Yorgos Stamkopoulos at Nir Altman / Munich

Yorgos Stamkopoulos
Another Perfect Day

18.01. - 02.03.2019

Nir Altman
Ringseisstr 4 rgb
80337 Munich

 Images courtesy the artist and Nir Altman
Photos: Dirk Tacke

In almost all of the texts on Yorgos Stamkopoulos' painting, and in nearly all of the conversations I have had about it, the talk has always quickly turned to the creation process of his painting; directly drawing on lines connecting to art historical currents, and quickly falling on the word d├ęcollage. This is undoubtedly an extremely exciting aspect of his work, as he uses a casting material to lay a kind of skin on the canvas, then covering it with layers of paint, and finally removing the dermis to create ramified structures of color fields and voids. 
Nevertheless, in this fixation on the process, I would like to point out that the paintings have changed considerably over the last five years, while the process has remained the same. Of course, the works are still defined by the linen-colored imperfections and the colors washed out by the masking agent; and yet these two moments seem to be organized quite differently in the newer works. The rhythm of both poles, of painted surfaces and missing parts, seems strongly altered. Even if it is an inadmissible step, we can assume a coastal formation, photographed from the air or space, as a crest of understanding. But this comparison does not only make sense because of the shapes. Since we are dealing with large canvases, the question of the distance that lies within them is beneficial. On the washed out blue and green of the color fields, which exist in the distance above all as form, there are stranded color breaks; thick pasty chunks, like a sum of small counterpoints distributed over the ground. Stamkopoulos deliberately thwarted harmonies here and placed small screeching bastard-hybrids in the color families. These little disturbances break up the distanced perspective and draw you into the picture.  
 And indeed, the new works—not only because of their large format—have an immersive quality, a pull that is comparable to falling into a landscape from a great height. When I think about it, he and I mostly spoke about those artists who could provoke such a devouring effect by means of their color use or painting style. James Turrell perhaps, Jules Olitski, Christine Streuli. But also Morris Louis, whose reaction-mixed color combinations of Unfurled Paintings and Stripe Paintings may have served as a model for Stamkopoulos' use of color in Another Perfect Day. Louis also seems to be an important point of reference because he has succeeded in suggestively charging the emptiness of the medium—and the void is central to Stamkopoulos' paintings; which is emphasized by the critical view of just that technique, by which these gaps occur. More importantly, the art historical position of Morris Louis. After all, it was the perfect illustration of Greenberg's flattening of painting, and thus almost its endpoint, since the innovative potential of this form of painting had been exhausted. In the meantime, the majority of painting has turned back to what Greenberg mocked as ‘literary content’ through a few neo-expressionist spasms. It is all the more significant when a painter goes back to this supposed dead end (this is how I understand the trace, which Stamkopoulos attributes here to Louis) and looks for ways to revitalize this tradition under new auspices and a different temporal context. Maybe there's some embers left under the ashes. 

Moritz Scheper