Gounaropoulos’s work revolves entirely around several overarching motifs that serve to anchor the entire substance of his art. […] These symbols are implicated in the reproduction of a mythological world rooted in the first stirrings of his childhood imagination. To better understand the meaning of these symbols and the role they play in the artist’s work, we must consider the place where he was born and the environment in which he spent the early years of his life. Gounaropoulos was born in Sozopol, a small town on the Black Sea coast. […] It was only natural that the sea would mark the experiences of the first 15 years of his life.
The world of the sea. To begin with, there was fishing. It was in itself an act of magic, which retrieved from the depths of the sea a myriad of creatures. Fish in translucent colours, shellfish and rose-coloured lobsters filled the boy’s imagination with limpid aquatic forms of silvery iridescence. […] The notion of voyage took root in the boy’s mind. We encounter this sense of Odyssean adventure –this immersion into the unknown– in many of his paintings, among the steep, humanlike cliffs that rise like strange ships in a mysterious sea.
And then there were the women bathing on the beach. It was a profoundly unsettling spectacle for the boy and one which would play a role in shaping his poetic vision. It was these bathers, whose white blouses turned transparent with the spray of the sea, who revealed before the boy’s ecstatic eyes the secret world of women.
Water. It is not surprising that water should occupy such an important place in Gounaropoulos’s work. We encounter it in most of his paintings. […] Even in those paintings in which water itself is not depicted, its presence is suggested everywhere. Throughout the painter’s œuvre water constitutes an expansive, transparent background on which various figures are limned, for Gounaropoulos’s painting is above all one of fluidity. […] Through its presence alone, water adds a dimension of its own to the work: an infinite universe of peace and tranquillity.
Trees and flowers. His trees, […] remnants of childhood fears, express not only a child’s worries but the individual’s inner struggle as well. Their stretched limbs and twisting branches, the almost human coupling of their trunks, express instances of this conflict. […]
The artist’s vitality and plastic expressiveness can also be seen in the wealth and variety of the flowers he painted. […] No two flowers in Gounaropoulos are ever the same. […] Even on their own, his flowers symbolize the breadth of the human adventure – from the ascent to maturity and the richness of life to the gradual dispossession that ends in death.
Still life paintings. Gounaropoulos’s still life paintings […] depict fish and shellfish which, though out of their element, water, quiver with such vital force one would think they are desperately trying to exist outside their natural habitat. These, too, are symbols of our self-struggle.
Mythological subjects. It is in his mythological paintings, however, that the struggle between the two primary elements of his psyche –the artist’s inner anxiety and his search for deliverance– takes its most characteristic shape. The choice of subject matter alone is revealing: Prometheus, Orpheus, Odysseus, Heracles, Cyclops, Pasiphae, they all represent myths in which we discern the struggle of two forces: one of transcendence and elevation, the other, of annihilation […] the utmost anxiety and the utmost serenity.