BIOGRAPHY: The art of Giannis Stratis combines the endlessness of representation with the fathomlessness of intelligibility (The present article was entitled "The Art of Giannis Stratis: Horizontal Expression Vertically Explored"). It is indeed intriguing that a metaphysical painter like Stratis started off as a jeweler. However, when the moment came out in the world Stratis naturally gave up material wealth for the salvation of his soul through art. He was born on 24 May 1963 in Kokkinia, of a family with roots in Asia Minor . His grandmother, with a great love for the arts, sensitized him to matters of aesthetics. His earliest artistic memories were gathered in the Museum of Corfu . The need to become acquainted with world culture made him turn to books of art, through which he was deeply cultivated. In 1982 he chose to become involved with art. His studies at the Commerciale Artistico Grafico in Rome familiarized him with jewelry and photography. There he developed the sensitivity to identify mannerisms and to make intuitive choices. His indulgence with art became a mania and a way of life. At some stage he decided to put his hands on the act of making art. In 1993 he took a piece of carton and painted on it a figure using tempera. Alexander Papakonstantinou chose one of his works, which Hara Papatheodorou included in an exhibition entitled Masks in 1994 at the Cultural Center of the Municipality of Athens, alongside works by Dalí, Klee, Magritte, Picasso and Roualt. Such recognition convinced Stratis to dedicate himself on a daily basis to art.
STUDENTSHIP: The art of Stratis is quite a revelation. Though cherishing to see works by Kandylis, Tsarouchis and Parthenis or by Braque, de Kooning, Picasso and Chagall, his works are entirely independent. Of the great masters he sought not to imitate their mannerism, but rather to conquer the mechanisms by which to codify pictures. Memorable upon him was the influence of Michalis Kandylis (1909-1995) to whom he apprenticed irregularly. From him he was taught to represent the psychology of life. More importantly still he learned from him to paint with any material whatever he wanted. Notably his first works (1995-1997) were made by using the fingers directly as a tool. The absolute need for expression impelled Stratis to paint in every alternative manner, creating artworks on stone, wood, and kitchen paper, using a great spectrum of materials whose imprint could yield color - show varnish, cosmetics; wax; oxides; cigarette ashes; plants; and earth.
MANNERISM: Stratis' creations - distantly originating in the artistic movements of cubism; surrealism; and expressionism - are beyond conventional categories. This being so because Stratis does not have any particular telos in mind and therefore has not got the faintest idea in advance as to the ensuing result. He only feels an absolute need to express himself. The only element there is at the time of creation is the agony for the visual outcome. He is driven exclusively by the unconscious instinct, which Stratis calls 'God'. Stratis wishes his work to have power and vigor, beauty being of secondary importance. He is interested in the picture's vibration, the gesture's pulse, and the design's vivacity. The works of Stratis constitute a psychographical testament. He is concerned with bringing out the world inside. He wants the white surface to be charged by the inner throbbing of life itself.
CREATION: Stratis confesses his incapability to explain how his works are produced. He admits not considering himself to be a painter and underlines that he uses color only because he cannot do otherwise. There is a religious dimension in the refusal of his indisputable capacity as an artist, and the parallel recognition of his absolute need to paint. When he finds himself in a condition of inwardness, he feels at the same time weak and strong. He experiences an unsafe security - infallible evidence of metaphysical agony. He prays to God to enlighten his soul so that he may bring about an artwork with throbbing quality. At the moment of inspiration he communes 'in excelsis'. When he enters the mode of creation he undergoes transubstantiation. At that moment time ceases to exist and the work becomes manifest in an incredible flash. Stratis is led directly by an indeterminable inner need to covey something indescribable and indefinable from the depths of his soul. Stratis paints not as he sees with his eyes, but as he feels with his soul. His desire is not simply to represent but to express the essence of his vision. The colors are applied not intentionally, but automatically. Stratis believes deeply that the essence of art flows out of the soul alone. His works synchronize a complex of various 'psycho-diagrams' that are diffused in an indefinite time-space continuum.
CONTENT: The content of Stratis' works - though immediately recognizable - remains indescribable and indefinable. In the speed of their execution the works go through various conditions, creating a palimpsest of pictures, a capsule of memory. Thus a landscape becomes a figure and a face becomes a map of metaphysical locations. The final stage of the works retains the quality of the transubstantial process of the abstract and the godly. The works compose a communicational net, which is traversed by a sincere iconography rendered by the heart, whose de-codification is humanely natural. Stratis' works without exception are legible not by logic, but by the soul. For this reason they are intended to appeal to the viewer that wills not to understand them, but to feel them. The artist is present in every dimension of his work - in the creativeness, the plasticity and its expressiveness. His works - sometimes appearing to convey anger, at other times humor - compose conditions that are an antidote to the nowadays' social solitude, to today';s splintering of morals and values. This is evident in the direct communicability of the work's pure titles. All of Stratis' works breed in their nucleus the seed of optimism - the hopeful message that the spirit shall prevail over materialism.
TIME: The works of Stratis - notwithstanding the moment in which they were created - share the quality of timelessness, encapsulating as much the memories from cave painting as the anticipations for the evolution of painting in the future. For this reason it is not important for Stratis to appreciate his works in the conventional chronological order of their creation. Besides time is an artificial solution unbecoming the dimension of the soul. The case is for the works to communicate within a mutual universe, where everyday living appears foreign and the dream homely. Stratis' works reveal an archetypal condition and an oneiric disposition. As a matter of fact they seem to have existed before being accomplished, even before being born.
MULTIPLICITY / ONENESS: The inspiration for Stratis' works was anything that was worth noticing from the distillation of everyday life. However, while the rendering of figures by other artists usually follows a common denominator and does not deviate in appearance, in the art of Stratis every work is self-referential , and does not repeat itself. The artist himself is shocked before his admitted inability to reproduce any of his own works. Nevertheless, despite the variety amongst them, the hand of Stratis is remarkably recognized with clarity in every one of his pictures. However, through their apparent variety, Stratis’ works share the space of the same universal sphere. Though the works are differentiated in their external composure, when de-codified their mutual origin is revealed in the womb that gave birth to them. All the works in their variety express the 'Oneness' in its absolute naturalness. Whatever form Stratis' works take, the 'Oneness' of creation prevails. These works embody the universal perception that one plus one equals one (1+1=1). If the esoteric truth of such a metaphysical equation becomes manifest, then it may be perceived that the 'Oneness' is but the universe and by extension God.
CREATOR: There is an excellent sincerity in Stratis' declaration that he is insignificant and unable in relation to the act of creation. He recognizes that God is the one to empower him and to lead him - which is reminiscent of "by the hand..." of religious painters. All of Stratis' works share an intimate relation to God. He admits characteristically: "in every work I plead God for His support". God, who directs the hand of Stratis, is a universal manifestation. His works result from the need to unite man with God. Such works reveal that art is neither brushes nor paint tubes, but a need to confirm the eternal relationship of man with the universe – a condition that brings the beholder before God.
VIEWER: It is apparent that the title of the present exhibition - Welcome to My World - is inspired by the viewer himself. Stratis cares to communicate his feelings to the viewer, to transpose him into the 'other' longitudes and latitudes of his world. In Stratis' works the viewer hears the voice of the universe. The viewer may confirm the communicability of the metaphysical dimension of artistic creation. Stratis' desirable result is to touch the viewer and to move him. For Stratis it is enough if the work comes out of it materiality and to inhabit the viewer, if the viewer feels the experience the work expresses and leaves with it. Stratis motivates the viewer to search for the essential nature of the works that will make him appreciate the oxymoron truth – that life is complicatedly simple. In the end, the viewer feels near the works of Stratis a surprising security and familiarity. His works offer a life-giving and soul-filling energy. They touch the viewer and wonderfully strike within him transworldly universal chords.
[Megakles Rogakos 01/2008]
ROGAKOS, MEGAKLES Giannis Stratis: Welcome to My World 2007 Alex Marathianakis Down Town Art Gallery, Athens