Stathis, who is this woman who keeps appearing in your paintings?
“I don’t know” he replies, “but perhaps if I did, I would no longer want to paint her!”
An amazingly prolific painter, Stathis Vatanidis derives inspiration from his dreams, and glimpses of everyday life, mingled with a rich store of childhood memories. “Standing in the early morning sunlight beside my father’s shop; the layers of flaking blue paint on the door – or were they on a boat… or perhaps on the doors in a village? In the dark waters of my memory I see scenes of men fishing; people walking along the streets, crossing the roads, falling off bicycles, people weighed down by anxieties. Closer to the surface are children playing on beaches, sunbathers, swimmers and tenderly embracing couples.
His figures are executed in a highly individualistic style reminiscent of Picasso’s in the 1920s – voluptuous, substantial and statuesque – derived from 5th century Greek sculpture. They frequently make the transition into the 20th century via the beach and the sea – an ever-present element in Mediterranean culture.
The unknown woman that Vatanidis paints is placid and relaxed, but although she embraces the men in her life, she seems isolated, distant, possibly lost in her own thoughts and dreams. There is a languid sadness in some paintings, while others burst with fun and energy, but they all demonstrate the artist’s absorption with carefully thought-out, interesting and unusual compositions.
Soft shades of blue, greens and glowing oranges create an atmosphere of warmth, while depictions of mysterious psychological dramas are expressed with earthy, almost clammy muddy tones and hues. The brush strokes are strong and clearly visible – layers of short dabs, dots and curls, little sweeps and grainy textures – sometimes emphasised with sand, which give his surfaces a tactile appearance, almost inviting one to touch.
He constantly reinvents himself, experimenting with new mediums, yet his style is instantly recognisable – like spotting a familiar friend in a crowd. Much of his newest work is derived from the toy theatres with their cut-out characters, which absorbed him during childhood. He now is equally absorbed with reinterpreting the experience, encapsulating invented scenarios behind Plexiglas, like flies trapped in amber.
Vatanidis inhabits a private world that captures brief fragments from incidents and encounters, creating moments of perpetuity. “My memories seem to follow me around, they chase after me. As I cover the canvases with paint, the paint reveals them as images for everyone to enjoy!”