Artwork Title: Underwater swimmers I - Artist Name: Maria Filopoulou

Underwater swimmers I

Maria Filopoulou

“At first I didn’t want to paint seascapes”, she tells me over tea at her house in Kifisia, Athens. “I didn’t want to make postcards of Greek islands, you know? I was looking for something harsher, more esoteric.” From sprawling bays that seem to engulf the viewer to frieze-like, 4-meter-long compositions of underwater swimmers, Filopoulou takes the imagery of the Greek summer and transforms it into stunning painterly gestures that, as she says, are all about freedom. ...This gradually evolved into her hothouse paintings soon after she returned to Greece, and her wide-angle paintings of old Greek houses. “But I often needed a change of scenery, that’s why I would go out with my sketch book and draw beaches, islands, the sea... Gradually this became the focus of my work. As you can see, I might have got a bit carried away!” For Filopoulou there’s a conscious connection between interior spaces and her underwater seascapes, in that they are both contained spaces that evoke a sense of protection. She often frames all sides of her canvases, the top with the reflecting sea surface, the bottom with the sea bed, and the two sides with rock formations. “This is for me like an embrace, almost like coming out of a sea cave to the light. I often go to Milos and dive inside the caves on the south coast, and my favourite game is to go inside the cave and then turn around to see the world outside.” ...That’s why I called my exhibition in Paris ‘The Antidote of Water’. The ancients used to bathe in the sea before performing their rituals, perhaps for the same reason that I feel relieved and cleansed when I swim. I just wanted to convey that personal feeling to the viewer.” Despite the madness and the crisis, Greece is the only place she could ever be: “Well, I could move to a warmer place, but not a colder place! There’s also an unimaginable boom in the arts here: so many great exhibitions, new galleries, festivals... I suppose, like the water, art is our antidote.” (
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