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"Vasso Katrakis"

Something has happened to the engraver Vasso Katrakis who was honored this year with the lithography prize at the Venice Biennale: long before her recognition by international artistic circles, a recognition confirmed by many successive honorary distinctions, she had already won an altogether special place in the public conscience. The intoxicating feeling of this first propitious artistic experience was unable to disturb the development of her work which was straight in line and full of painful stages. One is never put off by traces of self-indulgence or narcissism in her work, symptoms which often attend the recognition of an artist when he tries to preserve the artistic image that has been formed in the public conscience, thus condemning himself to repetition and to artistic death. On the contrary, Ms. Katrakis has advanced decisively and has tasted the joy of seeing her public following her, walking with her and approving of her. This is also probably a proof of the inner necessity of this march, of the imperative reasons that dictated it and which become tangible and consequently understood and assimilated not only by the artist herself but also by the one viewing her work.

Vasso Katrakis, who was raised and molded by the people, who has been lullabied by the mythical and human lament of the Aetolian salt lake, has charged her visual and emotional experience with memories where the simple, pure and straight-forward anguish for the "aghion emar". "Sacred sorrow" of the people is predominant. And this people of toil, of the small but sacred sorrow, of hunger, disease, of the suffocation of the lowliest life but also of unlimited valor has called on her to sing of it in epic, elegiac and lyrical rhythms.

Engraving is a truly ascetic art in its severity. It is destined to express itself through the intermediary language of a solid material; it is obliged to respect its idiom, its particular substance, its peculiarity. The material here is not just an element bearing the form but also a basic genetic syndrome. Its participation in the aesthetic result is direct and dominating. The engraver is faced with many dangers in the crucial struggle that he undergoes with it. Most directly threatening is when he ignores it, or contradicts it or even transforms it into something else. All these three dangers are mortal ones in terms of the main values of his art. The delicate balance between form and substance, the discipline of matter to the connotative co-efficient of the form, the exploitation of the "semantic" possibilities of the form for the illumination of the latter constitute the basic presumptions for the happy outcome of this doubtful struggle.

The next stage of engraving practice consists of limiting the color to black and white. The engraver is forced by the rules of his art itself to subject the impetus of expression to the control of a given color principle. The rule applying to a black and white surface not only controls and disciplines the overflowing of his feelings but also requires a critical arbitration for the conservation of the vital balance of two opposites. The wisely balanced interplay between line and plane, the logical alternation of tones and above all the authority of form and the compliance of the material to the aesthetic result are basic conditions for the authentic engraving. The self-discipline, the reserve, the unyielding supervision of the cogito over the movement of the hand are consequently the defining characteristics of the performer of this difficult art. Precisely because of this ruthless severity, most engravers have always been painters first of all.