|Pilar Corrias Gallery|
54 Eastcastle Street, London
|2 December 2020 – 16 January 2021|
There is a scene in Vladimir Nabokov’s 1935 novel Invitation to a Beheading in which the soon-to-be-beheaded protagonist receives a prison visit from his estranged mother. At some point in their awkward conversation, she tells him about a kind of toy she played with as a child – strange, mottled, indecipherable objects that would resolve when placed in front of a particular kind of crooked mirror. In the mirrored surface, the rest of the world would appear totally distorted, but these ‘nonnons’ would become ‘wonderful, sensible’ images: ‘flowers, a ship, a person, a landscape’. She describes them as ‘marvellous gimmicks’. ‘Why do you tell me all this?’ the prisoner asks.
Why am I telling you all this? Because there is something metaphysical going on in the 11 new paintings in Gerasimos Floratos’ second show at Pilar Corrias. Within their thickly spread, mottled brushstrokes, more or less discernible figures fuse, fight, split off from themselves. These ambiguous images do not resolve magically into ‘wonderful, sensible’ painterly clichés when held at the right angle in a reflective surface. But, like the prisoner’s mother’s mirror, they hold two kinds of space; painting, here, is a node between two simultaneous and incommensurate realities. We could call these interior and exterior, psychological and physical. (We could also say, per Nabokov, ‘non, non’ – the canvas is neither of these things; it’s its own empirical reality. That’s the real gimmick.) In Peak a figure in a purple baseball cap stretches out his hand to touch his reflection – to check the surface is real? Or to check that he is?
Floratos is showing us head space – literally and metaphorically. One almost-square painting, Bridge Bath, features a slumped figure in a purple t-shirt. Where the head should be is a five-pointed starburst of white light and, at its centre, framed by an imperfect circle, is a postcard of Times Square in all its colourful, gaudy illumination. Its subtitle could be ‘Self-Portrait as City’: the city – New York City – as the central protagonist in the Floratos’ painted psychodrama. Also: the city as a way of thinking, as a methodology – from the one-way flow of its gridded thoroughfares to the lateral, underground and meandering motion that happens in between.