“The reason I love the sea I cannot explain — it’s physical.
When you dive you begin to feel like an angel. It’s a liberation of your weight”
Underwater swimming is Maria Filopoulou’s current obsession. Her paintings try to explain the physical sensation that Cousteau is expressing in words. To overflow with exuberant swimmers enjoying the glistening liquid, bright bubbles, sparkling reflections and gleaming bodies. They float, splash, dive and embrace in a manner so compelling that even non-swimmers feel the urge to plunge in and join them!
Since graduating in 1987 from the prestigious Ecole Nationale Supérieur des Beaux Arts in Paris, Maria’s work has been exhibited in the UK and USA, and countless times in France and her native Greece. Her work expresses a passionate love of the sea. For her it is not a raging tempestuous adversary – but a blissful, beautiful and seductive companion. Although many of the views are the conventional type, looking at the sea from the coast, many are painted as if you the viewer is actually beneath the surface of the water, sharing the painter’s visual experience. “When you swim underwater the sea encloses you” she says, “yet the space is unrestricted. The paradox of creating that sense of fathomless space, within the confines of a two-dimensional flat canvas, presents me with a challenge as endless as the sea itself.”
Maria Filopoulou’s swimmers – especially those under water share the experience of absolute freedom. She paints their naked, gleaming bodies reflecting the light from the sun above, moving like fish – at one with their blue, liquid environment; their lithe graceful movements are utterly liberated. “I wish to convey the sensation of swimming underwater, beneath the clear, unpolluted brilliant light of the sun where I am surrounded by the cool, calm waters and other swimmers; it has a wonderfully strange dreamlike quality”.
Crowded into our urban built environment, we crave to experience that sense of freedom. Maria Filopulou’s clever technique conveys the sensation of sunbathing on the grainy sand, or swimming underwater through beautiful transluscent layers of liquid watery greens, blues and turquoise paint. Her paintings capture the visual beauty and feeling of the warm clear seas around Greece, and also the way she feels about herself and the world. She wants us to share the experience, to absorb her images and discover something new about ourselves.
She paints to express herself, and to create a sense of personal freedom and space. ‘I observe the visible, and present my own reality’ she says. “Despite the constraints of the canvas, which allow me only two dimensions to work with, I am still able to create horizons that open up spaces, full of enchantment. I lose myself in the adventure of painting, among the ideas and pathways that my imagination summons up for me. The adventure is self-knowledge, and I am always hungry to know more, and to paint more”
Her current work features swimmers. She feels that her swimmers experience absolute freedom, and that she too can feel liberated. The unique qualities of freedom, and the freedom associated with rhythm and breathing are contrasts that provide her painting with a source of energy. For Maria Filopoulou, each painting is a new adventure, with an ending that cannot be anticipated.
Filopoulou has had 15 solo exhibitions in Athens and Paris, but the Gallery K solo in 2006 is her first in London. She has participated in over 50 group shows, many of them in Paris, New York or Athens.
Her work can be found in the National Gallery of Greece, in the Greek Parliament and in several international private collections.