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Maria Xagorari
About this artwork
Hands and Knees
oil on canvas
h.100cm w.120cm d.0cm
Apr 2005

Maria's Description: One of the works I am still quite fond of, after two years.

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Nikoletta Delasouda

Maria's portfolio
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2007-01-10 18:52

I look at this and then my latest paintings and I get confused. Am I going the wrong way?

2007-01-11 16:56

I like it. Sure its a little Freudian (Lucien that is) but in all honesty and of course this is only my opinion I prefer it to your more recent efforts which for me (although interesting) are a bit to photographic and static. This one although monochromatic seems to breathe more and feels looser. Was it fom a live model? I'm not sure.

2007-01-11 16:59

Well, Maria, this is a question no one can answer but you.
Now and again one succeed in doing a very good painting. One that is more powerful or more beautiful or simply just better than all the other ones. These are solitaires in one’s oevre. Sometimes they are what I call key works that introduce a whole series.
Working on a series we automatically expect that this will enhance our understanding with every painting we add to it. So that in the end the last one will be the best one. But more often than not that’s not how it is.
In the last but one painting of the „At Arm’s Length“ series I had this moving hands I found so interesting that I decided to do a new series dedicated to motion (# 26 of my portfolio). So as usual I experimented with myself as a model for to find out what to do with an extern model. The painting that came out of this you find as # 27. But after having done 25 paintings with motion as a theme the first one still is the best in my opinion. Maybe one reason is that working with yourself as a model is much much easier than having another person. I understand perfectly what I want. With me I don’t have to argue. So when looking at the first „Motion“ painting I know exactly what you are talking about.

Yes and I also think that this painting is more interesting than the later ones. Maybe it’s the composition, the whole body, the special pose ... the story that emerges from it. Imagine what would be if you could see the gaze of that person as well. Maybe it’s a wrong idea to isolate a single eye for to show the gaze. Or to isolate a single hand for to show a gesture ... maybe ... maybe ... maybe

2007-01-12 11:18

I am going through a little crisis here and your response is most valuable to me. Dear Hillel, it is not from a live model. It is from a photo I shot of a friend who poses for me. I can see what you mean by photographic and static in my later work. That is what drives me nuts and I had to ask if others saw it too. But I don’t think it has to do with my working with photographs. Or does it? I will upload some other older stuff done from a mirror so maybe I can beg you to share what you think with me. I haven’t worked from a live model since 2004 and maybe I should go back to it for a while. I can’t afford one though, so back to the mirror we go, which could save me from doing reclining nudes as well (I share Hanjo’s view on that).

It is true, I have always deep down expected to “enhance my understanding with every new painting”, Hanjo. Maybe it’s this idea of progress we have about life. That everything should proceed on a straight line. How wrong this is. Thank you for confirming it. But how frustrating can it be to see a year’s effort go down the bin. I am not sure I found your #26. I prefer your “At arm’s length” and AAL18 to the last painting with the model standing on its shoulder (I don’t remember the title). There seems to be some sort of intimacy in the paintings of yourself, which I have difficulty detecting in the paintings of a model. Here I would like to go to the story that emerges from paintings. Most of my paintings that seem to have some significant content are of myself or, at the most, of my best friend. That is, I find it hard to see expressive power (that can interest me) in bodies and faces of people I am not connected to in one way or another. Do you think this is just artistic weakness? Should an artist be able to draw inspiration out of almost anything, since, at the bottom line, the artwork has a life of its own, away from what motivated it?

And another thing; my mind has been full of concepts and stories and theories lately, which I try to put on canvas. A teacher of mine used to say he wasn’t sure he should lead us students to think too much. It took the life out of our work. But I am not a student any more. Some of my ideas are pushing hard to come to life but I don’t seem to succeed. Almost every painting that was done under this spirit came out dead. Like a printed illustration. Should I continue seeking the realization of these ideas or would it best to let things proceed on their own? Maybe nobody can answer this question. Maybe we all ask it to our selves. It has been very helpful to me though, trying to put it in words. So, my friends, allow this poor Greek chit-chat. Castaways talk too much when back in contact with civilisation.

2007-01-12 13:55

Well, I am not into art theory. I am not into any theory at all. Theories are for philosophers or clerics or that kind of people. In the end theories are only expressable with words. They are made out of words and are dealing with terms and how to define them properly. We had that conceptualist theoretical kind of art for more than two decades and I think that is enough for a while. It only fed a rapidly growing body of clerics (the ones that tell you what’s good and what’s not) that took over the art world completely and left us artists as mere illustrators.

I mean as painters we deal with paint and what one can do with it. And while putting that paint on a canvas trying to make it look like the whatever model we learn to look more precisely than others do. You get a good understanding of an object you draw or paint. So the main thing is painting and looking at things, painting and looking again. Everything comes from this. In the end even theory. So if as a painter you do not rely on painting as the first thing you will get lost. In dealing with thoughts and words all those clerics are superior of you.

The other issue I want to talk about are these myths and rituals that are occupying our heads when it comes to art. One of them is the opinion that painting after a living model is better than painting after a photograph. That it is a question of honour to avoid taking a photograph as a model. That working after a sitter makes his or her portrair more true, deeper and more human etc. All this is rubbish. Painting after the living necessarily leads to these classical poses like those reclining nudes for no other pose can be hold that long. And painting portraits that precise as I do makes it necessary to look at the face very close with such scrutiny for a long time that would make every model panic within seconds. So when being interested not into mere beauty but into a human being you better have something as a model that is not dodging. The idea that it is more honourable taking all your information from a sitter instead of a photo and putting this information without the help of a raster directly on the canvas for me sounds like that it is more honourable to paint while doing a handstand or something like that. Well, We are artists not artistes.

Maria, I cannot tell you what to do. I am no teacher. The only thing I feel when looking at your recent paintings is as said before that taking your interest in gestures or gazes seriously you should avoid to show mere hands or eyes. A gesture as well as a gaze is connected to the body. It highlights or emphasizes what the body says as a whole. So don’t cut the expressions from their source.

2007-01-12 19:04

Thank you Hanjo. You have helped me choose side in a conflict in my mind.

2007-01-14 06:43

Maria, the reason I asked about whether or not you had worked from a photo was not from some kind of snobbery about painting from life being superior to painting from photos. As one who paints from available photographic imagery I would be the last one to denigrate such a practice which I view as merely another tool for the artist. This painting just seemed less photographic to me than the other work in your porfolio and that I said "I was unsure?" is a compliment. I'm not trying to confuse you in any way now that you've seemed to have resolved your "conflict" (not a bad thing for an artist and for the making of art).
I agree with most everthing you've said here Hanjo particularly that in the final analysis painting is just that "the application of paint on a two dimensional surface in a meaningful way". So its about seeing and thought and the breaking down of illusory three dimensionality into flat areas of colour or tone. How you do that and analyse and measure those things is what people call style and every artist that works honestly and diligently will discover their own unique measure and that's what people call an artist's signature style.
I think that for a young figurative artist, one in the process of finding their measure, working from life can be advantageous. The problem with photography at that stage is that the flattenning, intrinsic to the medium is done for you. Part of the process for the artist discovering his/her own measure has to be firstly the ability to see the world the way the eyes see it (two dimensionally) and not the way the brain perceives it (three dimensionally). A veteran artist like yourself Hanjo just didn't arrive at your present process without having gone through all these things. So I think for a younger artist its a good thing to do both. There are usually places to go where people for a small fee share a model and withstanding that there's always the whole still world around you. And why not let the beautiful light and colours of Greece enter your work.
Finally I don't know what makes great art anymore than anyone else does including the so called experts and theoreticians (your "clerics" Hanjo) because its such a complicated thing and yet also such a simple thing arising from a person's inner essense and need to express. Nether philosophy or science, there are no absolutes and proofs. Pollock and Warhol reside in the same museums as Rembrandt and El Greco and they're all called "great artists". Time and the consensus of the many will ultimately be the judge. So don't listen to me or anyone (that's the danger your teacher spoke of) just follow your heart and instincts.

2007-01-14 13:03

Dear Hillel, I am sure it was a compliment, as I never doubted that you do not consider painting from photos inferior. Neither do I. For the history, I started using photos when I did my “Furies or The Step” and I needed a model for the main figure’s hand and the faces that emerge from the dark. I had the lack to study in a school where painting from live model was obligatory for the first three years, so I am aware of its importance for studying purposes. To add to what you said about the readymade “flattening” of a photo, I would like to say that vision, or visual perception if you like, is an interactive thing. When you intensely look at something (in nature) you discover new aspects of it at every glance. You feel the life in it (or is it the life in you?). Everything seems to constantly change as you touch and explore it with your gaze. There seems to be a pulse in things. You can find this in impressionist painting for example. The thing is whether the mere reproduction of this pulse is what one wants to be the actual content of one’s painting. Because there is a lot of “pulse” in Pollock as there is in Rembrandt or Matisse or Brancusi or Moore, just to name some rather different artists, only that there is also something more. What looking and looking again does for an artist is allow him/her to immerge in nature’s sea of visual forms, so that he can then create his own meaningful creatures.
In this process, two things can be confusing for a young artist. One is that an artist cannot be completely ignorant of what “clerics” have to say. Some of them do have significant things to say (even though this is just because artists did them first). The second is that the existing patrimony of meaningful forms is so immense. So sometimes a young artist commits the mistake of trying to form ideas first and images second. This leads nine times out of ten to a dead end. I can’t say I have resolved my conflict. It has been reminded to me though, that I have to be patient and paint as I feel like painting and if there can be some significance in my art, this will come in time and it will show on its own. I wish!

2007-01-14 21:44

Its a classic conflict. Cezanne, as we know from his early work yearned to do passionate and expressive work with grand themes however its only when he reconciled himself to simpler aims did he achieve all that and more with a few simple apples yet I'm sure the conflict dogged him his whole life. In other words you have to be who you are.
Thanks Maria for your truly excellent response to my comment. By the way I just viewed your portfolio and see you've added some of the older work which I like very much. It confirms what I suspected that for whatever reason the photograph constrains you however I know you'll work your way through your crisis, you've done your homework and your work is quite advanced, just keep going.

2008-06-07 00:31


Thank you for the compliment I was delighted.I have been meaning to respond to you for a while and I apologize for not doing so sooner.

This is a very good pose.I like the constriction.You show here a really nice understanding of anatomy.Although it is done in gray-scale, you give us a convincing sense of illumination here.

Thanks for sharing and I hope we'll continue to chat.


2008-06-07 10:06

Dear Patrick,
thanks for your comment. And thanks for having me look at this work again. I am looking for some sort of golden section between this kind of anatomically correct depiction, and the expressive properties of transfiguration through drawing. Mah... it drives me nuts. I look at my last effort and don't know what to think... I think I 'll put it on the studio log and see what you all think.

Mine was not a compliment on your work. I trully beleive there is something important cooking in there. Keep on stirring.


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