Thursday 9 March 2017

Glimpses of the Obscure II, Christos Bokoros

Painting is a bright curtain over chaos and appearances are a glimpse of the obscure.

Christos Bokoros, Glimpses of the Obscure II - Temptations of the Invisible, at the Benaki Museum, Pireos, Athens.

This is the second part of Bokoros' exhibition at the Benaki. I have again, as in the first part , reproduced the words of the artist as they were given to us by the museum, without changing anything. This is a body of work about Illuminating Darkness and appropriately, the exhibition space smelled of burning candles - so, as total an experience as possible.

'Illuminating Darkness:

It is claimed that in antiquity, at the end of the 5th century BC. Zeuxis painted an arbour laden with grapes on a wall. Birds rushed to peck at the grapes and broke their beaks. That is how realistically he had painted them. And so his contemporary, Parrhasius, got rather envious and invited Zeuxis to see his work. The latter ventured to raise the curtain that appeared to be covering Parrhasius' painting, but the curtain itself turned out to be painted. Zeuxis bowed to Parrhasius and said: 'I fooled the birds, but you surpassed me, you fooled man, me'. None of their work survived and we are, thus, unable to ascertain the extent of their technical competence, but their rivalry establishes that realistic representation was a continual requirement.

In 2000 I began working on a project with the title 'an optimistic comment about 21st century painting'. I had set up a large retrospective exhibition in Agrinio, and got the see the works I had created through the years, all gathered together, for the first time. The 'ancient way' emerged as a condensation of the gaze. What had I been doing all that time, I wondered - illuminating darkness. Malevich's black square was always on my mind. I had been stigmatised by the rectangular dark void with the white margin around it - a 'tombstone', they said, of the kind of painting I had engaged in - but, for me it still lived and breathed 'in the dead man's eyes I saw trees and birds', I could still feel painting living, blooming and bearing fruit, salvaging and being salvaged; a life raft in the void, a solid small branch on the precipice, and I had no other pathway.

On boat wood, on the hatches of old boats that had sailed across seas to unite shores, next to a tar stain, I painted a black square, a dark homage to Malevich who raised it to a symbol of the unknown: at that time my mind was on Parrhasius and his incomparable art: I had a longing for the flame of a candle that would light the darkness and so I painted an illuminated cloth in front of the black and then I painted a white square overflowing with light, fully bright. Behind my gaze lurks the rectangular void, the tragic human privilege of the awareness of mortality, the 'study of death', the 'keep thy mind on Hades and despair not', but the scents of the earth under our feet are in full bloom and above our head stands the grand multi-vigil lamp of infinity, the starry sky.

I see the world around me as the primordial image of the universe that returns, I admire and I linger in order to represent, in glory, the humble traces of our common life. Besides, in the Greek that is exactly what the act of painting means: 'living writing'  (zousa graphi), in the end an act of immortality, of immortalisation of being. The hope for unwaning light is ancient. It is the trophy for our sinking deep into the darkness. To transfuse light from the darkness. To resist the void of non-existence and oblivion. To make our memory a monument and to establish eternity in our everyday life. To give shape and form to our perception of the heightened and the worthy. To inhabit the earth poetically and to dare beauty to save the world'.

Disembodied Hand, 20015

Lit-up Colours, 2005

Reinstatement of Democracy, 2009

'On the day the junta fell, on the 24th of July, 1974, our teacher dismissed us early so that we could celebrate our newfound freedom. At home that afternoon my father asked me to go with him to water the field. There, I asked him why he was not joining in, why he did not seem pleased by the fact that the junta had fallen and that democracy had been restored.  Wasn't this what we had been fighting for, what we had longed for all this time? My father was a former officer of ELAS (the Greek Liberation Army, the military arm of the left-wing National Liberation Front, active during the period of the Greek Resistance during WWII, then during the Greek Civil War) and had spent years in exile. I was a teenager, notorious for being the son of the lefty, and novice resistor during the last two years of the dictatorship.

I was about to inadvertently receive my first lesson with regards to the current democracy. 'Keep your wits about you, my son, and your eyes wide open! From now on it will become very hard to separate the good from the bad, your friends from your enemies. Be careful!'

I didn't understand at the time. The goals seemed clearly established. I was in a hurry to continue the fight in the universities. By the second or third year at Law School I began to suspect the unerring accuracy of his works and their truth pains me to this day'.

Oil Lamp - Covered Light, 2015

Blind Openings, 2012

Square Light, 2001

Yellow Light, 2016

Flames in Darkness, 2016

'In memory of my father, Thomas D. Bokoros... One afternoon I was looking out of the window of the old house and I saw him - dead for years by then - slowly walking up the street towards me.

- Hey, Chris, my boy! What are you making?
- What else? The unmakeable.
- Keep your eyes on the light, d'you hear me? Never lose sight of the light'.

The Path of the Moon, 2016

Starry Night, 2016

When I first saw the eleven paintings below, I thought they were placed in light-boxes. On coming closer however, I realised that they are not, it's just the technique, the use of colour that makes them stand out, illuminated.

Gaze, 2003

Rusk, 2015

The Bare Essentials, 2010

Red Ribbon, 2008

Apples, 2009

Spring, 2004

Almond Tree, 2006

Robin, 2012

Dawn 1, 2011

Moon, 2005

Sun, 2005

Impassable Forest, 2004

looking closer

Passage to the Light, 2004

The Dark Side of Humanity, Illuminated, 2004

Disembodied, 2004

looking closer

Blood, Darkness and Light, 2004

Scorched Meadow, 2008

looking closer

Candles, 2011

Cypress - Memory Tree, 2011

Tree, 1993

Man, 1993

Home, 1993

Olive Oil Containers, 1993

Shadow of an Olive Tree - candle, 2000

For the Living and the Dead, 1997

Shrine, 1997

looking closer


  1. What astonishingly powerful work.

    1. Indeed, Avril. It was powerful and engrossing.