::Literate Blather::
Friday, August 18, 2006
5 Questions About: Artist Johniene Papandreas
(DaRK PaRTY recently visited the rustic Deertrees Theater in Harrison, Maine. The theater’s art gallery was displaying the works of Artist Johniene Papandreas of Provincetown, Massachusetts. Papandreas’s exhibit, called “Voyeur” were huge canvases depicting extreme close-ups of women caught in private moments of passion, fury or contemplation. Wandering through the gallery, the energy emanating from the portraits seemed to radiate through the whole theater. DaRK PaRTY caught up with Johniene at her gallery on Cape Cod (http://www.voy-art.com/) to get more insight on her exhibit and her art.)

DaRK PaRTY: Your current exhibit "Voyeur" is close-ups of women caught in private moments of intense emotion. Walking through your gallery of portraits was a powerful experience and I can image many people have a visceral reaction to the subject. Can you tell DaRK PaRTY readers why this subject matter was so fascinating for you?

Johniene Papandreas: I have a fascination with subtext, with reading between the lines, tuning in to the unspoken. Mine are portraits of imagined selves, damaged and passionate and lost selves. They capture expressions from a moment thought private, unobserved… when the guard is down... a glimpse of the genuine, before the retreat… before the walls go back up.

Encountering them can have a triggering effect on the viewer who cannot help but react genuinely, and viscerally, perhaps remembering their own encounter with the emotion emanating from the painting. We spend a great deal of energy fleeing circumstances that will cause us to experience, first hand, moments like the ones I depict. Who wants that much loss or terror or rage in their life? But somehow re-encountering them in this voyeuristic way it's bearable... cathartic, almost.

DP: Can you describe the process of creating the paintings? Did you use models? How did you get manage to capture such passion and pain in the expressions -- especially in the eyes?

Johniene: This particular series is inspired by the works of painters that have come before me, masters of the Italian Renaissance, French Romantic, and Pre-Raphaelite periods. I divine and isolate an area of, say, a Caravaggio, that I think contains a “charge,” either of mystery, sensuality, or emotion, reframing the area in a way that will focus the viewer on what I see, and then paint it on a large scale, which serves to further amplify the power in the painting. Through this evolution, the context of the original painting drops away and my painting becomes something new, distilled down to the charged essence.

What happens in the eyes is the result of my "communion" with the subject of my painting as I get to know them. In the time I spend with them, their lives take shape in the back of my head. By the time I get to the eyes (I always do the eyes last) who they are and what they've known just appears there. I listen carefully and let them guide me.

DP: You have said that you're inspired by the Masters of the Italian Renaissance, French Romantic and Pre-Raphaelite periods. Can you be more specific? What about those periods and those painters move you?

Johniene: They are painters of the dramatic and ecstatic, and are inspiring and fearless in their revelation of the human condition. I especially enjoy the great "religious" paintings and the intermingling of spirituality and eroticism. Though we, as 21st century viewers may be clueless as to the religious references and even the stories depicted in the paintings, we can connect with the emotion on the faces of the souls populating them. Those are the subjects I seek out as my models.

DP: You were trained in the theater and were a scenic designer in New York. Can you describe the experience and how that helped prepare you as an artist?

Johniene: Being in the theatre was one of the richest experiences in my life andreally connected me with the concept of subtext. No matter what is happening on stage, it's what's going on OFF stage, the back-story, as it were, that's driving everything. Theatre is all about things not being what they seem, a heightened existence, and charged moments.

DP: You live in Provincetown and own Gallery Voyeur on Commercial Street. Provincetown is one of the oldest artists communities in the United States and draws artists, writers, hipsters, and free spirits from around the globe. But the town -- at the tip of Cape Cod -- is also a fishing village with a large working-class Portuguese population. Can you give us an idea of what Provincetown is really like?

Johniene: There is definitely some kind of creative vortex here and people can be drawn in without really knowing why. Many artists came here for the quality of the light, others, because it used to be cheap and funky and full of like-minded free spirits. Kind of like the West Village with a beach. Sadly, it's almost too expensive now for transient artists to be able to remain here for long. The "season" brings in lots of traffic and money, but in the winter the pendulum swings the other way and the townies rule, though the diversity of our population is a constant, and not just a summer thing. It can be a bit desolate during those months, but that's great opportunity to be productive.

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