The waters of grey in Yannis Mihailidis’ paintings


The only native land we have is our childhood. This part of our lives, laden with experiences, is an entire country: a country all our own; full of enigmas and labyrinthine substitutes. A mesmerizing and arbitrary place: episodes inflated or dismissed at will; colours verging on the fantastic, and phantoms of colour. A unique point of reference and a permanent point of return.

No stranger can enter it because it is our personal minefield; waiting to explode – whenever we choose – and reveal to us all over again its secret stuff we are made of.

Thus our childhood is a point of reference, but also a well from which we draw a healing essence, and it can easily become the workshop of our soul, for those who so wish.

Yannis Mihailidis is one of them, and to this end, he uses the other kind of workshop, that of the painter: I know of it because it is here, in the city of Athens, by the rock of the Acropolis. There, under the earth, is where Yannis has long built his bathyscaphe of a workshop, and it takes him on nocturnal voyages.

The city closes in on this space from everywhere, suffocating it, and Yannis Mihailidis the painter, all alone in his hiding place, disconnects the cables that connect him to his surroundings and departs: into his inner self, and ever further back. It is there, his very own country, that he returns to every evening, by painting: to those old sensations which have defined him: time and again, he returns to the dark waters of grey: to the open seas he saw, as a boy, on the island of Skiathos, but also to the others, the closed seas: the seas of the mind – with the still waters or the tides of his childhood moon: to the hallucinatory landscapes, changing every so often, shapes, high up in the rafters, on the walls of the house across the way, or on the backs of the boat frames, gone to rot from the rain and the wind in the shipyards.

Those are the images he returns to by painting, and it is that magic he tries to depict, once more, with his own tools: his soul, his knowledge and colours.

Treading on a painful path, he composes and obliterates, incessantly, on paper. He sets out constantly, starting from the mud of the mind and acrylic paint, until he reaches the original source of emotions: the house, the old one, of enigmas.

Moving through contemporary alienation, he composes over and over until he reaches destination. The grey returns time and again, deepening incessantly, creating a desert world. A desert that is warm and inhabitable, where fortune works like music, allowing itself, masterfully, to play, once in a while, the miraculous role it is entitled to.

Yannis Mihailidis knows his way around his tools, and he succeeds in convincing us. Magical seascapes, where the rime of our soul spreads out, forming mythical shores: grey waters which change direction and are forever closing the horizon. Dense waters of alienation, and other waters, vigorous ones, from which the cold pink of a fish or a shipboard projects — traps and enigmas, unexpected flickers in the sea of memory. (‘stands out’ is much more idiomatic, though)

My friend Yannis Mihailidis creates spaces of immense beauty, because they are landscapes of the soul, inhabited by the ruins of paradise lost.

This is why his new work moves me so deeply, and I welcome it because it is a painting of meaningful substance: true, deep and contemporary; lonely, poetic and beautiful.

Νikos Houliaras
February 1991

(From the catalogue of the exhibition “Yannis Mihailidis, Aegean II”, at the Nees Morfes Gallery, Athens, March 1991)