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Abstract Artist Manouselis Speaks Concretely about Creating

ATHENS – Art is very much in the beholder – but it’s also good to hear from the artist, who is happy to tell you what is – or is not – on his mind. The exhibition of paintings by Demetrius Manouselis at the S G Art Gallery through February 25 in Athens and sponsored by York Studios N.Y. and John Kalafatis is a delight for the eyes and a feast for the mind.

The artist spoke to The National Herald about his life and work, his story very much of the “you don’t know what is inside you until you reach down and try to pull it out” variety.

The first things that come to mind listening to him and looking at his creations is that he is a Greek-American abstract expressionist. Glancing through the catalog, one sees a description under ‘Artist Statement’ that reads: “No metaphysics” – but metaphysics, that is to say, musings about the nature of reality, is what might come to mind as viewers are drawn into his paintings.

“What does that mean,” he is asked.

“What I mean by that is that my work has no reference to anything specific. Being abstract and geometric, it has no reference to any specific ideas or to what artists usually call ‘inspiration’, or to some kind of ‘otherworldly’ or extraneous influence… I don’t describe it as coming from the conscious or the subconscious.” Rather, the paintings are the result of “drawing a lot, making many drawings from stimuli that come from different visual ideas – it could be a textile pattern or a primary geometric figure.”

Photo courtesy of Demetrius Manouselis.

Asked if he is also a writer or poet, Manouselis said, “no. I’m certainly not a poet, but I can put together a nice essay or description of how I feel and think, but like most artists, I cannot articulate exactly what I am doing… because my work derives from working out visual ideas. When I compose the artwork, it becomes an improvisation off an original sketch.”
Told one observer experienced the lines and interconnections of elements in his paintings as reflections of our networked electronic lives today, Manouselis said,
“I am pretty much an old-fashion artist – I try to be well-informed about reality around us, politics, events, and things like Artificial Intelligence – but my work is not informed by these developments. Maybe you see something like lines and wires, and diagrams and grids, but it really isn’t connected to things like artificial intelligence.”
His paintings “begin with many sketches – and they are minute: they are in a notebook, a napkin, a restaurant place mat – wherever I am, whenever an idea comes to mind. I do one or two sketches that are elaborated on – they evolve into a painting.”

Manouselis is a self-taught painter. He graduated from architecture school at the Pratt Institute and he is still a licensed architect. “I did not acquire a studio until about 1997. Being visually capable – talented if you want to use that term,” he said, his talent emerged along with his interest in painting.

Photo courtesy of Demetrius Manouselis.

“There has been a steady evolution… I started painting in 1994 and it wasn’t too far from what I do now. My work was a little bit more ‘organic’, meaning that there were more organic forms in the paintings – curves and circles and more overlapping figures. I continue with that, but there is a lot more geometric structure and structuring underlying the composition.”
Born in Chania, Crete and growing up in Athens, Manouselis’ family moved to New York when he was 16. “For that reason, I consider myself a tourist when I go there. There is still a lot I need to see in Greece.”

His path to architecture was conventional – he graduated in 1981 – “and then I developed an interest in painting. He still designs a bit, custom furniture in modernist-minimalist style, and he is devoted to reading – “I just came back from Greece with 65 books.”

Manouselis is preparing for several 2023 exhibitions – at the NYPL near MOMA, in Manhasset at the Shelter Rock Art Gallery, and at the Port Washington Public Library.
“There are many ideas, visual ideas that I have gathered since December that are on paper and very soon I will start working,” he said, “but I’m not in a hurry… you know, the creative impulse doesn’t happen every day – and life intrudes into creative time.”

Photo courtesy of Demetrius Manouselis.


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