Greek Painter Sofia Petropoulou Morphs Reality into Bold, Blocky Abstraction

A curving, thick black line leads upward from the bottom corner, its darkness contrasting with the airiness of a beige background. The line runs straight into a brownish rectangle—the “road leading to a tree” of the painting’s title. Yet if this painting so far seems to adhere to figurative logic, as eyes move up the tree trunk, they won’t find leaves or branches, but an explosive growth of white rectangles. This merging of realism and abstraction is essential to the work of Greek painter Sofia Petropoulou. In London, several of her recent paintings are currently on view at Cadogan Contemporary in an impressive display of Petropoulou’s remarkable eye for composition.

Each of Petropoulou’s paintings find its basis in scenes from the real world. Sometimes these scenes are impressive landscapes from places as diverse as Milan, Hong Kong, and the Caribbean. More often than not, however, Petropoulou chooses to paint mundane, seemingly unremarkable subjects: “two doors,” “rocks,” “blue vase on the floor.” Though her titles suggest a neutral approach, her paintings transform these quiet subjects into stunning yet subtle abstractions.

Petropoulou often relies on earthy tones and a dark color palette that favors browns, grays, and blacks as well as flashes of pure white. Such restraint means that when brighter colors do appear, they seem even brighter. Caribbean Blue I (2015), for instance, finds a sky-blue rectangle emerging from scrawls of blacks, grays, and dull yellows. Amid these muddy splotches, the blue seems all the more angelic.

Pool in front of a house (2015), meanwhile, is just that: a watery rectangle in front of a blocky structure, all under a foreboding, blood-red sky. The joy of looking at Petropoulou’s paintings comes from this very type of surprise, when one spies the subject hidden among masses of rectangles and bold patches of color.


—A. Wagner


Sofia Petropoulou” is on view at Cadogan Contemporary, London, Apr. 20–May 6, 2016.

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