Artemis Potamianou

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Artemis Potamianou

The Unknown masterpiece 25/8-3/9 

Vernissage Fredagen 25 Aug kl 18-20

Öppettider Tor-Fre stängt, Lör-Sön 12-16

This series of works The Unknown masterpiece refers to and originates from the book of the same name, Honoré de Balzac’s The Unknown Masterpiece (1831). The book describes an encounter between fictional characters – artists, Frenhofer and Porbus (based on real-life court painter Franz Pourbus) and real life, Nicolas Poussin. Poussin visits distinguished painter, Porbus in his studio and is admitted by painter, Frenhofer. In his quest for absolute beauty, the old painter, Frenhofer, attempts to create the absolute masterpiece and goes on “improving” his painting for ten years, ending up to an illegible composition thus destroying his life’s work.

The two central characters of the story, the great maître Frenhofer and the young artist Poussin, were the inspiration and reference of many essays on art and the role of the artist Frenhofer’s utter devotion to his art inspired Cezanne, Picasso, Rilke and many other artists. Paul Cézanne particularly strongly identified with him, once saying ”Frenhofer, c’est moi” (I am Frenhofer). The book fascinated Picasso enough for him to undertake its illustration in 1921. Indeed, he identified with Frenhofer to such an extent that he moved to the rue des Grands-Augustins in Paris, where Porbus’s studio was placed. It was here that Picasso painted Guernica.

In the encounters between Frenhofer and Poussin however, there is another important character, the lover of Poussin – Gillette. She was the muse and the exchange ”object” between the two artists, a tragic figure determined by the decisions and choices of the men of the story.

In my series of works The Unknown masterpiece, famous portraits of women, having earned a place in the history of art for their virtuosity in painting, are deconstructed and offer an initial “canvas” that is reconverted and recreated by pieces of portraits of famous men. It constitutes a sharp comment on the position of women in society and the ”male” roles they have to adopt. The picture created in the end is a nightmare image, a “hermaphrodite”, a “Frankenstein” monster composed by “perfect” integral parts.