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