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Vasilios Paspalis believes that there is a difference between a portrait and any other kind of imagery. Portraiture is a medium in itself, in the sense that the viewer enters a certain ‘mode’ of looking. This is induced by the use of the exterior form of the portrait. When looking at a person depicted in a portrait, an expectation of a story or a narrative is generated in the viewer, which leads them to collect information, for example from the dress of the figure, or the background of the painting, to enable them to construct this narrative. This need emerges from the spontaneous identification of the viewer with the depicted figure; the narrative, produced by the viewer and filtered with their own perceptions and subconscious expectations, serves as a link between the viewer and the portrait. This is why there is a powerful emotional reaction when looking at a portrait, much different than when looking at a still life or a landscape.
Vasilios Paspalis is not interested in the depicted figure as such. In his work, the person /figure is used as a vehicle to induce the ‘mode’ of looking at a portrait. The viewer is invited into constructing narratives, only to realise that these narratives make no sense. The elements of the portrait do not provide any coherent information about the background, the history or any familiar framework where to place the depicted figure. His work resists linear, conventional narrative by offering several, simultaneous narratives, fragments of stories which when combined appear incoherent. The viewer is confronted with the absence of narrative; they are invited to solve a mystery that cannot be solved. There is no other choice than to abandon any attempt to create a story that makes sense. The painting subsequently becomes a portrait of a state of mind, rather than of an individual. This is still communicated in the context of the very powerful emotional expectation that is generically evoked by looking at a portrait.
Paspalis is interested in the tension within the space between his characters, rather than the characters per se and what they might represent. They are merely vehicles of concepts, forms and energy. What matters is the fragile product of their confrontation. The image captures a moment just before or immediately after an event that is unclear itself.
Vasilios Paspalis graduated with an MA in Printmaking from the Royal College of Art, London in 2011, and continues to live and work in London.