paintings continues to reveal new associations and relationships to the phenomenology of perception. Within these deep strange apertures, the works persist in orienting and disorienting us spatially and conceptually, their mercurial presence challenging us to question the true reality of our insubstantial natures.