Behind the Horizon
Nitra Gallery is happy to present Alexandra Roussopoulos in her first solo show in Greece. The Swiss-French artist of Greek descent presents a body of works made in her Athenian studio in Spring 2020. As the exhibit title clearly expresses her paintings question and explore what can hardly be seen, or what can be seen only by those who seek truth and beauty beyond the plain, harsh and silent reality.
Alexandra Roussopoulos’ paintings reveal a rich and complex interior universe where the presence of the beloved missing ones is recreated by a subtle interplay of shapes, colours and space, the long-term concerns of her artistic practice that has taken over the years multifarious forms.
The Greek ascent of Alexandra Roussopoulos infuses her imaginary landscapes whose firm lines, refracted lights and open perspectives cannot but lead the viewer towards the idea of the sea, that of everlasting contemplation and eventually peace bestowed to who has taken up the challenge of looking behind the horizon.
Art Historian Denys Zacharopoulos writes:
Painting is a unique art – an art that knows no limits except those of the surface it covers or uncovers, or both. The horizon is the apparent line beyond which we cannot see, the eye cannot reach. The way we perceive the horizon is the idea behind the head, not ‘The eternal silence of these infinite spaces [that] frightens me.’1
In her work and through the countless ways in which she processes technical and pictorial inventions of all kinds, Alexandra Roussopoulos has, for many years now, known how to eliminate the distance from the perceived limit to the painting as a physical object. She also knows how to dominate the terrible silence across the vast space that stretches – alongside our inner uncertainty – beyond the horizon. And she knows how to reclaim, as a creative practice for survival, this space, which both conceals and reveals. The expanse of surface in her work conveys significance involving both the hand (colour or line) and the eye (depth and intensity); it also conveys the extension and expansion of perception. Both the horizon and the image approach a step closer to us, before the infinite, as Leopardi writes in one of his most splendid poems: ‘Ι always loved this solitary hill, / This hedge as well, which takes so large a share / Of the far-flung horizon from my view.’2
In the face of the current uncertainty, while we stay locked down in our homes, we watched, in the mind’s eye or the body’s gaze, the surface that stops as the physical boundary on the wall and the line beyond which, even if there is nothing to see, there is always – as Alexandra Roussopoulos so meaningfully conveys – a space that extends beyond the horizon. We gazed, consequently, in a certain awe, as the eternal silence of infinite spaces stretched down to the bottomless pit of the world and at the same time filled the space between the eye and the wall.
Standing before these works of art, we feel that each painting stands – like the hedge in Leopardi’s poem – on the locus that shields the ultimate horizon, the one that fills us with fear, from view on all sides. Then the image, abstract as it may seem, emerges as either a mental construct or a physical reality, and reveals in Alexandra Roussopoulos’s work – and this new series in particular – a trail of the experience of the multitude of journeys and adventures in painting and in actual life. Like Tom Thumb’s breadcrumbs, this trail generates a chart, a map that helps us – the artist first and foremost – find our way around the world, back to where we were at the beginning, unknowingly, and now return, bringing back as our only gain the knowledge of where we stand.
The artist’s task – so eloquently described in da Vinci’s writings – when inspired, or commissioned, to produce a wall painting, involves looking, in addition to the image conceived in the mind, at the wall itself, to discover the surface cracks and marks on which to apply paint. This view below the surface, this gaze beyond the boundary of vision, comprises the initial painting, one that exists before the end product: It is the preliminary drawing and preparatory design, tasked with evoking a sense of space and time; they make the actual, completed work possible. Like a painting within a painting, or a painting beyond the horizon of the painting, this primal image invites the gaze to focus on the experience and structure of reality; it enables both the artwork and the viewer together to leap from the mind out to the materiality of things.
Consequently, Alexandra Roussopoulos was able, during this period marked by the disturbing quietude in space, to direct the gaze along the profusion of gestures on the painting surface, revealing a primordial sense of the world – a sense that tells us how verisimilitude is not an indispensable quality in painting; the experienced spacetime comes first – as both starting and finishing point. Before becoming a wall painting, or a canvas, the image exists as a go-between surface that shields the distance between the viewer and the artwork, between the artwork and the world, as a space of interplay between them and as their confluence, beyond the feeling of awe, before the proliferation of possibilities arising beyond the horizon.
Translated by Dimitris Saltabassis
1 Pascal’s Pensées, #206 (E.P. Dutton, New York 1958). Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg 2006. Retrieved September 25, 2020, from www.gutenberg.org/files/18269/18269-h/18269-h.htm.
2 Giacomo Leopardi, ‘L’infinito’, in Anthology of Italian Poems, Lorna de’ Lucchi (trans.), 1922. Retrieved September 28, 2020, from www.poetryimmortal.com/the-infinite.
Alexandra Roussopoulos was born in Paris in 1969, and is of Swiss and Greek descent. She studied painting at Heatherley’s school of Art and Camberwell School of Art in London and continued her studies at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris.
Alexandra Roussopoulos has exhibited in Switzerland (at the Art and History Museum of Neuchâtel, the Louis Moret Foundation and the Manoir in Martigny, the davel 14 gallery in Cully, the Villa Bernasconi in Grand-Lancy, the Ferme Asile in Sion and the LAC gallery in Vevey), in France (at L’Art dans les Chapelles, the Cité Radieuse de Le Corbusier in Marseille, the apartment/studio of Le Corbusier in Paris, the Marie-Victoire Poliakoff gallery in Paris, the Scrawitch/Julien Bézille gallery and the Stéphane Mortier gallery in Paris), in China (at the Pifo gallery and the Lelege art gallery in Beijing, the Shanghai Yard art
gallery, and the National Wetland Museum in Hangzhou), USA (the Zurcher gallery, New York), Greece (the Nitra Gallery and The Project gallery in Athens), England (The Baldwin gallery and the h club gallery in London) and Algeria (Les Ateliers Sauvages and The French Institute in Algiers). She regularly participates in workshops in France and abroad (in France, at La Hear, Mulhouse and ESBA Le Mans and in China, the Academy of Fine Arts of China and the University of Fine Arts in Hangzhou). She has participated in numerous artist residencies in China, Greece, Ireland, Croatia, Slovenia, Spain and Algeria. Alexandra has participated in the activities of the APDV art center in Paris, which brings artistic action to the heart of government subsidized housing areas.
She was awarded the visual arts prize of the René Liechti Foundation in Switzerland in 2010 and the “November in Vitry” painting prize in 2002.
In 2019, Alexandra Roussopoulos has co-authored with Callisto Mc Nulty and Géronimo Roussopoulos the film « Delphine et Carole » directed by Callisto Mc Nulty. It was selected at the Berlinale Forum 2019 and has been awarded many prizes : SFCC, Syndicat français de la Critique de Cinéma, Television Prize for best documentary (France), the National Group of Research Cinemas Prize (France), Grand Prix de Genève of the FIFDH, Festival du Film et Forum International sur les droits humains (Switzerland), Public award of the Festival de Films de Femmes de Créteil (France), Etoile de la Scam (France).