Gallery Genesis presents ‘Distinct District’, a solo exhibition
featuring works by Vassilis Karakatsanis.
Forewords for the exhibition catalogue by Nikos Vatopoulos and
Artistic Direction: Yiorgos Tzaneris
Opening: Thursday 17 January 2019, 20:00
Exhibition duration: 17 January to 9 February 2019
A visual approach to the Athenian landscape through personal
Each painting is a true story that has played out in the
suffocating, concrete environment of districts in Athens
A personal journal with churches as bookmarks, identifying each
region. These are ‘distinct’ points, which do not depict reality but rather
sum up the artist’s feelings and, through this virtual reality, presumably
the viewer’s too.
Furniture, objects, insects and animals stand out against the urban
grid, evoking our effort for an urban way of life – at times authentic, at
There is asceticism and abstraction in the depiction of the urban
landscape, and humorous symbolism, as the artist states his personal
conclusions and acceptance of reality. An acceptance and affirmation that
required a 36-year artistic journey in order to be expressed.
In most of his thematic units, he deciphers the urban landscape as
an internal process. Today, surrounding space is presented as a surprise,
as theatrical action.
35, Haritos Street, Kolonaki, 10675 Athens, Greece
Tel.: +30 211 7100566
by Manina Zoumboulaki
you’ve never seen it before: living from the inside out, with inwardness and
introversion, but with colors and perfumes that make it a magical Athens – a city flying
above its crowds and cramped spaces.
The new series of works by Vassilis Karakatsanis
titled “Distinct District” is, in the words of the painter, “an artistic
approach to the Athenian landscape through personal experiences”. But it’s
not just that.
suddenly beautiful apartment buildings, one stuck on the other, breathe
vividly through the laundry hanging out to dry, the colorful awnings and
the crenellated balconies. Church domes grab the eye like bookmarks,
identifying particular areas of Athens and Piraeus. And while all
these pictures are real, with people moving, having sex and living behind
the balcony doors; at the same time they are reminiscent of opera sets.
A “grandmother’s” side-table; a shiny, cypress-green plastic chair
(the kind gypsies sell off their trucks); a goldfish bowl; a carpet/jacket;
a gown/motif, all in the foreground, and the apartment blocks behind them,
The deep colors and human figures take you by surprise, as do the
fluffy insects, and the pets that pose, all sly innocence, as if they were
in front of a photo lens.
Thirty-six years of visual arts journeys, wanderings and discoveries
in the life and art of Vassilis Karakatsanis are spread out over his
latest works, resting upon recognizable but disguised elements of the
Athenian urban landscape.
All elements are used with inwardness, with a depth that surprises
you and, in a way, keeps you in a state of astonishment. None of the works
loses the artist’s sense of humor and typical wry smile, making them
realistic and wildly surrealist at the same time. This is his signature,
the connective tissue that has held together Vassilis’s
works over the past forty years or so... and here we come upon it at its
most mature, interesting and truly beautiful moment.
Athens, October 2018
‘Vassilis Karakatsanis’s Athens’ by Nikos Vatopoulos
The experienced gaze on the city, the gaze that
scans its niches and caches; that gaze, with its reserve of experience, has
claimed the right to be free. Unfettered by stereotypical perceptions of Athens, Vassilis Karakatsanis
defines the extension of an active plan for the visual mapping of a broad
personal fresco. It flows into Athens
in a mood of equal confrontation, face to face, feeling by feeling, gesture
by gesture, in order to finally exalt its own palimpsest, which carries a
common body of memories and desires.
Athens, as shown in Vassilis Karakatsanis’s new works, is more the idea of an Athens
than its portrayal. It is more the distillation of a fantasy than its
depiction. That is why, in his attempt to access the deep body of the city,
by organizing a bridge from his earlier urban ‘Carpets’, Vassilis Karakatsanis,
unites fragments and becomes the architect of new co-habitations. Against
the full-frontal facades of the urban apartment blocks and old houses, Vassilis Karakatsanis
juxtaposes his personal stories. There is a dovetailing between the
innermost and the extroverted, in a dialogue that is not always obvious. Vassilis Karakatsanis,
in a mood both accepting and conciliatory towards the city-nurturer,
extends his gaze, from an inner niche to an urban clearing. There, in the
multiethnic, multicultural city, on an urban theatre stage, pretty much
everything happens. But what seems to abate is the silence amid the crowd,
and also the relics of the personal microcosms, which, like oblations, like
blazons, like chiselled pendants on an urban canvas symbolize a new, as yet
not fully formed relationship.
Vassilis Karakatsanis, a resident of downtown Athens, on a street that has absorbed
layers and layers of generations, in a house resonating with the echoes of
previous inhabitants, filled with its own, dense and polysemous
world, like a cabinet of curiosities, the artist too is an observer of the
city. The view from the inside out, literally and metaphorically, ensures
the minimum of a totally interdependent relationship that sustains without
crushing the sparks of desire.
At first reading, the urban works of Vassilis Karakatsanis
bring, through their colour flashes but also through their semi-realistic
rendering, waves of emotional euphoria. What emerges is an Athens (in the
broader sense of the metropolitan centre, since Piraeus is also included)
with revelatory tendencies, pulsating like a living organism with pores and
arteries, just like the floor plan of a typical Greek block of flats. The frontal
viewing of this honeycombed, multi-storey home generates feelings of
intimacy, but at the same time brings with it the fine vibrations of a
Yet, even though the canvas of Vassilis Karakatsanis’s houses and apartment buildings – this entire urban
condenser that he offers us – appears pulsating, emphatic, gushing with all
the equipment of the present time, it arrives laying claim to the viewer’s
senses. Along with it comes a sense of breach, doubt or questioning. The
absence of distinct faces seems to empty the urban ark of sounds.
Like a sequence of banners, Vassilis Karakatsanis’s full-frontal apartment blocks are dense, almost
stifling, and no doubt deeply Athenian, through all the markings and motifs
of an urban legacy tucked away in the common affect. There, in these
half-illuminated openings, in contrast to the intense colours of the first
impression, symbols emerge as robust as trophies, originating in the
painter’s personal mythology, though not only his. Domes of temples, bell
towers, aeroplanes in flight, house pets in the foreground, insects and
other fragments of dissimilar and largely unpredictable gaze condensers,
define a polysemous world that asks to be given
There is a tendency for detachment from the
paltry. The primary, mobile and ephemeral first level of the street is not
of much interest; what draws the viewer’s attention is the viscera of the
city, the successive rows of apartments; old houses; architectural
protrusions as permanent as a roof or ephemeral as an awning; overlayings; cohabitations; sequences. The urban
deposit, as it occurs and emerges through this frontal observation, appears
to become autonomous and to re-establish a new relationship with the
Athens, with that broad, universal, exuberant
interpretation of the city-womb, is revealed through a visual language that
seeks to break stereotypical perceptions and reorganize familiar desires. Vassilis Karakatsanis’s urban landscapes are registered in the visual
history of Athens
as banners and totems of self-knowledge, but even more as dictates by which
to understand, accept and eventually extend and project the personal world
into the urban funnel.