A Questioning Gaze

By Metropolitan of Pergamon John (Zizioulas)

Finally, the main characteristic of Fr. Stamatis’ paintings is the gaze. Although his work encompasses many forms of painting – frescos, icons, pictures, book illustrations, etc. – and although it employs various techniques and styles, there is something common to all of it that unites everything and that gives everything a stable identity. This characteristic is the gaze from the image. Inall the painted images by Fr. Stamatis, the gaze is “questioning.” As in the Psalms God “searches the hearts andreins” (Ps. 7:9), so also the gaze of these paintings questions and inquires about the existential depth of the picture’s observer.

This is what differentiates the gaze in these paintings from the gaze in the portraits of Fayum and also in Byzantine icons. In the portraits of Fayum, the painted image expresses its relationship with the observer by a sad and calm gaze. On the other hand, in an icon the gaze is transcendent and surpasses the feelings of this world. In the paintings of Fr. Stamatis, the gaze comes out of the painted image and questions the observer. Because of this, we would call it a “questioning gaze,” a gaze that examines.

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