We are often drawn to places for known reasons: family history, natural beauty, personal memories. Other times we are moved by certain geography for the sheer visual romance of it. Greece is one of these places. I recently had the opportunity to visit Greece, but not in the literal sense. Pete Papadakis, an Indianapolis-based artist who relatively recently chose to pursue visual art after a lengthy career as an engineer, has collected images of Greece and portrayed them on the canvas. Some of these are almost literal, but with an impressionistic shimmer; others are almost fully abstracted.
Pete Papadakis’ ‘Ovum,’ part of his exhibit at 4 Star Gallery
In this straddling of genres, it’s as if we are metaphorically transported between known and unknown. We see the bridge between conscious and unconscious and how easily we make connections without knowing why. Papadakis’ landscapes, on view at 4 Star Gallery through June, would appear to depict the artist’s genealogical homeland, but his abstractions do not conjure this easily, except when we are already triggered to connect the strokes of blue with what we see in the more representational paintings. Papadakis’ paintings, by and large, possess what I imagine to be Greece’s crystalline qualities: the water and the light, in tandem. One gets this sense even when the clusters of buildings are not obviously situated near the brilliant blue of the Aegean. It is this perspective that grounds me: the knowledge that the sea of blue present in most of his paintings is inspired by this place. Otherwise, I am puzzled by the blueness, the vastness of it swimming around each canvas, its almost too-muchness. And yet I am also transported. “Serenity, Evening Lights” merges these real and imaginary worlds. The moon floats on its own shadow above a cubist skyline, the sky itself is hazy, meandering — and all of this is rendered in blues. “Full Moon” is even stronger in this progression towards abstraction: a faint landscape and a path of sorts leading to buildings is set in its own square in the center of the canvas. Surrounding it are many shades of blue, as if it were a capsule within the ocean itself. The moon floats in many of Papadakis’ paintings, even those that are almost purely devoid of imagery. One can see the structural influences to these later works: The artist’s earlier charcoal drawings are included here, but they speak to the corporeal body rather than the aquatic one. I see the hard structure of bones, the heart’s ventricles and the skin’s layers. But I am puzzled by the painting that moved me most: The smallest and quietest of the lot, modestly called “Untitled.” It depicts an empty boat with its nose resting on a shoreline. What distinguishes sky from water is the slight variation of hues from sky to land, and the boat’s gentle placement. This solitary object is suggestive of spirit somehow, perhaps for its cohesiveness and despite the absence of blue. The visual tide has come in and the respite is welcome. The work of Pete Papadakis is on view through June at 4 Star Gallery, 653-9 Massachusetts Ave., phone 686-6382, or visit www.4StarGallery.com.