Zeitgeist: the spirit of the times and of the mind in Giorgos Saltaferos’ painting What you term spirit of the times, is your own spirit, sirs, within which the times are reflected.
* Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (Faust I: 575-577)
Zeitgeist (etym.: zeit: time, geist: spirit) is the mindset and general cultural, intellectual, moral and/or political climate of a nation or even of specific group. As a philosophical term it was coined by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and became particularly popular and widely used in Europe following the French Revolution in 1789. In 1932 in his study “Die geistige Situation der Zeit”, Karl Jaspers stipulated in his turn that the term Zeitgeist does not simply describe an historical period but mainly constitutes a distillation of time and facts, as it explains and clarifies the lingering condition of the present in view of preceding events.
In his new solo exhibition “Spatial Memory”, Giorgos Saltaferos moves silently from the night-time deconstructed urban concentrations of Athens and the blind volumes of dormant ships to the motionless, dark water tanks of Perama, gently dragging the gaze of memory to the refracted suggestive light of the coffeehouses of the world and his life; and revealing, in turn, an emotional and noble distillation of familiar time won back, which he personally transforms with exceptional painterly ease and daring psychographic assiduity into thrilling calendar confessional continuations on paper.
The rare quality of Saltaferos’ draughtmanship, which now goes beyond the Greek time-space continuum, tears down and reconstitutes its obvious and obscure stable European roots. In seeking out the lingering spirit of his own times and drawing the traces of the breaths of his own unrecorded memory, reconstructing silent train journeys through barometric lows and recalling brief mornings and beneficial melancholy afternoons in city cafés, where the regulars would encounter one another, meet or coexist in soothing silence, the painter blunts his current geographical boundaries, enters into the teeming narrow horizons of moments and hours, impressions and notes, serendipitous encounters and predestined departures.
Those well-loved melancholy cafés of times-gone-by, trophies of student years, to which he returned habitually for reflective pauses in Bern, Zurich, and Basle, in Berlin and Munster, in Venice, Burgundy, and Paris; and, between these, Greek intervals of expansive lambent painted matter and study of the kafeneion coffee shops of his birthplace Andros; afternoons on the balconies of Mykonos; and, on the day after, in dining rooms in a private and mystical Athens, which are transformed into small dense watercolour-anointed paper fields with minimal narrative features that condense the tender folds and unseen recollections of a solitary itinerary of rare poetry and self-awareness.
The shadows and the light-filled clearings; the bright clatter of white cups and the slow stirring of geometric cubes of sugar into bitter darkness; the ceremony of tea and lingering aftertaste of hot chocolate; newspapers set out for all to read; favourite books and the discreet scent of fading bouquets in vases; the worn red velvet of Bern and the curved green stitches on the Parisian chairs; the keys on the Venetian piano in the afternoon and chords sung by human voices joining together; the audacious oranges, the lilies and mosaic floors of Athens: all embellish the rhythms of a simple time won back, which caresses the beauty of instants and nurses their gentle music.
Self and other; small specks of humanity in the gears of an increasingly rushed universe refuse to be forgotten and reinvent their time-gone-by. Autobiographically recorded by Saltaferos, they preserve the remnants of years and of the day, nurse the joyful sorrow of thoughts and discussions, discover and select in invisible test tubes the fleeting and undefined spirit of the times. At Café Volver and at Lorenzini’s, at the Einstein, at Skoufaki and at Platform, at the Café des Arts, at Florian and at Palette, time inert is blunted into eternity.
This very moment could be right here. At this very moment, I could also be present. We could be sat together. I could leave. I could stay. I could drink another coffee. I could write a poem. I could author a book. I could cry. You could paint.
Iris Kritikou February 2017
* Was ihr den Geist der Zeiten heißt, Das ist im Grund der Herren eigner Geist, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Faust I: 575-577):