Photo: Nikos Alexopoulos

Eleni Koroneou Gallery, Athens

In her second solo exhibition at Eleni Koroneou Gallery, Eleni Bagaki extends her investigation into gaze, desire, and fantasy through a series of large scale paintings and collages. Produced during her residency at the LUMA Foundation in Arles and in Athens, these works use the framework of public space to reflect and negotiate these concepts.

The show derives its title from a publication titled "The Camargue," discovered by the artist during her stay at the residency house in Arles. Written in the 70’s by British journalist Carol Dix, the travelogue takes us on an exploration of the region and, as the title of the show suggests, evokes the yearnings of our physical selves and the carefree spirit of the era. Dix, a casual tourist, traversed the beaches and the streets of Arles and the Camargue by car, immersing herself in its unique atmosphere. Similar to the Greek isles, from which the artist hails, the Camargue is often portrayed as an island, a fantastical land where minds and bodies can unwind and expand.

Bagaki’s work is harnessing an ambiance rooted in leisure and idleness. The subjects of her paintings (mostly) male bodies in a state of inactivity, sunbathers, gazers, and introverts reflect a sense of freedom, non-conformity, and possibly aloofness. In her paintings, the figures gracefully evade the viewer's gaze, their eyes fixed upon distant vistas that extend beyond the edges of the canvas. Each brushstroke pulls the depicted forms towards an enigmatic essence, inviting the viewer to embark on a journey of introspection and discovery. Bodies which are close in proximity but emotionally distant, positioned in nature with no clear entrance or exit pathway, create a sense of in-betweenness without a clear narrative of what comes next, implying infinite possibilities non-exclusive to the subjects’ experience.

A close look reveals a resemblance to street photography and its core principles—light, composition and moment—an attempt to capture subjects in their most authentic state, unmediated and spontaneous. Tod Papageorge’s Acropolis photographic series has influenced Bagaki’s creative output. In the early 80’s, the photographer spent his summers on the Acropolis capturing tourists, languid and tender, abandoning themselves to the sun. These images, primarily rendered in black and white, provide Bagaki with a versatile canvas upon which to employ the “colors she perceives," a dynamic, vibrant palette and pigment scheme that incites our senses. In that manner, she reimagines and reinvents new compositions, borrowing from Renaissance religious paintings and the techniques of Impressionism, seamlessly weaving them into the canvas.

In parallel to her paintings, Bagaki exhibits a series of collages crafted from photo albums and travel guides sourced from the bazaars of Arles. Within these collages, she employs photographs capturing life in the Provence region of southern France, particularly emphasising women toiling in the fields. Here, the bodies are portrayed as dynamic, resilient and authentic, juxtaposed against idyllic landscapes captured to underscore the idea of the romanticised South.

In Bagaki's exhibition, the fusion of paintings and collages conjures a poetic mindscape, a tapestry of the subconscious where the human form merges seamlessly with the natural world, evoking a dance between leisure, labor and meditation. Here, the boundaries blur, and one can feel the pulse of nature echoing within the portrayed beings, reminding us that bodies, as the title suggests, possess an innate capacity for movement and expression.

Text by Kelly Tsipni-Kolaza

When the sun came out (la dernière fois), 2024, oil on canvas,  265 x 195 cm

The wind kept us safe, 2024, oil on canvas, 235 x 195 cm

They looked for a place to dream,
2024, oil on canvas, 200 x 170 cm

They used to go and wait (le grand blue), 2024, oil on canvas, 200 x 160 cm

Ah, quelle merveille!, 2024, oil on canvas,  210 x 170 cm

Empty wine bottles, 2024, oil on canvas, 130 x 120 cm

In a moment of doubt, he looked away (avec pleasure), 2024, oil on canvas, 110 x 100 cm

Mosquito bites,
2024, oil on canvas, 110 x 100 cm

He stood there (le visage),
2024, oil on canvas,  100 x 95 cm

Women at Work, 2024, collage, 28 x 33.5 cm

Women at Work, 2024, collage, 28 x 31 cm

Women at Work, 2024, collage, 27 x 38 cm

Women at Work,
2024, collage 35 x 32 cm

Coca-cola, 2022, oil and acrylic on canvas, 40 x 45 cm

Women at Work, 2024, collage, 31 x 39 cm

Women at Work, 2024, collage, 30 x 31 cm
Women at Work, 2024, collage, 26.5 x 31 cm

 Women at Work, 2024, collage, 52.5 x 40 cm

Women at Work, 2024, collage, 35,5 x 30 cm

Women at Work, 2024, collage, 42 x 40 cm