Dimosthenis Gallis’ exhibition “Bathers” features a most summery subject, his compositions being incidental, effortless and captured without notice, calling to mind the rich impressionist tradition of the 19th century. Impressionism was not constituted on the basis of some structured aesthetic theory, though it did reflect the positivist tendencies of the 19th century, when the studies on vision, colors and visual perceptions thrived. Unlike realism, impressionism premised the five senses as the only acceptable basis of knowledge, as well as an absolutely objective representation of everyday reality, by means of capturing instantaneous impressions in a most faithful way. The archetype of impressionist painting envisions a landscape or an outdoor scene of relatively small dimensions, captured right on the field instead of an art studio, featuring a palette full of vivid, bright colors and an optics which stands out for its variety and discontinuity. Impressionists attempted to capture the prismatic character of the natural light, by using all the colors of the solar spectrum and the ways they blend into each other when observed from a certain distance. In the same vein, the “Bathers” make the most of the impressionist premises by means of capturing a moment of carelessness and pleasure of people enjoying a bathing in the sea, in a transient, fleeting and unpredictable way. The camera lens, as if a paintbrush, adopts a quick technique which is based on light touches, as the photographer chooses to render the original feeling, without cognitively processing it. Thus, senses are no longer given, but constitute states of consciousness. And this kind of consciousness is identified with existence itself. This is where Gallis’ lens comes to treat photography as a disclosure of his own self as an other. His blurry representations reflect multiple states of consciousness which are disclosed through the faceless subjects that he turns into objects of vision. In this way, the photographer trusts his own existence to us, opening up a window, through which we can look at his internal concerns at a certain point of time. The randomness of his photographic lexicon, that is the lack of studio poses, allows for a deliberate choice of the concerns he is to share with us. Hence, his photographs take on the form of a mask, which is the trademark of ancient theater, so as to be attributed a certain signification. However, the mask constitutes a tricky field of photography. Contemporary society puts no trust in pure meaning. It seems controversial in claiming to seek pure meanings, while at the same time soliciting meanings which are surrounded by some noise, the white noise interfering with radio signal, by some blurriness. This is the social controversy displayed by the “Bathers”. People captured in simple careless moments, in which one would expect that they would reveal their true self, while they eventually hide behind their personal deadlocks and the social weights they carry, being unable to discard them. They appear indistinct, giving an impression of their selves rather than their true selves. One could suggest that they hide behind a mask from which they cannot part, even during their most relaxing and calm moments. One may even think that the mask is a copresence, a relentless shadow following the persons wherever they go. This is the main “detail” in Gallis’ exhibition. This is what attracts our attention. The social factors of being indistinct and hesitant to reveal our original intentions and our inner self arise along with the subject of summery nonchalance. Thus, Gallis overcomes impressionist painting and offers a social panorama by means of his photographic gaze, which is a mirror image of society, in his attempt to mobilize us, so as to redefine our behavior towards being more articulate. At the same time, Gallis thematizes the tenderness of existence within nature, by capturing his “heroes” in moments of relaxation, actually affirming a plenitude originating in the organic unity between art and nature. This unity, represented in a “myopic” way, fills the forms displayed with an aura, which pervades the space and invites us to take part in the summery playfulness of his representations. The latter are saturated in musicality and lyricism, allowing us to recall old and forgotten memories of vacations, to daydream and to reflect on the moments of carelessness we have failed to take advantage of.
Karpouzis Stratos Art historian-Philologist