It is very difficult to distinguish life from art. As it is difficult to differentiate the art from the artist. Particularly when it comes to those current artists whom I've come to know. Xanthippe Tsalimi is a painter of my generation and a native of Athens. She lives, finds inspiration, grows under the same sun and breathes the same air as the generation of the '70s. A generation that many blame for conscious societal inaction and abstention.
Her art, however, is not Greek. If it is to be said that art can display signs of ethnicity, her artwork is clearly absent of any such indication. She does not seem to draw inspiration from the Mediterranean light that she loves so much. Nor the sea that uplifts her soul. The abstract nature of her artwork is not simply relative to the abstract style of the Greek artist Yannis Adamakos. It carries more complex, timeless and enduring influences; Greek as well as international. To my eyes, her landscapes are related to the art of Flemish painters, such as Goyen, or the impressionism of Monet in his "L΄Entrée de Giverny en Hiver" and in Renoir's "Seascape". Or akin to John Altamura, who during his short life got to paint his most important works studying the landscapes in Copenhagen. Or that of Paul Mathiopoulos artwork "After the Rain at Vassilisis Sofias street", displayed at the National Gallery in Athens. It's as if a thread exists that connects Xanthippe with these varied artists, throughout her struggle to bring out the rich, yet minimal color and subject.
The landscape she paints is alien to the Mediterranean look. It's sad, vacant, and lonely. It is distant. Your hand does not grasp it; your eyes can only imagine it. The human presence is implied, yet absent. It leaves a biblical landscape, like a future curse or promise, much like the texts of Michel Houellebecq or the abandonment throughout the films of Tarkovsky.
It is not, however, deserted. It is not hopeless. While Tsalimi is trying to balance the whites, the grays and the blacks, she doesn't surrender to the despair of the absence. She seeks hope within the traces of luminance to elevate them and makes an effort to communicate through the subdued red, the bright yellow, the implied purple.
Xanthippe Tsalimi's life is not sad. Nor is she pessimistic. She is not inactive, or uninvolved. She is in fact emotionally rich and communicative.
Where are these landscapes? From what womb were they born?
I see her landscapes as well hidden trauma. Trauma from emotional and erotic need of the ultimate union, one of the ideal breast. They come from the idealization of love.
That's why her landscape does not have a certain format, because love is a solitary journey with little optimism. It is a timeless journey. Reaching beyond national borders and the influences of daily life. It is a journey, often without destination. Without end. The meeting with the “Other” does not signify an end. It irritates the journey, it sculpts it, sweetens it and once again becomes monumental and dives thirstily into the sea, seeking new destinations.
Xanthippe's Tsalimi art is universal, and perhaps timeless. A quiet minimalism that reaches a deafening level.
The starting point: a constant human request...
Writer, psychotherapist and journalist
April 2012, for the catalogue of the exhibition "Xanthippe Tsalimi - Painting", Athens Art Gallery