CARLOS NAVARRETE, (2013)
“It is because a great part of the strength of the colour that inhabits her work comes from her inner self, thus, her work as a visual artist is the reflex of that light that she has inside.”
The Power of Color in the Paintings of Daphne Anastassiou
“In visual perception a color is almost never seen as it really is – as it physically is. This fact makes of the colour the most relative means in art.”
We live in a world full of colors, yet we curiously opt for certain chromatisms, that reduce the vast universe that nature has given us. Color is light, and as such, its behavior depends on our perception and on how it appears before our eyes. This always tends to confuse us, precisely because of the relativity that this phenomenon demonstrates when we wish to capture it. The German painter Josef Albers (1901-1995) dedicated a large part of his life to the study of this phenomenon and created a chromatic theory that can be taught to others and in a way, it was also a generous intent to make us sensible to that manifestation. Maybe that explains why his essays became popular in North America in the 1950s. Taking giant steps, this country showed the world it’s fast growing development and expanded the range of operations across its borders. This tendency to expand partly explains the artist’s travels, along with his wife Anni Albers (1899 – 1994) across Latin America, where they searched for ways to propagate this new educational model and, at the same time, used this opportunity to study our Pre-Colombian culture.
A few weeks ago, I received an invitation from the artist Daphne Anastassiou to visit one of her painting studios in western Santiago and as I entered the spacious industrial warehouse –which sometimes acts as shelter for her art-, the image of the German creator previously mentioned came to my mind like a countersign of art committed with the vital need to express itself through the power of color. As I took a fast look around the place where she busily works, each one of her canvases seemed to be accurate testimonies of an artist that looks to portray, through chromatic energy, the human being in his purest even primeval state. From then on, several paintings done by the artist in large format gave me a sense of understanding the different states of human nature and how it is constructed. Sometimes full of light and purity, others close to earth, even in some works seemed to me that there was an effigy of a being in complete harmony with their enviroment. This last fact drove me to think that Daphne Anastasssiou and her paintings want to portrait each one of the states of the human being and their soul with the nerve of the colour, without making each of these forms abandon their earthy shape.
For a long time, the figure of J. Albers seemed to overshadow his wife Anni, especially if we think of the influence he had as a professor in Black Mountain College and later, in the School of Arts at Yale University (1). Today, however, the importance of Anni Albers had on Josef’s art becomes evident, as well as her influence on the decision to travel to South America (2). As an example of this it is the beautiful production of textiles with geometrical motifs, that the artist worked patiently under her husband’s shadow. Clearly
inspired by the native Pre-Colombian geometries of the nations they had visited. This attitude allowes us to get into the fusion of the shape and colour of our landscape that she observed.
While talking lively with Daphne about her motivations and creative phases, one of the things that attracted my attention was the value she gave to the observation of the human being, in a way that went beyond the religious, political and economic understanding. Her interest when portraying was not only to capture the essence of a person, but also find the attachment of human nature to its landscape, architecture or in a more general way, to territory. “Colours heal,” (3) she said during our conversation, and in a certain way, while looking at each one of the chromatisms that were drawn in the bodies that inhabit these works, it is possible to understand the meaning of her claim and at the same time, how she has been able to condense the internal light that we all carry on through the gesture and dynamism that constitutes her paintings. From there on, it was not surprising to find paintings in which the intensity of the colours were contained by the loose lines done in oil pastels, as if with that procedure the artist would mark a time in the life sheet of the portrayed, as a life diary.
Same as Anni Albers’s textile art, I perceived in Daphne’s gesture an intense desire to weave the America’s portrait history through the temperatures of her landscape, reflected in the silhouettes of the bodies and torsos that are cheerfully exposed on the surface of the canvas or over works on paper.
I was also surprised by the paintings where layers of colours were worked as if it were a pictorial surface – linen mounted over wood – in a way more closer to metal print or goldsmithery than the real easel’s painter work. Because many of the textures, impastos and erosions that are performed in some of her works are possible thanks to this old knowledge, to the guache and transparencies that are always present in the life inside a painter’s workshop. In a symptomatic way, the previously described characteristics draw Daphne closer to the works of J. Albers, because many of his works in the series “Homage to the Square,” were done on Masonite –agglomerated wood- to provide more coherence to the previously mentioned chromatic study, making the mass of colors visible and demonstrating the relativity of it when observed.
Therefore, if we think of paintings as a language dedicated to colour, we will surprisingly discover that there are just a few artists that have dedicated their efforts to this matter. In addition to the already mentioned artists, we need to mention the unavoidable figure of Paul Gauguin (1848 – 1903) and Henry Matisse (1869 – 1954), who found in the exoticism of landscapes –Tahiti and Morocco, respectively- the road to illuminate the portraits and landscapes that fill their canvases. Something that the paintings of Daphne Anastassiou have learned to absorb while travelling from one studio to another. From the intense sun
of the afternoon in her studio in Quinta Normal to the bright light of her space in Amèrico Vespucio Norte, while coming and going in a city blinded by the gray asphalt and the Andes mountain range.
This fact leads me to state that in the pictorial work D. Anastassiou evidences the remarkable reflection of Oskar Schlemer when he states: ” I believe that good part of my anxiety it is because I immediately and very easily fall in love with those fascinating possibilities ; in a way that I think I could reach all”. (4) And it is because good part of the sense of the colour that inhabits in her work comes from her inside, being then, her work as a visual artist, the reflect of that light that she has inside and, at the same time, the desire to understand human nature through the chromatism in a maximum intensity status, maybe as the gesture to arouse the fire – light- that there is inside of each one of us. It is because for her, the exitement of these bodies over the canvases are , in the end, a live portrait of an artist that celebrates life as an event worthy of being announced.
Santiago, Chile, November 2013
1.- After the closing of the BAUHAUS in Germany, Josef Albers emigrated to the United States and became professor at Black Mountain College from 1933 to 1949, and later, from 1950 to 1958 at the Department of Design of Yale University. He resided in New Haven until his death.
2.- In the chronology of his travels, it must be noted that: in 1939, Josef and Anni Albers travel to Mexico, later in 1941 they spend a sabbatical year in New Mexico and Mexico. In 1968, Josef Albers obtains the grand prize in the III American Engraving Biennial, done in Santiago, Chile. For more information about the particular, see: www.albersfoundation.org
3.- Carlos Navarrete in conversation with the artist. November. Santiago, Chile.
4.- Oskar Schlemmer, “Diario 25 de junio de 1923” in Escritos sobre Arte: pintura, teatro, danza, cartas y diarios. (Spanish Edition) Ediciones Paidós. Barcelona, 1987. p.68Read More