Conceptual and form shaping extensions of "Roman Pictural"

When in 1966 Dimitris Condos realized the program and the drawings of the narrative-systematic series “roman pictural”, he had already the insight that his behavior regarding the use of writing as the unique final conceptual and form shaping element for the narration of the image participated in some of the most representative artistic actions characteristic of art in the ‘60’s. Due to the time interval since Condos’ project had been realized, we can now see much better which are the structural elements of this study – which are the delays because of the absence of a timely tracing: we are dealing with one of the most acute and strictly precise, penetrating studies, one of the most advanced studies realized in Greece at the time, and a constituent part of an international movement following the same trend. Contrary to descriptive artistic work, «roman pictural» is analytic: by such means, Dimitris Condos participated in the international insight and had constituted since then the focal point of the contemporary artistic reference, i.e. the observation that the separation of the constituent parts in their parts and from their parts to their parts, organizes the moderation of the subsequent consistent continuity – the transfer to the following stages of the project.

We can approach the ideas and their form shaping applications in Condos’ project in two levels. The first level is that of concepts which presuppose and define the behavioral choices of the artistic action. The other level, defined by the special correlation of the artistic project with the drawing techniques and its historical origins, constitutes a program not limited by the thematic contents of the narrative. Subsequently, the subject of this project is the unreserved development of the program, along with the conclusion of the program, when it would have been completed and defined extensively in the drawing level until the exhaustion of the artist’s improvisations: the program is, then, proclaimed as more important than the pictorial narration which the artist progresses as part of the program development.

Firstly, in a conceptual level “roman pictural” participates in the fundamental idea practiced in the mid ‘50’s, which considers each artistic project as a constituent element of a series: this perception applies not only in the case of geometrical or constructive artists, who emphasized on the transcendence of the conventional limit of the frame through subject variations, but was mainly developed gesturally through the potentially indefinite expansions of the chromatic writing in Pollock’s and Rauschenberg’s works and later in the mechanic art. Around 1964-1965 or 1970, according these artists the repetition of the processes during the practical exercise of the project encapsulates and expresses the partial concept of each potential part through the indefinite expansion of the whole. Thus, in 1966 D. Condos’ projects were central in this employment for the establishment of the primary conditions which were to define dynamically the following possible developments of the initial intention.

From the drawing aspect, “roman pictural” is organized as the systematic development of a series of initial correlation of relations defined by specific parameters: these are the relations of dense and thin, horizontal and vertical, diagonal left-descending or left-ascending and the other way round, parallel and asymptote developments, potentially big and potentially minimal, repetition and interruption, isolated and synthetic and finally the unlimited combinations among them, all these parameters. Additionally, the synthesis is developed as the advancement, as the evolvement and the dynamic of all relations involved in this project. Conclusively, the project participates not only ideologically in the concept of the series, but also in a drawing level is displaying the process as the transparent transformation of the ideas in pictorial results: the project presents, through its images, how it works.

This procedural, drawing aspect reports the transition to the concept of transparency which is exhibited technically by avoiding the non-readable pictorial functions: the repetitive function of the line in rotational motions, whose complex interconnections are monitored, leads in certain points of tension in the reading as the creative course progresses. The artist exhibits at these points the initial structural elements of the project: canvases carrying elementary codes, small drawing units, which constitute letters, syllables or words of the reading approach and whose initial combinations are developed later in more complex combinations, from small to bigger and bigger units. This complexity constitutes the structure of the project. The line does not only describe a function other from its own structure, but the function itself is the structure and for this reason the subject and its realization coincide or the image becomes the idea of the image.

Due to the interval of time since the realization of Condos’ project, today we can utilize with much more clarity the historical dimension of this artistic work. Condos is one of the greatest drawing artists in the modern Greek history of art, he had foreseen even since the middle of the 1960’s the prospect of conceptual art in drawing in the field of the theory of non-imagery sentences and from there to the source of modernism. Condos emptied the drawing from its applied functions and he enabled the drawing, through the attendance of its classic dimension as a program statement and as a source of accompanying conceptual and form shaping free associations, to define the objects and not only to accept them as a necessary fact and assimilate them. Thus, the drawing results into becoming the focus itself, which disputes the traditional artistic work. Drawing constitutes perhaps the defining point of the transition from the idea of the world acceptance to the subversion or re-evaluation of the constituting elements of the artistic process: the line as an axiom which expands in space, in a sole transaction with itself, functioning as theorem and exercise at the same time, initial hypothesis and provability of the autonomy of the hypothesis, constitutes the evidence of the ultimate point of a new beginning for different structures of pictorial thoughts.

Emannuel Mavrommatis
Associate Professor of Art History
in the Faculty of Fine Arts, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki