Irini Iliopoulou

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The power of allegory

Irini Iliopoulou has been a consistent practitioner of painting since the 1980s. Her work until now showed that she remained true to the depiction of people, landscapes or other scenes, which she used as opportunities to ‘talk’ about the hidden beauty of everyday life and demonstrate the potential of the medium she used to render it – painting. Yet despite the usually complacent air of her works, they always gave an impression of hiding another reality with a hint of melancholy allusion to the past, historical and mythical; this effect was reinforced by the techniques employed by the artist. Her latest work is radically refreshed in terms of subjects and techniques as well as conceptually. Irini Iliopoulou goes into a dreamlike and highly personal world which she invests with a pronounced psychoanalytical eye. It is as if she set herself to painting her dreams. Her large-scale works seem like frozen film stills from a movie which keeps an equal distance from dream and nightmare. Her settings are sometimes landscapes with exotic colours and plants and sometimes interiors or exteriors which vie for the protagonist’s role with their inhabitants: that are dolls and some tiny creatures with sober childish faces, with the appearance and the attire of adults.

The artist here ‘abandons’ her usual realistic subjects to explore areas which are as manifestly nonreal as they are plausible. These paradoxical places are where the memories from early childhood –the age when one’s personality is moulded and the foundations are laid which will largely determine one’s course in the adult world– meet the obligations of contemporary everyday reality. Lack of homogeneity (white and black race), inequality (travelling and work) and other recognisable traits of our society seem to hold true there as well, as do the stereotypical roles of the sexes. Are the two worlds similar, ours and the artist’s, or is one a faithful copy of the other? What is important is the result: a theatrical stage set, a ‘miniature’ world in which the role of the puppet –not only as an innocent toy but also as a primordial anthropological object– and the role of man are fused to generate in the viewer a mixed sensation of attraction and repulsion. The feeling of fiction, of non-realism, is reinforced by the vivid colours, which are not necessarily compatible wth those of ‘this world’, and by the impression that the weird ‘inhabitants’ of the works were ‘surprised’ by the entry of viewers into their world.

Thematically, most of the paintings of Irini Iliopoulou in this series point to the allegories of Renaissance, Romanticism and Symbolism. And although at first sight one might think that this is a joyful transportation to Wonderland, it soon becomes apparent that it is more like a land of simulation. In this fully mature phase in her career, Irini Iliopoulou is bold enough to turn to introspection and, more importantly, to broadcast it, at the same time as she aims for the quintessence of the act of painting as a likeness of life, both inner and public. Katerina Koskina
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translated by Tony Moser