Kostas Papanikolaou takes a contemporary approach to his landscape paintings in his geometric staging of urban space and of the people moving within it, while in the apparently simple and straightforward narratives of his canvases, he remains elusive and reticent.
Papanikolaou paints the sea, the hills, the clouds, the landscapes of Poros and the mainland with a tendency towards abstraction, responding emotionally to what he sees and building his colors with clarity and precision. He confronts the physical scene with complete directness, translates the shapes and tones into an engaging visual language which is simple without simplifying. His landscape paintings recompose the scene in sequences of planes and in textures and shades of colors that strive to achieve volume, mass and structure. In his more recent work, Papanikolaou appears to be shifting towards a more abstract rendering of his subject and towards a more dynamic use of color tensions and volumes. The sky, for example of the Fuga, the hill with the olive trees, the red sea of Poros, such stylistic distancing from the actual, give to his work a timelessness, placing it somewhere between figuration and evocation.
Yet, people, in Papanikolaou’s paintings, usually, take center stage. They move within an urban setting, whether it is a street in Kessariani, the balcony of a lay apartment block, or a bank and the people are waiting, seated or standing in a queue, or on a boat, en route to or from Poros, idly looking out, looking in, looking at each other, chatting or just day dreaming... Papanikolaou is a figurative artist in the same way as Cremonini. His people are in motion, they walk down the streets of Athens, they come out of Metro stations, they climb up to the upper decks of a boat and cross others going down, or they are idle, sitting at a cafe. Structural elements like railings, bars, poles and staircases perform a dialectical counterpoint of in/out, below/above, in motion/still and create the scaffolding upon which his people move about. The composition is organized, geometric. The composition of his work uses the characteristically geometric repetition as a grid out of which a human narrative unfolds.