by Dan Caragea
If my memory doesn’t fail me, I do not know, in all art history, of an artist in whose genesis did not lay the fertile kernel of another artist, like seed of inspiration and interior aesthetical blossom. The beginning of any creator is partly epigonic, partly a gesture of breaking away from his teacher. One cannot renew anything without having experienced the nuisance of “the exercises of admiration” and whoever thinks otherwise is either blind or lying to himself.
Mara Athanasios’ universe of ideas originates from Romeo Niram’s Humanography. She assumes this openly as two of her photographies are proposed as explicit links to the painter’s work. Apart from these “replicas”, she opens a door in which the feminine mystery, the accentuated shadows, the lingerie, the hidden face, the intimacy closed in ephemeral gestures, the black and the red, the photographic instance are elements that allow us comparative reflections.
Firstly, let us take a closer look at what inevitably separates them. I would say that, definitely, the sexuality of the way they look at women. The feminine body has been, in art, a creation of manhood. In modern times, the artists who tackled the most dazzling artistic theme (I would call it an arch-theme) had to answer to many cultural, aesthetical, psychological demands altogether. As there are no ingenuity and neither naturalism in modern times, the artist premeditated on what he would choose to hide and to reveal, the seduction and the limitations of decency, the canon and the anti-canon, the intimacy and the psychological conventions of his times.
A woman’s view of the feminine body (a perfect metaphor for the mirror) is recent and maybe this is why it deserves to be dwelt upon. Mara Athanasios chooses 2 models (one of them being a “self-model”) who ingeniously melt into a unique vision: the young, almost teen-like body, and the skin of the colour of ripe whey, mostly exposing the back, shoulders, arms and knees. Other times, we see bendings of “The Wisdom of the Earth” in which the body folds itself, in a fetal manner, towards the center. Her bodies, often dynamic, reveal themselves like a promise outside of the space of the photographic instance. Why is that?
I think there is a deliberate desire to avoid revealing too much, something that has become so abundant in our days. The collective imaginary is confronted today with a proliferation of the nude, from the anorexic bodies on the catwalks to the models who publicize, in a game of seductive transactions, cosmetic products and perfumes, to the silicon-injected ones who saturate the media with erotic exposures and up to pornography. The myth of feminine beauty as a target of the masculine desire is today dispersed, anti-canonic and profoundly sexualized. This is why I think that the message of the exhibition is the rejection of this universe of objectual and exciting transformation of the body. Mara Athanasios gives back to us the tenderness of the naturalist view, of juvenile harmony, of the sublimation of desire into aesthetic pleasure.
Despite some inherent technical awkwardness, I cannot leave unnoticed another one of her qualities: the resistance to the temptation of electronic forgery. It is important, for an artist, at least at the debut, to have the courage of the “poor” exposure before creating with clarity his or her path.
A path that I wish it to be perseverant, ambitious and creating, that she may always pay attention to the great “shadow of” painting, with which photography, more than anything else, has been measuring against, consciously or unconsciously, for more than a century.