“To take you with, to let your mind wander”, this is a standard answer to the question “How should an artwork affect us?”. It has become cliché as much as the more sharp “to punch you in the stomach, to make you aware of our shitty world”, “to move you so that you act, to shake your passiveness”. Sorry, clichés.”To reveal the truth of things” is the option that would please the artists’ ears. Great masters fall in there, from Goya to Cézanne (with his appleyness: the apple as itself) and Francis Bacon with his portraits digging under the faces of his models. This is a serious endeavour, to find the truth of things, but in the end it becomes as hopeless as finding god, any god. Mostly, it is a goal understood by artists but not by the audience. And even artists working under this rule often fall in deeper clichés than they think. And in the end the expectancy of greatness (the godly element, the truth) becomes the word cliché itself.
I have a dear friend, painter, who maybe because of her peculiarity as a person she has never fallen in clichés at her work. Where others try to break the aesthetic rules learnt at the art academy “in order to make their own language”, Ismene Assimaki just paints images that belong nowhere. Her themes are as humble as one can think: mainly conversations between dogs, cats, furniture, objects of a closed environment; at least this is what she says. What we see is the absolute silence of things that once existed in a space shaped to fit a past or a future; the present is left out to be lived. Having worked side by side with her, even before we entered the academy, and having shared wild musics, crazy stories, a lot of laughter and equal flaws – up to now that our uniqueness has been a bit blunted – I can only hope that her little studio will bring out a new series and a new exhibition, after so many years! Ismene, please do surprise us again!
The photographs were taken during my recent visit to her house at Kalamaki on the coast of Athens. It was a hot day, like all the others, around 40 degrees Celsius, but I was determined to see her in her space again.