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Hadjiandreou: Making portraits come to life

‘Art Scene Athens’ talks to artist Maria Hadjiandreou about her new exhibition entitled ‘The Gaze’, at Gallery 7, in which the artist not only captures the character of her sitters but also searches deep into their psyche:

hadjiandreou2MARIA Hadjiandreou’s work of the last two years are portraits inspired by the artist’s heightened sensibility. Whilst perusing these immaculately painted faces, you are overwhelmed by this talented painter’s pure devotion to her task: capturing on canvas instances of the sitter’s inner world, coupled with the intricacies of his/her particular physiognomy. Even the smallest wisp of hair is rendered with such pristine clarity that you can only marvel at this artist’s naturalism.
Hadjiandreou has realised six solo shows so far in Athens (at the Ora gallery, and Gallery 7) as well as at Crete’s Museum of Contemporary Art. She has also taken part in many group shows, and her works are to be found in private collections both in Greece and abroad (London, New York, Paris, Edinburgh):


-What is your aim in these portraits?
– To capture the character/idiosyncrasy of each individual that I paint, to explore their psychological, their essential state of being. I try to see the human face not as an object, but as a living, breathing entity. I try to capture what the sitter might be thinking at that particular moment. That’s why some of the portraits are more mysterious.
– The backgrounds in these portraits are very minimal, with just a few objects included, that say something about the person.
– Yes, I choose certain objects for their symbolism. The models I use are not real models, but people I know – my nieces, friends. I’m not interested in using real models.


– These works are meticulously detailed. How long does it take to complete one?
– At least a month, of working eight hours per day. It’s a full-time job. And that’s for the smaller works. The larger works can take around 3 months to complete. A lot of concentration is needed in order to convey not only the details, but also to get rid of the unnecessary ones, and to focus on the essential. I want to convey the pulse of life in that face, in the skin. I want it to be so alive that you think it will turn round and start talking to you at any moment. I don’t want my portraits to be lifeless, just about the geometry of the face, and about the brush marks. That doesn’t interest me in the slightest.


-At the Athens School of Fine Arts, you were taught by Dimitris Mytaras and Panayiotis Tetsis. Both were more involved in expressive handlings of paint.
– Yes, but my work doesn’t have any relation to that kind of art anymore. Of course I did go through that school of painting, and learnt how to translate the picture-plane the way Cezanne did for example, in a more expressionistic manner, and with a focus on the geometry of the subject-matter. But nowadays, I prefer the Flemish artists, Vermeer, even Velasquez. My work has travelled from the more expressionistic and abstract to the more specific. And I have finally arrived at this more detailed depiction of the human face.


– Why did you choose to gravitate towards this more detailed approach?
– Because I like the expression of the face, and the feelings of people, which can’t be captured so well via abstract or expressionist means and fast brushstrokes. It can happen, but you can’t capture it so well – the unique individuality of each person’s smile for example.


– There are few artists today who choose this path, because it is painstaking, laborious, and extremely time-consuming. And it’s not as if the price of the work relates to the hours you have spent on it. Quite the contrary in fact: these works are very reasonably priced for their highly detailed quality. And personally, I find that I miss that kind of attention to detail in art today.
– You’re not the only one from what I have seen! A lot of people miss it. I’m not interested in time, and how much time it takes to create a work. I’m interested in the results. When I am working on a piece, I’m focused on how I can make it better and better, until it doesn’t need anything more. It might be about adding just a tiny bit more of a hint of pink on the cheek in one work for example, which will then make me decide that it is now complete, and needs nothing more.


– It’s difficult to know when to stop, to know when it is finished.
– Yes, sometimes you look at the work and you ask yourself ‘Have I finished or haven’t I?’ You need to leave it for a few days and then see it again; To distance yourself, because you have been so absorbed on working on it constantly, for so long.
– And the models? They can’t sit for you for such a long period of time.
– No, they can’t. I work without them too, or sometimes also from photos, but a photo can never replace the real person. But because I have a relationship with these people, I know them well. The friends of my boys came to the show and said to me “Oh! You have captured so-and-so’s character perfectly’, because they know these people too. That’s my aim, to go beyond the geometry of portraiture, and to breathe life into the painting. And it takes a lot of devotion, practice, will power, patience and self-control in order to do this.


• Runs till December 2. Gallery 7 is on 20 Solonos Str and Voukourestiou. Tel 210-361-2050. Open Tues, Thurs, Fri 11am-2pm & 6-9pm, and Wed, Sat, 11am-3pm.


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