The gift of grace
Damien Sausset

Vassiliki's art questions the meaning of the world. The formula is abrupt, strange and certainly rather imposing. And yet, that's what the artist is about: thinking about the meaning of the world! How can art tackle such a fundamental question, which is normally the domain of philosophy? Simply by questioning the contract that man once hail with the universe, his inner world and even his conception of the afterlife. Vassiliki's art opens up the breach, questioning the very meaning of our existence. It is also that movement by which man gains access to a mystery that is beyond him: the mystery of life. 

By operating such a reversal, this art opens a new, yawning gap, rich with new meaning. And yet when we see Vassiliki's works for the first time, nothing is immediately evident; we see before us forms, colours and space. The works also give us something that goes beyond our first view. For example, “The City of Games” (2000) shows us a group of coloured figures in a whirling ballet. Nothing is explained or imposed. And though we seem to see some kind of narrative in this assembly of parts, we soon realize that it is no more than a projection of our expectations and our need to always give meaning to something that is put before us. This magic is based on a virtue. It operates without us knowing, distilling in our mind the seeds of a unique experience that opens out slowly, like a plant, blossoming and taking root in our minds. Their substance becomes ours. It is rare for works of art to have such an ability to remove us from the world in order to lose us more completely in ourselves. The magic operates even better in that we were unknowingly expecting such a revelation. The experience is important. It forms the foundations of the special nature of this approach. 

How do we speak of wonder? How do we untie the treads of which these works are made and use words to describe an encounter that we know is unique? We can obviously call on the history of art, beginning with the question of the sublime as it was formulated in the 18th Century in romantic circles to then see how Vassiliki's first paintings were very much part of this issue, containing a continual search for a new theism, a call for a spirituality stripped of its tawdry rags and, at last, open to revelation. We could also begin by mentioning a few famous artists: Sonia Delaunay, Annie Albers, Rothko, Barnett Newman and even Ryman's monochrome investigations have something to do with it. It is connected with a high idea of the role of colour, a desire to escape from the usual painting styles, to go beyond them; in short, a conception of what art should he: an activity aimed at transforming man. To be complete, it must also bring out the idea of synaesthesia, that great Western ambition, which, since Wagner, demands that the true artist should he able to encompass every field of creation in his works: painting, sculpture, music, writing, theatre etc. And, since the mid-i 990's, the artist has been trying to achieve this total fusion. ‘The City of Crosses” (1996), “The City of Games” (2000) and ‘The City of Dreams” (2004) all bring together paintings, sculptures and music simultaneously in styles that are often very different, hut which are aimed at totally integrating the various components. 

Another possible approach would he theological, then mystical. Crosses, angels, characters in search of redemption; the omnipresence of these emotive figures is not innocent. By using these signs she was able to articulate her own quest for meaning with all the depth of a story to which she had been made particularly sensitive. ‘The Crosses” (1998) was an excellent example of this, simultaneously playing on the distinctive features of a site full of history - Athens and on the ambiguity of the symbol of the cross, once ii has moved away from its strictly religious context. We must not forget thai Vassiliki is Greek. More than anyone else, her culture has been forged from the question of origin, from what forms the unchanging foundation of our civilisation and is therefore the basis of our relationship with the world. Her work exacerbates a latenttension that is never really resolved, between the dazzling nature of ancient Greek thought and the mysteries of the sacred, especially Christian. This tension still, in fact, structures not only our own Europe hut also mankind in search of meaning. Rationality against belief, logical thought against the outbreak of feelings: Vassiliki attempts to take us beyond these simple opposing ideas, showing us in her works that it is all, in the end, just part of the path of history: the history of a God who becomes increasingly absent as our world devotes itself to a deconstructior, of the self. 

To understand Vassilikis art, we therefore need to understand a personal history: that personal history that might untie the threads of a life made up of terrible dramas and miracles, a life made up of journeys without a return, of discoveries and disappointments, a life in which a few friends and relatives had the sensitivity — which brought them extreme happiness — 01 staying close to her. Yes, all that might he possible hut its would be totally contrary to her aspirations. Vassiliki's art does not draw its energy from the depths of her life. There are, obviously, sonic connections, hut her work, the way in which she has given herself up totally — one could even say extremely - over the last ten years to art goes far beyond a chronology of events in her life. Vassiliki believes in man. She is still convinced that, whatever he does or doesn't do, feels or doesn't feel, says or doesn't say, man, this strange living being, answers to the world and for the world. Simply put, answering for the world requires a rare delerminalion in a world governed by fiction and the power of the media. Vassiliki's entire artistic undertaking is aimed is to bypass this obstacle by giving those who try the experience the strength to answer for the world, One day, we must write about the reactions of those who discover her works, talk ahoul the happiness of children, their sense of wonder, the way in which they immediately become one wit the sculptures. We should also attempt to classify the behaviour of the adults. One forgets his attaché-case, others, who are feeling deeply depressed, forget themselves for a day, some come back with others, as if they were offering a precious gift for ever. 

At the heart of the devices, there was also a key ligure whose potential Vassiliki has continued to explore, even in her most recent works: the harlequin, a character used many times over in “The City of Games'. This Commedia del Arte character, who is both a symbol of a man who makes light of the constraints on the stage of life and a tragic figure, constantly trying to move beyond his social condition before finally removing his mask and showing himself in all the splendour of his being. Today, the mask has disappeared, and, even though certain paintings still show characters without faces, she now prefers to show couples, and even larger crowds. 

The men and women of this period have a rather sovereign way of getting out of their depth without worrying about it, a way of walking with a certain assurance on the waters of the world's catastrophe. Vassiliki's art is proof of this. Certainly, the demand for sense is immense. We are on the lookout for signs to light our way. We ask the world to be a living space, shelter, home, privacy and community; we want it to he less tattered and scattered. Like anyone else, Vassiliki knows that there is no longer a world, or what we used to call a world no longer exists due to lack of order, lack of landmarks and direction. Vassiliki admits, without confessing it, that we are living through the end of the world. But, unlike all those right-thinking intellectuals, the end of the world, for her, means something other than just the end of a conception of the world. The world can no longer he credited with significance, and only art has the right to think that way. But thinking that way does not mean interpreting the world, or even re-enchanting it with some piece of magic; it means transforming it. This is why Vassiliki's art is, above all, a questioning… of space. Above and beyond being a series of sculptures and shapes, her works rethink the space that we share, the space which Ic,rms a community. And we are invited to enter that space. 

In the past, she had designed this space as a devastated expanse in which there seemed to be no way out other than lucid introspection. “The City of Crosses ' was that kind of space, with its broken mirrors and maze-like trail. More recently, “The City of Dreams” was presented as the achievement of a reversal. The landscapes that she constructs are open and accessible. They are presented as common spaces from which every reconstructs his relationship with himself and others, Instead of setting outthe differences and looking at the world with friendly or critical eyes, Vassiliki is content to construct spaces in which people can make contact. And t is by opening up these spaces, using extravagant, shimmering colours, that she suddenly questions the meaning of the world. We could add that there is also a gesture that both dismisses the gods and calls upon them, as if the stage in our modern tragedy was now empty, as if art has entered where the gods are absent.

But Vassilikis genius is that she has understood that the meaning of the gods is exactly that: to be absent, to always be absent, and to be present by this very absence. Vassiliki remains one of the few artists to carry out a perpetual siruggle against the entropy of the meaning of our world. In each of her works, she joyfully tempts us to keep our fears at bay and hold back, for just a moment, the image of the terrible finality that awaits us: death. 
Damien Sausset