S PETRI THE NEW - GREEK KARAGIOZIS
Petri outlines the personality of the contemporary
Greek with humor but also with a critical glance
through the familiar to all of us figure of Karaghiozis.
The cunning and crafty protagonist of the theater
of shadows. She transforms herself into a busy puppeteer
and moves the threads of the artistic game. She
creates images, often through the assemblage of
different materials, and narrates everyday stories.
She enriches the traditional thematic scheme of
Karaghiozis with new actions and modernizes her
Gone are the days of slavery, poverty and misery!
Karaghiozis, in the role of the contemporary Greek,
is a free and satisfied man. A member of the European
Community, an official citizen of the Continent.
Educated, he knows everything just like his co-actor
Morfonios from whom he steals in Petri's work some
additional characteristics. For example, he displays
the arrogance of the intellectual, he dresses elegantly,
he likes to show off and he is just too fond of
Karaghiozis the contemporary Greek, an admirer and
victim of fashion, acquires one more European trait,
that of the passionate art-lover, an art-collector
to be. A regular visitor of the past, he travels
with a time machine to the realm of yesterday in
order to speak privately -like a successful yuppie-
with his favorite artists: the marginal Caravaggio,
the lustful Balthus, the exotic Gauguin, the Mediterranean
Picasso -a pioneer of cubism along with Braque-
the explosive Pollock, to name but a few. He penetrates
with boldness into their works and becomes an integral
part of them. He constantly transforms himself,
reminding the viewer of his hypocritical talent.
He adjusts to different environments like a chameleon,
he mingles with the protagonists of the paintings,
he vanishes to the inhabited spaces of the Rennaissance
artists, of the fauves, the nabis, the cubists or
the expressionists and provokes the viewer to discover
him. He feels equally at ease wherever he goes.
A cosmopolitan, well traveled human being, he impresses
with the breadth of his acquaintances and knowledge.
All of a sudden the memories of poverty raise from
oblivion. Karaghiozis is then depicted as a guest
at the coal-miners / "Patatoe Eaters"
of Van Gogh, at the poor and dark environment of
a hut that stirs associations, connecting different
lands and periods. He immediately recovers, however,
from the shock of the traumatic memory of the Ottoman
sovereignty and from the complex of inferiority
he once felt. He is "Victorious", the
Greek National Football Team won the World Champion.
Hellas! He belongs to the West, to a civilization
that ancient Greece bore. He may, as most researchers
say, have entered our country from Constantinople
at the end of the 19th century, yet Petri' s Karaghiozis
is convinced that his roots can be also found elsewhere:
in the obscene protagonists of Aristophanes and
in the Byzantine theatrical type of Ptohoprodromos.
A fanatic patriot, he is particularly proud of antiquity
and the Byzantium. He admires the linearity of the
ancient vases, the clear contours that form the
shapes and remind him of his morphology. He applauds
the painters Tsarouhis, Engonopoulos and Ghikas
who first observed and wrote about this similarity,
connecting him with the Greek cultural heritage.
He absolutely agrees with them in one more important
point: that his multi-angled, naively painted scenic
elements are related to the Byzantine representation
of space which, in turn, presages the globular perception
of the fractured image of the cubists. He himself
has to make an additional wise remark. He believes
that it is the Greek light -first praised by Periklis
Giannopoulos, the distinguished intellectual from
the city of Patras-, that breaks up and fragments
the form, creating a seemingly cubist structure
of the exterior world.
As a true Greek, Karaghiozis feels he is first!
A worthy successor of Herodotus, Thales, Pythagoras,
Socrates, Heraclitus and so many others. The latter's
philosophy has greatly influenced him, that is why
he perpetually changes while combining in his temperament
the extreme opposites: the traits of the comic and
the tragic hero. Funny, but at the same time a smart
aleck and a know-all, he repeatedly overcomes the
limits and becomes ridiculous, a pitiable vagabond,
wandering around aimlessly, shifting opportunistically
according to the wind.
Petri's Karaghiozis "Votes with Conviction"
PASOK but also supports Nea Dimokratia while having
the Leftists in his heart. He struts and takes pride
in having succeeded to incarnate the popular Greek
conscience. He appears on baking-pans, on wooden
triptychs originally made for religious icons or
on stools, transforming the functional objects into
art-pieces, in order to remind the public of his
close relation with the national popular tradition.
The artistic compositions are frequently enriched
with words or phrases, hints that serve to de-codify
the narration. They are often the titles of the
works themselves, deliberately written in a hurry,
in bad handwriting, in a sloppy manner to remind
one of the hand-made signs of old Greek shops or
the naif advertisements made for the puppeteers'
The morphology of the work is consistent with its
conceptual dimension. The prevailing visual frenzy
reflects the confusion of Karaghiozis' idiosyncrasy.
The grotesque exaggeration of the heavily decorated
theatrical scene is transferred to the works in
various ways. The paintings, made out of pastels
and inks, deliberately intermingle various styles,
heterogeneous cross-time references and different
times. The unskillful little angels of the Venetian
icons and the elaborate angels of Raphael become
co-protagonists of the popular hero. At other times,
co-protagonists are the wild beast and popular pop
stars Anna Vissi or Sakis Rouvas, dressed up as
a Dionysian Caravaggio. There is no doubt that the
ex-miserable humpback has been transformed into
a modern, plump, global citizen with a high social
profile. He visits Mykonos, the birth place of Petri
where she lives long periods of time. Overjoyed,
he wanders around the port with the expensive yachts
brandishing his sunglasses that reflect the latest
fashion. Another time he dresses up as an extra
elegant groom going to meet Karaghiozena-the bride
to be with a rich bouquet of flowers in his hand.
We even meet him in fashion dressing-rooms, a tireless
researcher of the latest tendencies in designer
A large series of works emphasizes his existential
chaos through the use of extreme oppositions. Fancy
wrapping papers with different qualities and textures,
metal papers that reflect the viewer’s idol, beads
that shine, multicolored photographs from wide circulation
magazines, decalcomania, wrinkled oil papers, and
paper laces for serving trays, intermingle to compose
the deliberately confusing visual image. These compositions
are frequently entrapped in golden wood-carved frames
of another era. The heavy frames form part of the
work, they contribute to the exaggerated look of
the artistic ensemble, and they provoke an additional
regression back and forward in time. The noisy result
expresses Karaghiozis' spirit.
For the newly rich Karaghiozis with the doubtful
taste, baroque aesthetics is an indication of great
wealth. He follows his own motto "everything
that shines is gold" rejecting like a naughty
child the popular wisdom which he is supposed to
incarnate. A self-seeker, he has decided to enjoy
whatever he was deprived of during the Turkish occupation
and the Second World War. Let him go astray from
the ideological heritage that burdens his lazy shoulders.
Big deal, after all we are Greeks!
'Petri cuts into pieces the various papers, delineating
specific forms which she then puts together in order
to shape the figures and to compose the narration
of the image. The technique of "decoupage"
refers to the method of construction that puppeteers
used and still use to create the lifeless actors
of the shadow theater, usually by means of cheap
materials. Inventiveness, spontaneity, the search
and application of new materials characterize the
puppeteers' methodology and function like a provoking
stimulus for Petri. Opposite to the rules set by
the international art system -which demand from
artists to be subservient to each time's trendy
aesthetic in order to be incorporated in the international
market- Petri lets herself free to communicate in
a personal and creative manner. She likes experimenting,
as she rightfully believes, with various materials
and techniques, she moves independently of current
artistic trends. She identifies herself with her
hero who also negates stubbornly to follow society's
various "must-do" in order to thrive.
By discussing with Karaghiozis, she honors in her
own way the Greek cultural tradition as well as
the artists' views belonging to the 1930s generation.
In a series of drawings with intense references
to antiquity and the Byzantium she praises the "Greek
Line" which forms the title of an important
essay on aesthetics by Periklis Giannopoulos. However,
Petri escapes from the various ideologies concerning
what is named "Greekness". She wanders
in the universal paths of art, deliberately reproduces
in her overall oeuvre different styles - revealing
a knowledge of art history- and turns to the past
in order to criticize the present. She satirizes
with a severe disposition, causticity and with intense
humor contemporary Greece as well as the contemporary
Greek staging a dialogue with the local and the
universal artistic scene. She intermingles in a
light manner different realities in a single result,
Staprionia, who's cooking pasta?"
was the voice of Karagiozis, heard coming from the
vinyl record playing on the portable turntable.
It was the 60's. He was speaking the language of
people from outer space from the play Karagiozis
as an astronaut, performed by the well-known puppeteer
then not every Greek home had a television, the
Americans had succeeded in landing on the moon,
and most Greeks managed to watch the historical
moment at their relatives' homes. Even though the
authenticity of the images has been disputed, our
own Karagiozis made it to the moon in his own way;
and thus, he moved from being an ancient Greek,
to a modern one, to a contemporary one. Karagiozis
is for every era, and in every situation he exists
to symbolize the character of the Greek soul. (Note:
Whoever disputes Karagiozis' Greek roots should
go back to Aristophanes’ hero Epathonidis and to
the Byzantine Ptohoprodromos theatrical type. Other
than in these theatrical pieces, we should observe
the relationship of our hero with his wife and children,
the description of his hut and the way he survives
from the time of listening to the turntable and
watching the entertaining Karagiozis performances
in Pigada Square in Piraeus, I found myself studying
at the Higher School of Fine Arts in Athens. Impressionism,
Expressionism, the Fauves and the Nabis all found
their way onto my palette, but I just couldn't accept
or understand Cubism.
one day, someone gave me two books as a present:
The figures and The scenery of Karagiozis. This
proved to be the turning point of my own discovery
of Cubism. Cubism was as Greek as mathematics! Even
though the basis of Cubism could be found in Einstein's
fourth dimension, in quantum matter and in Tesla's
wavelengths, my own Karagiozis had spontaneously
and naturally been saying this for ages in his performances.
When there is a solution so disarmingly simple that
it must be true, so my Cubism emerged from my soul
and from observing the natural world around me,
with its clear forms, sometimes small, sometimes
large. One has only to observe any landscape in
Greece at midday: for example, a dry mountain bush,
with its internal photo-shading, a wild prickly
pear bush, a Cycladic house, or a drywall stone
also has a reason to exist, just as a stage is set
(in any type of theatre, not only shadow puppet
theatre), so as to delineate the space where the
words themselves will find their true significance.
is abstract; it springs out from the abstract footprint
of an old soul. Just look at an old door with chipped
paint and behind you see all the previous coats
of colour. Later, when I moved abroad to London
and Berlin, truly as do all expatriate Greeks, I
consciously and with great determination sought
out my Greek history and origins. So, after that
began my deeper investigation of Karagiozis and
his history. From then the idea was cultivated to
occupy myself thematically with his character. Years
passed without the idea ever leaving my mind. I
didn't need just his figure, but the being of Karagiozis,
because Karagiozis cannot be described - he simply
why I saw him modified in his being around me, as
the contemporary Greek, in art, in day-to-day life,
in my perception of him, in his approach to his
history and his everyday resistance.
started this artistic voyage in 2000. Every work
in the collection is unique: Karagiozis is multi-faceted
and opinionated on a variety of subjects, but he
is always unique. Also, because I despise "easy"
art and the mimicry that may be convenient for experienced
but laid-back artists, I'm seeking out collectors
who prefer a challenge.
I present to you as much as I can truly see, and
I open my heart to you with love and compassion.