yorgos maraziotis · artist · yorgosmaraziotis@gmail.com

Classics Illustrated
Sotiris Bahtsetzis

The important swansong of Andy Warhol The Last Supper (1986) was first shown in an exhibition space across the street from the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, the building in which Leonardo da Vinci left his famous painting of the same title as a legacy. This is not the only manifestation of Warhol's interest in Christian imagery, which underlies his entire oeuvre: in his portraits, the father of American pop art turned the images of popular public figures like Marilyn Monroe or Mao into icons. And while image denotes the impression held by many people about a person or an object, icon refers to an idealised role model, usua- lly from the entertainment industry, which is seen as a contemporary object of worship.

The work of Andy Warhol seems to address in a succinct, topical way one of the earliest metaphysical issues in human civilization: "the obs- essive trust in the apparent and the demand for a direct and usually collective viewing of the truth", as opposed to the "denunciation of the apparent, the absolute rejection of the society of the spectacle and the demand for a subjective appreciation of the 'pure' and profound truth, not infrequently associated with the prevalence of a moralistic discourse."[1]

Amidst the struggle between the two poles of iconolatry and iconoclasm, which manifests itself in the work of many artists of the twentieth century and continues to this day, there emerges a fundamental ontological question about the function of the iconic/symbolic element in the context of today's model of a global virtual world. Our life is based on scores of videoed images, photographs, diagrams, pictograms and all other kinds of representation, and this is a fact. The question is how far we still trust these images, and how far have we ourselves become 'images' in the vast digital cyberspace; just consider how many of the hosts of 'friends' on our facebook profiles we have actually seen.

The paintings of the newly-appearing artist Yorgos Maraziotis seem to go easily and playfully into this kind of reflection upon the function of the iconic, drawing inspiration from both religious imagery and the popular culture of comics. Having turned recently to painting from graphic art (an admittedly forceful and original personal body of work), Maraziotis goes in at the deep end and establishes a new language of symbols.

His Last Supper (2011) subverts the standard iconographic tradition; St Peter, for instance, is shown holding not the usual keys to Heaven but a clockwork rooster (a playful allusion to the warning that he would deny Jesus three times before the rooster crowed). At the same time Maraziotis combines different themes: the 'Last Supper' coexists with the religious image known in art history as 'Arma Christi'—the symbols of the Passion of Christ: the crown of thorns, the nails, the holy mandylion, etc. In other instances, such as in Archangel Gabriel (2011), the portrait of an officer of the Hellenic (formerly Royal) Air Force is identified with the patron saint, in the manner of Yannis Tsarouchis. Herein lies probably one of the attractive secrets of the artist's overall oeuvre, i.e. in his attempt to create some readily recognisable symbols which appeal without mediation to certain popular memories and everyday references—a kind of youthful 'folk' painting where the image is the medium of a new and quite topical biblia pauperum.

The immediacy of the artist's narratives is supported by the theatrical quality of the figures and spaces in his paintings: the faceless heroes look more like playing-card figures, like the imaginary inhabitants of the unorthodox world of Lewis Carroll in his Alice's Adventures in Wonder- land (1865). In Carroll's case the accepted perception of everyday reality is also subverted, while the social institutions, practices and conventions are ridiculed. At the same time the various ideologies are illustrated, i.e. they become accessible to us as images, posing again some questions around the function of the iconic/symbolic element.

Evidently, the work of Maraziotis, who was born at the time cyberspace was created, could not but approach uncritically the new hegemonic regime of the virtual world of images and the current debate around the image as a concept and an entity—a key ingredient of a contemporary "culture of the image". Philosophy of art and theology are not the only fields of thinking to have made use of this concept, which has been tackled also by ontology, cosmology, epistemology, semantics, psychoanalysis and, more recently, the natural sciences. In Western civilisation, the question about the ontological status of the image of Christ has been the traditional hub for the modernist debate about whether an image is a deceptive depiction or the accurate representation of reality. With his youthful vigour, Maraziotis seems to take sides in the debate which has been fundamental to our civilisation: in the work Christ (2011) Jesus is accompanied by an electric bulb, while in Last Supper the main protagonist is absent from the frame. The artist poses questions; the conclusions are left at the viewer's discretion.

[1] Yorgos Zografides, Byzantine Philosophy Of The Image, Athens 1997, pp. 13-14.