Mr. Rorris could you, please, talk to me about various things in general?
A few days ago one of my uncles said we should kill and eat an animal and I told him that this was (pause) a shame and (pause) it would be better to let the animal live but of course he slaughtered it anyway and I was too ashamed to show more sensitivity on the subject. I didn’t feel that there was so much hate for the animals inside the slaughterhouse where I grew up, but at the outside world; like in the village square where everybody was kicking the dogs passing by. Every August, because of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary’s feast, the biggest slaughter of the year was taking place. Goat kids, billy goats, that sort of thing. The blood was flowing into a big vat. The vessel had infinite shades of red. From black to almost orange. I may have forgotten other things but I remember that. I may have forgotten the way the animals were writhing before they got slaughtered but I’ll never forget that vat of blood.
I was born in a mountainous village in Arcadia that was called Kosmas. It wasn’t that small. I never lived there during winter. We used to move to another village down on the plain that had olive trees and was called Vrontamas. Our house in the upper village was tiny. Some relatives who were living in America owned the half of the house, so some of the rooms were always locked . The house in Vrontamas had a living room, where I used to sleep. The living room was the emptiest room in the house. In the villages the living rooms were only used for funerals. There were four chairs, a small table, a divan and my mother’s wedding photos. The walls were empty and large. There wasn’t much furniture and there were no paintings on the walls at all, and no books. Just those wedding photos on the wall and some other fraimed photos of dead relatives -who are lots of them now- on the table. I wasn’t responsible for decorating these rooms and I remember them very clearly. Even today I don’t want to take this responsibility on.
I don’t know how to decorate a room. What to put in it. I have no idea what colour a wall should be painted, for example. On the other hand you should know that I have no respect for decorators. That is propably the reason why I paint people sitting in chairs surrounded by large, empty walls. When I lie down at home I like to look at the ceiling and lose myself a little.
My grandfather and my father owned a tavern and a butcher shop. You could call it a chophouse. My parents were both of average height. My father was a bit taller than my mother but my mother was more skilled at adjusting things.
The school was a very large building at the end of the village and actually it is still there. It has two floors. It is built in stone and has two main entrances. Our classes were taking place on the ground floor in two very large rooms. Apart from the teacher’s office and the library there was also another empty room. The first floor had another four enormous empty rooms. The teachers were very very strict and often beat us. I remember a picture that impressed me. I think it was in the reading textbook of the second grade or the reading textbook of the fifth grade, alongside a text about the Meteora monasteries. The picture was showing someone trying to go up or down on one of the rock pillars inside a net. The text was saying “bring wood bring rocks bring mud, cause I want to build a small house”.
We weren’t allowed to be in the village square without having a good excuse and this was a huge problem when you had to go to the coffee shop to tell your father come home to eat.
Two old barbers that weren’t brothers used to cut our hair very short using an old machine, which pulled out the hairs more than cut them. Getting your hair cut there was awful.
The tavern was on the ground floor of our house. The customers were mostly men. They didn’t come for the food but for the wine. Taverns can be categorized into good ones and bad ones; not by the quality of the food they serve but by the quality of the wine. Serving in the tavern was my first job. I was serving the wine. When I was young I liked it a lot but later when I grew up, I didn’t like it because I had more responsibilities.
Cooking and painting are similar procedures because in both cases you edit raw materials like paints, canvas, stretcher frames, turpentine, lettuce, onions, meat so that they lose their original identity and you transform them into something else. However you have to be very careful because in the end we must always recognise what we are looking at. We must be able to recognise the tomato in the salad and the red colour in the painting.
I left the village as soon as I graduated school to live in Athens, where there was a school called Fine Arts, as some teachers had told me. I draw since a young age. I was mainly drawing things I had to draw, meaning the pictures in the school books that you had to copy as homework. At first my mother used to draw them for me. She would do them at night as I was sleeping. I think my mother was probably the first artist I ever met. At some point she had to go to Athens to visit a doctor so she was gone for a whole week. That was when I was forced to draw on my own. The first thing I drew was a swallow’s nest with a swallow next or in it. A cousin gave me a set of tempera paints but I didn’t know exactly how to use them. At some point I tried to copy the children’s concert by Georgios Jakobides. It was a complete failure. I had seen this painting while visiting Athens in order to see an ophthalmologist. They were taking me to Athens every two or three years for this reason. To visit (pause) the ophthalmologist.
I really wanted to become a painter. Back then I imagined that when I become a painter there would always be a model wherewith I would flirt.
When I came to Athens I was staying with my aunt in Neo Psyhiko area. I used to take the trolley bus to the city centre and get off at the Kallifrona stop. I think it was at that time that I slowly began to develop an awareness of beauty. An awareness. It wasn’t a simple process, not at all. My years in college were long and fuzzy. I was not an artist yet, I simply knew that I probably wanted to become one at some point. Your first works contain the first three steps of a journey; but three steps alone do not make a journey and I don’t know that I understood that back then. Your first works always seem different from each other. You can’t distinguish common elements such as the way you place your brush on the canvas, that is unique for every artist, or the range of your colour palette. The range of an artist is like the tone of a voice. No-one can mimic exactly the tone of someone else’s voice. You are born with a range of colours that you can use. You can enrich them a little but you can’t change them. Also when you start out you’re influenced by other painters. The greater the stature of the painter, the more this influence appears like a caricature in your work.
I liked the still lives by Cézanne. I was painting still lives. Always still lives. At the same time I read in a book that he was waking up very early every morning and that he was going up on a mountain to paint. So I started waking up at six in the morning as well and going to the atelier but it was still dark outside so I had to wait for the sun to rise without doing anything.
A fog. And inside this fog you are still at the start.
I think you know what you should paint when you aren’t bored and when you don’t think too much. It was quite difficult to know if your own work was good. It wasn’t difficult to understand that the work of someone else was good but at the same time it was difficult to know why it was good. I never knew when a work was done. That was the most difficult thing of all. It still is, but less. Now at least I know that I am a painter. I have come to the conclusion that I am a painter and I paint. I can’t make videos or installations or sculptures or write an essay about painting or even rip my canvases. If I like something then I have to find the way to paint it. That is all. Nothing more.
To stick a leaf of a tree on one of my paintings seems simple enough but then I think it would be obvious that the painting is fake. When you create a painting and depict a house or a tree you try to convince the audience that the fairytale they see is real. If I paint (pause) your portrait and somehow stick the t-shirt you are wearing on the painting, then your head, your hands, the wall behind you, your hair, will be fake. You (pause) will be fake. My aim is to portray your t-shirt. Which is also a modern t-shirt, a contemporary t-shirt, which means that it has not been yet painted by other artists and so I can’t find references that will help me with this t-shirt of yours. But this is what I want to do.
But you know, I rarely feel satisfied with the result. When you paint you always have the feeling that something is missing. That feeling is unpleasant. At the end of the day you think that you failed to capture the intensity of this person who exists. Perhaps after a long time when you see a work again, maybe then there is a slight chance that you will feel happy but then you won’t really care because you wanted to feel happy while you were painting and not months or years later. Of course on the other hand whoever feels pleasure while painting, he should go to the doctor.
I like this city very much. Words that meant something back in the village, meant nothing here and I had to stop saying them because the people I was speaking with, didn’t understand me. I was happened to be accepted into the School of Fine Arts in last place, but on my first try. It scares me today when thinking what would have happened if I didn’t pass. I was also accepted at the Florina Centre for Higher Technical Education but I never registered.
When I graduated from the School of Fine Arts I went to Paris. When I speak I raise the volume of my voice. I grew up in a time and in a world and in a home and in an environment in which children were never reasoned with, always shouted at. Ever since I was a child I was surrounded by people who speak loudly. In France I had a problem with the way I was speaking because there they are softly spoken. But I learned to do the same. I grew up in a place of shouts, shrieks and screams.
I don’t drive. I mean I don’t know how. And I am so used of being co-driver that now I think it would be very dangerous for me to drive because I so used to turn my head to look at the view and I would crashed and killed.
This year I went on holiday for 16 days. I never go but this year I liked that I went. It was nice. I learned how to swim when I was 33 years old. In the summer I was working in the tavern so I couldn’t go to the sea. In the winter I didn’t work I was only painting. I realised early that if you have a job you don’t paint as you should or as much as you should.
I have two friends from back then. One still lives in the village and works as a farmer. The other one came to Athens and opened a petrol station. I also have a female friend who is a teacher. We don’t speak on the phone every day. Actually, I don’t speak on the phone with nobody every day. I don’t fight with people I never want to see again; I just leave. Montaigne had just one friend, only one to whom he would have entrusted the fate of his children if he died. For me there is no such person. I don’t think I’m in a position to have such a friend. It would be a blessing but I don’t have that luxury. In the same way, I don’t think my friends believe they could entrust their children to me if something happened to them either.
I listen to the station Radio Three when I paint, only this station because there are no adverts. I hate the adverts on the radio. They’re painful. For two years now I also listen to the news in the midday, the main news bulletin at 2. Until I was 35 I had no connection with music at all. At that time, I had just started painting portraits. A person that was my model, could no longer stand the silence and he offered to bring a radio. I told him “I don’t know, bring it and we’ll see”. I liked it. It didn’t bother me. Then this radio broke and I bought a CD player and some CDs. After a while I began to recognise pieces of music. I don’t know which of Wagner or Mozart recordings are considered as the best but I do know that I like what I hear. I have no idea or clue about rock music.
I’m colour blind. I can tell the difference between the colour of a tomato or a strawberry but I have a problem when it comes to how much red there is in the grey wall behind you or if a smudge on someone’s cheek is more green or more purple. There is no colour I do not use. But there are objects that I do not paint. Like cars or a fancy sound system. Actually I don’t like new things. I’ve painted that fridge behind you, with the fingermarks on it, but not that shiny cassette player next to it, that dirty telephone in the corner has been painted, but that light behind you has not. I know that this behaviour is unfortunately not in my interests.
I admire Hockney. His unadulterated luminous colours. But that’s not who I am. I would never wear an orange t-shirt. I would never wear a pink t-shirt. And I would never wear a t-shirt with something written on it. I recognise the beauty of some clothes but at the same time it doesn’t interest me. I like clothes that go unnoticed. I wear a suit only at Easter and at weddings. I have only two ties.
Few things appear in my paintings. If I were to paint you now as
I see you, I’d put this little table beside you with the ashtray on it and the table would lessen your loneliness because the table would be your companion in the picture; but on the other hand perhaps your loneliness would be greater because you’d have just a little table for company and nothing more.
– Mr. Rorris, I would like to tell me what colour your two ties are.
The one is beige because my summer suit is beige and the other one is grey because my winter suit is grey.
Giorgos Rorris is around 30 years old and is 1.89 metres tall. His brushes are made of cement (1/2), blood (1/4) and cologne (1/4) and their bristles are made of hair cut in provincial and neighbourhood men’s and children’s barber shops. He secretly smokes two cigarettes each night while drinking water from the fridge. His hair is grey in summer and beige in winter. He wears a black plastic watch that goes unnoticed.
This post was written by sherlockth