‘O N   T H E   A E S T H E T I C S   O F   V A N G E L I S   D I O N A S’

                                         Comments and Metaphors




Vangelis Dionas does not paint people. Retaining the gravity and suspicion of oriental fatalism, he will readily give the Iconoclast’s excuse. He likes to say that the essence of a person cannot be captured in portraiture, a person “is not what he seems”. For the western representational tradition, a portrait is supposed to explore, through manipulating the figurative phenomenon, some psychological fact or social aspect of the person allegedly lying beyond immediate visual perception. In what way can the depiction of a wounded whale struggling towards the surface of the water provide more direct access to some inner, and thus less deceptive, truth? Is it a charge symbolic portrait, or merely a study in abstraction with a theme?

When Hemingway’s old man came back from the sea, with his dead trophy, sole proof of his heroic dead, swinging from the mast of his raft and devoured to the bone by the crows, he knew he’d had to keep the feat of his ambitious killing to himself. In the paintings of Dionas there is no competition with the Other, the only analogy with The Old Man and the Sea being perhaps the need to cope with the difficulta of the exploit that is common to both, not for the sake of a medal of honour but just to momentarily satisfy one’s goal. It would also be wrong to see the whale in Dionas’ images as his Moby Dick, as symbol of some self-appointed mission: this painted whale is neither invincible, yet nor is it tame. An ecological principle of representation runs through these works and forms a series of exchanges between balance and tension, familiarity and strangeness. Dionas chooses the cetacean for the cogent wisdom it spells out in its flowing motion; for its presence as sensory factum; for its power to displace, that is to say, to signify space through the very act of occupying this space by its potent form finally, for its unbearable grace. The whale is powerfully there, especially if it is merely implied.

Organicism establishes itself in the subject matter as well as in the technique. The explanation of the kind of abstraction Dionas is concerned with in these recent works lies in the way the two meet and interact. Subject matter and creative process happen to go hand in hand, or to put more precisely, “have matured enough to coexist in harmony”: one need only be reminded of the monotype prints Dionas exhibited in Thessaloniki in 1998, where the whale is at once a marker of dynamic movement, an acting subject and the site of a series of gestural experiments. Here, the beast is the alibi of representation, and as such, it is symbolic of an obstacle, the obstacle from within the abstract image, the intervention of logical image within the visual plans of the non-iconic. The whale in the deep waters is Volume itself out of a universe of chaos.




One fascinating aspect of the technique through which form and process achieve a state of union concerns the use of collage. This is not deconstructive bricolage, as it does not create a sense of disorder through juxtaposing the different levels of optical perception of incompatible surfaces. The whale, (or rather the abstract reference to the figuration) is fortified by the weight of its own presence, by its camouflage on the seabed and by paint applied in multiple layers like magnificent armour. Coloured and glued together, the pieces of wood which make up the whale’s body work to empower and enchance its physicality, rather than to disrupt it. Collage here serves a strictly compositional purpose.

Colour is the second aspect of the fragile and intense unity of theme and technique. For the traditional conditions of  creating and viewing academic painting, blue is the colour of depth, Here, blue has the reverse effect, it breaks through the surface, it lights up and shades at the same time, it structures space but also pushes it outwards. Red, a colour customarily used for its centrifugal qualities, here creates a sense of inward movement.

A good friend of his told me the Dionas “has been painting abstractly since he was a child”. Dionas is bound to the practice of painting through an ethics of physicality that the pioneers of American Abstraction had elevated to the ultimate essence of the relationship between artist and work.




Instead of further theorizing Abstraction and the Beast, let us move on to further metaphor. In any case, abstraction is to Dionas, a narrative activity, one quite concerned, umlike pure Abstraction with the pictorial camera lucida. Dionas’ relationship with the sea parallels his relationship with painting. The sea is far from resting in escapist utopias of mystery or New Age serenity. Space is protected yet changeable and open (look at the triptych) from all the varied angles it creates. This is no allegory of vengeful mother Nature the turbulent and tragic romanticism of the images is far from threatening. Dionas seeks to isolate from the fluid dialectics of the sea (as well as from that of painting), a full moment of an ongoing underwater struggle between the violence of magic and the peace of meditation.

Subject, scene and composition settle in the final phase of creativity – Dionas careful

Finish seems to owe his teacher Moralis its masterful smoothness – and the gestural process unloads its unspoken weight. Dionas, then, is not a commentator or an illusionist storyteller. His solutions are expressionistic, outward and firmly instead on the transparency of the creative process, cautious of conceptualism, and dwell quite confidently within an imposing visual ecosystem.


Lia Yoka, 1997

Art Historian


                    L A   P E I N T U R E   D E   V A N G E L I S   D I O N A S


D E   L A   R E A L I T E   V I S U E L L E   A   S A  L I B R E  I N T E R P R E T A T I O N


                    Elève de Yiannis Moralis à l’Ecole Supérieure des Beaux Arts d’Athènes, ayant étudié la fresque et travaillé l’icône portable aux côtés de Kostas Xynopoulos, Vangelis Dionas a présenté les résultats de ses recherches à l’ occasion d’expositions collectives ou individuelles en Grèce et à l’ étranger. Mais sa peinture semble se mouvoir conformément à une orientation personnelle attestant par ailleurs un contact étroit avec toutes les interrogations de l’art moderne. Et il ne fait aucun doute, à voir ses anciennes œuvres, comme les plus récentes, que sa peinture part de la réalité visuelle, sans se limiter à une simple transposition de ses éléments extérieurs. Ce jeune peintre vise toujours, et y parvient, à intégrer une interprétation extrêmement libre et personnelle de la réalité, qui se distingue par sa force de conviction et sa richesse d’expression. Si l’on s’approche de certaines des oeuvres caractérisant sa dernière période, on peut aisément s’aviser des traits déterminants de son langage pictural. Citons-en la touche expressionniste, la dimension lyrique et l’atmosphère toujours évocatrice.


                    Ce qui est donc facilement repérable dans l’oeuvre de Dionas est une synthèse personnelle et féconde des formules du paysage abstrait et dans certains cas une propension expressionniste énergique qui donne à sa peinture lisibilité et expressivité. Sans chercher à garder les éléments connus de son point de départ, la réalité visuelle, il parvient à créer des ensembles qui emportent le spectateur dans leur mouvement et leur atmosphère. L’accentuation d’un axe tantôt vertical, au milieu, tantôt horizontal et à différentes hauteurs, permet à sa peinture d’accéder a de nouveaux prolongements. Il est un autre aspect qui ne peut laisser l’exégéte indifférent : c’est la différence, sur le plan de l’ expression, entre les grandes et les petites surfaces de Dionas (…).


                  Sur les grandes surfaces, où le noir profond domine, intensifié par quelques insertions de tons chauds,  prévalent généralement pessimisme et atmosphère pathétique. Peut-être pourrait-on ici parler d’un genre de réaction critique à la réalité moderne des grands centres : Athènes en particulier, avec son nefos et toutes ses oppositions et contradictions, autant d’éléments tendant à neutraliser l’homme. Les formes elles-mêmes aux dimensions d’égale longueur et largeur, viennent souligner la même impression et parachever le pessimisme ambiant des couleurs lourdes et des thèmes horizontaux.


                  Sur les surfaces plus réduites, le recours à l’opposition entres les couleurs chaudes et les couleurs froides et entre les éléments actifs et passifs, donne un ton différent et un contenu plus optimiste à la surface picturale. Ceci est renforcé par la préférance des thèmes verticaux, de par leur forme même, où domine la verticalité, et par les éléments émergeant du centre ou s’y déplaçant, qui viennent conférer un nouveau souffle à la surface picturale. Et celle-ci devient plus lyrique et poétique, intime et optimiste (…)

                  Peinture de contact avec les conquêtes de l’art contemporain que celle de Dionas, s’appuyant toutefois sur les interrogations tout a fait  personnelles, elle se meut dans l’espace de l’expressionnisme européen abstrait (…). Il s’agit d’une peinture caractérisée par la prédominance des valeurs chromatiques et l’expression des rencontres intérieures de l’artiste avec notre temps et notre monde (…).


Chryssanthos Christou, Aout 1990.

Professeur d’Histoire de l’Art de l’Université d’Athènes,



Το ηλιοβασίλεμα, ώρα που ανατέλλουν οι σκιές και το τοπίο δείχνεται φευγαλέο, διαλέγει ο Βαγγέλης Διονάς, για να μιλήσει για το περαστικό της ανθρώπινης προσπάθειας, της ζωής της ίδιας. Ενσωματώνει σε αυτό, αδιάφορα, προϊόντα ανθρώπου και προϊόντα της φύσης, που η ροή του χρόνου εξάγνισε διά χειρός θαλασσίου κύματος, έτσι ώστε να καταδείξει, ότι η όποια σκοπιμότητα του πολιτισμού, η σκοπιμότητα της όποιας ζωής, είναι κατ’ ουσία μια αντίληψη των Νόμων της ύλης στον ελάχιστο βαθμό. Η απομυθοποίηση που επιχειρείται με την εξόντωση του φυσικού με το κοινωνικό τοπίο, αναιρείται από το καλαίσθητο αποτέλεσμα.


Παντελής Αραπίνης

Επιμελητής εκθέσεων και συγγραφέας


Sunset, when shadows emerge and the landscape seems fleeting, is the moment Vangelis Dionas chooses so as to articulate the temporal nature of human effort and of life itself. He incorporates nonchalantly in his works things made by man or nature that the tides of time purified through the movement of the waves. His intention is to show that whichever civilization’s feasibility, whichever life’s feasibility, they are nothing more than a faintest perception of the Laws of Matter. The demystification attempted by stimulating the natural with the social landscape, is negated by the elegant result.


Pantelis Arapinis

Curator and writer