Dora Charalampaki

Uterus: the woman's one

Reading the recent works unit of Dora Charalampaki, I first feel the almost imperative need to stop at hte really underlined reference elements, at the outlines that determines self-existent living micro-words, at the strong need to visualis the vital continuity of another ego inderent in her, at the simple and eternal symbols turned to an end in itself for her artistic wandering. This first, but clear reading, does in no way weaken the feeling of artistic consistency, stamped on the intensity of the alternating and frequently violent colours, on the goping for plasticity, on the brainwavew of perfomance, which on the way, invents games with disparate materials and mixed substances, in order to make the points visible and recognisable, to ease the need of creation through pursuit and audacious experimentation.
Yes, these artistic virtues of Dora Charalampaki are consciously converted into a fierce vehicle, so that the artist can confide to them her innermost thoughts, her beliefs and contestation, the pleasure and the pain, the fears and the visions, the obsessions snd the little prayers of every day.
Starting point, focus and virtual destination of the artist's anguished creation, the Woman-Uterus, the Woman-Earth who desires, receives, conceives, encloses and fertilises, the Woman-Shell that gests, is in pain, kills or gives birth and attaches by standing umbilical cords the flesh of her flesh. The Woman-Mother, the Woman-Bosom.
On the canvess appear images representing nothing but the perpetual marks of a history corresponding with no specific place or time, symbols discuissing with Life itself, beyond the archaeological punctuality or the ordered historical inventory. Memories and images disorderly march before the spectator's eyes: the primitive Great Mother, first world religion, first clumsy writing and chiselling of hte Prehistoric Ages The omnipotent goddess of nature and creation, Potnia Theron, the Goddess of Snakes and the Goddess-Tree, the steatopygous mother of Sparta and of the Rhone basin, the Kourotrophos of Thessaly and the baby bearer of Nicosia, the goddesses Hera and the goddess Artemis, the humble earthen statuette of the Woman giving birth from Cyprus, Eve and the sublime Nymph and Sister from the song of Song, the Immaculate Conception and the Holly Gestation of Virgin Mary as well as the exemplary punishment for the woman who did not believe in the preservation of her virginity after childbirth, who dared to touch the holly hymen, a secret story recounted only in the apocryph literature. Moreover, the repentant whore, -St. Maria of Egypt, with the features of the woman's existence shrunk since then, on the byzantine frescoes-, incontestable evidence of the poignant repentance for the simple existence of the woman's nature. The Greek secular offerings (tamata) hung on the miracle-working icons in the churches, made and placed to protect from the evil or to show gratitude for the timely help... On the photographs of some rare publications, amongst the usually appearing offering such as feet, eyes, houses and other valuables, we distinguish some rare ones, incomplete and botched, shy visualisations of vulvaw or of an uterus in disaster...
Even if there are despite the countless references, numerous are the attempts to wipe out the thriumphal existence of the woman's fertility and creation: "Uterus, the woman's one". This is the starting and ending point of the definition, in the byzantine dictionary souda. Nothing more, nothing less... The route of the research, however, leads to those very points, from various dictionaries the simply recoling next above more evidents: "Motherly, referring to a mother, coming from a mother. Also, referring to the uterus". Futhermore, "Maternity; property of a woman, acquired through childbirth". "Matriarchy; legal system according to which genealogy and hereditary succession do not follow the paternal line, but of the mother and of the maternal relatives, while the father's role is secondary". "Metroon (=Archives); the Athens sanctuary of Cybele, Great Mother of the Gods, used as a record and law office in the Athens society". Also, "metroon" (=record); book or list in which are entered the names of people connected with the public administrations or those of members of corporations, accompainied by useful data, such as their age, marital status, place of birth etc." and "maternal; referring to a mother, Maternal Gods: household goddesses worshigged especially by the female members of a family, along with the Paternal Gods".
However, the "Novel" of Leo VI, the Wise (9th century) prohebitt the woman's testimony, exvept in the case the spectable is considered repugnant to the eyes of men. This case is nothing but the public display of the female genitals, if these is a specific reason for that, often a medical one:"...the women specific features, it is not legitimate for men to see, but only in case of delivery or other situation, they should be invisible to the male eyes". At the same time a woman, the gynaecologist Mithodora in her book "About woman's uterus sufferings", develops the method of "how to recognize a virgin woman", useful for men. Even if by the end of the late antiquity, Orivassios, Aetius Amidinos and Paul of Aegina describe in their respective writings some special enents, diseases, pregnancies and changes (dysmenorrhoea and amenorrhoea, breast tumours, swellings in pregnancy, placenta retention, cercocystis, female flows, vagina ptosis and atresia), the insufficient chapters of Leo latrosophistis show the lack of relative concern in the following canturies. At a certain point, the embarrassment invents alternative ways for approaching this embarrassing issue. In the Life of Saints Kosmas and Damianos, the gynaecologic problems are solved by miracles. Even if science considers the human being as the top of the creation, the most famous doctor of the late antiquity. Gallen tries to dissociate: "Man, more complete than woman... and woman genitals are incomplete, compared to those of man, as the genitals are fonned inside her".

And while the western St. Helen of Udine cries out that she will scourge her body because of the indecent sensual pleasures she had antiquity. Galen tries to dissociate "Man, more complete than woman... and the woman genitals are incomplete, compared to those of man, as the genitals are fonned insede her".
And while the western Santa helena from Udinc cries out that she will scourge her body because of the indecent sensual pleasures she had, Elias Canetti exoreises the guitness, nothing with certainty that a mother is the nuclear and the heart altogether, the corner stone of the human society structure. "A mother, he writes, is the person who offers her body to be eaten. Once she had nourished the child inside her vagma, she then feeds it with her own milk. And this procedure of vital dependence continues, possibly not so intensely, but always fully and continuously, for many years, for ever..."
From the work of Dora Charalampaki I keep the Now and the Even. And along with them, the most recent works of this unit, which are nothing but the natural outcome of her artistic cource. From the indefinite to the definite, and from the obscure and welcoming unknown to the fregile and more beloved farnilranty. The awareness of the power of birth and creation can only refer to the personal history of every one of us. Thus, the dialogue of the artist with the woman's existence leads up to her own identity as a mother and the woman-shell gives way to the woman-bosom, the woman-Dora whispers on the canvass little prayers to be received by her own child.

Iris Criticou
Art Historian


Iris Xila Xanalatos
Dora Charalampaki
Stavroula Mitsakou