The Two Temples 2022 | Texts
In November 2019, Stefanos Rokos, after some invitation, inclination or maybe even expectation (occasions always have their own special significance) visited Japan. That trip became the creative drive behind a new series of paintings, that was given the title “The two temples”.
Examples of contemporary visual practices that retain something of the exotic gaze, that still contemplate something superbly novel in Japan, are by no means rare. But Rokos’s painting does not belong there. He is not looking for something “outside”, as he knows that no such thing exists, that very few places still remain to be discovered, that, after all, no one ever lived in any of the utopias of modern times. In the place of the artist- traveller he installs the “user” of the planet’s cultural loci. He creates a personal visual “log”, not to reveal something “foreign” to us, something perhaps we have never seen before, but to multiply the potential renditions and to offer us in an original and imaginative way additional manifestations of the already familiar.
There is nothing “outside” the world depicted in his work. Everything is “within” it. And yet, that world does not seem unitary, indivisible and homogeneous. It retains something paradoxical, a continuum of differences and repetitions. Such sort of a location is Japan, as Rokos portrays it in his painting. “The two temples”, the title of this new series of his works, can be understood in this way as well. One “temple”, that of Buddhism, is counterposed to another one, that of Shintoism.
Colours, shapes, drawings and forms that Rokos uses are often in contrast with each other, creating diverging representations on the same painted surface. Something analogous to that also happens with the multiple narratives on it. Professional drivers and cooks, at work, appear in the wake of throngs of worshipers. Miscellaneous items and human body parts, mostly female, jut out from everywhere. Images appear within other images. Somewhere, heaped foodstuffs and leftovers overflow from within buildings or other structures, infrastructures and networks, while elsewhere clusters of plants attack buildings. From a blank space we transition abruptly to saturated and laboriously detailed points, just as when tension is followed by moments of relaxation and contemplation or when a sudden noise shatters a deep silence.
The artistic world of Stefanos Rokos is, then, multifariously technical but without techniques, full of inlays and contrasts, discontinuous, represented with clear and bold outlines, without “ins” and “outs”, without origins and termini or some kind of “centre” and a “periphery” to be discovered. If there is something that unifies it is a latent eroticism and its anticipation. Not only because we can make out a female figure (is it one and the same?) in most of his paintings but also because, one feels that, even when she does not appear, her gaze is next to that of the painter, that she contemplates the same events, the same images he does.
Excerpts from the postface by Kostas Christopoulos, visual artist, assistant professor at the Athens School of Fine Arts.