Opening: Saturday, October 21 2017
Exhibition duration: 21/10/2017 – 15/01/2018
Location: Averoff Art Gallery & Yiniets Vineyards, Metsovo, Greece
Curator: Dr Lina Tsikouta-Deimezi
Participating artists: Michalis Katzourakis, Peggy Kliafa, Vassilis Gerodimos
Peggy Kliafa participates in the show with the artworks:
Outdoor Site specific installation/sculpture:
“Templo or Fear, Vision, Hope”, 2017, 3,90×7,00×1,70 m. Reinforcing bars, wire, aluminium sheets
In the Averoff Art Gallery:
Vitraux I Rose Window, 2011
Bacteria II or Vortex, 2013
Bacteria V, 2015
Armory Shield – Placebo Series, 2016
Pill Candy, 2011
Video “Dissolution”, 2011
Armory Scupture – Placebo Series, 2013
Chandelier IΙ – Placebo Series, 2015
CREATIVE ENCOUNTERS 2017
Michalis Katzourakis – Peggy Kliafa – Vassilis Gerodimos
Metamorphoses of Matter
SURPRISED BY THE MATERIAL: A PERVADING CONCEPT
IN POST-WAR AND CONTEMPORARY ART. ARTISTS FROM DIFFERENT GENERATIONS. THE USE OF THE MEDIUM
AS AN ORIGINAL METAMORPHOSIS.
It was with great pleasure that I received Tatiana Averoff and Sotiris Ioannou’s invitation to curate artworks, events, and exhibitions at Metsovo once again. Our first acquaintance and the beginning of our collaboration – upon recommendation by my colleague and friend, Olga Mentzafou-Polyzou, an important associate of the Averoff Art Gallery – was in 2002, with the exhibition Sketching out Today, Tomorrow, Yesterday – Young Greek Artists – A Tribute in the Ioannina Region. Assessing this exhibition with the benefit of 15 years of hindsight, I can conclude, without any exaggeration, that it was a very important moment for the documentation and the history of contemporary Greek art of the new century. Their conscientiousness, organisation, and above all love for art and for their homeland, as well as their awareness of the pedagogical role of their museum, motivate the Averoff Art Gallery to organise exhibitions and activities that stand out for their quality – and sometimes write history.
The 2002 exhibition was such an event. Their idea was to invite contemporary Greek artists to Metsovo and show them around the Ioannina prefecture, to give them the opportunity to be inspired and create over an extensive period (one year) and eventually show the output on location. However, the exhibition’s biggest contribution and main point of interest was its content and choice of artists. For the first time in Greece, works by 51 contemporary artists in all media, genres, styles, and techniques went on display. Artworks of all kinds, in every media and style, ranging from painting, sculpture, video, installations, photos, wall art, lightboxes, ambient art, animations by major 25- to 55-year-old artists were shown in an expertly organised event. At the turn of the 21st century, this exhibition reflected the diversity of contemporary Greek art, using topic and place as a pretext and having quality as the selection criterion. This was the first time such an event was mounted, followed by EMST in 2007, with the major exhibition In Present Tense – Young Greek Artists, featuring 34 artists.
Once again today, in our new event, the encounter of the three artists is based on the quality and unmistakable originality of their output. The exhibition title (Creative Encounters 2017 – Michalis Katzourakis, Peggy Kliafa, Vassilis Gerodimos – Metamorphoses of Matter) clearly reflects the concept.
This year’s edition of the Averoff Art Gallery’s Creative Encounter is a conversation in interaction among three artists of different generations who share a distinctive, personal, original, and selective use of their respective media.
Creative Encounters have a long history that continues to this day, starting in September 1995, with an exhibition featuring Michalis Katzourakis, among other artists. This year’s event is twofold: On the one hand, three works of monumental scale are being produced specifically for the Evangelos Averoff Foundation and Art Gallery, to be permanently installed on the slopes of Yiniets in a direct visual relationship with the natural environment of the vineyard. The works deal with the notions of fear, vision, and hope from different starting points and with captivating aesthetic and conceptual conclusions. Concurrently, exhibitions of works by the three artists are mounted at the Averoff Art Gallery.
The selection of the three artists was based on the quality and originality of the personal writing of each, and their affinity regarding the use of their respective media as a prevailing concept both in conceptual and iconographic terms. With Michalis Katzourakis being the first artist in the new Encounter, we sought to bring together artists sharing common qualities as well as artists of younger generations, in an attempt to trace the evolution of contemporary Greek art through the personal use and appropriation of various materials by each artist.
A brief discussion of the transition in post-war Greek art from three-dimensional painting to reliefs through to the incorporation of materials and found objects, as well as the shift in the relationship of form and content, with the emergence of the poetics of small, everyday items, may be useful at this point.
A number of works emerged since the early 20th century in which experimentation with materials led to new narrative opportunities and new artistic concerns. Relevant examples include Pablo Picasso’s Collages, Dadaist anti-art propositions, Marcel Duchamp’s readymades, as well as the French Nouveau Réalisme, the Italian Arte povera, Minimalism, and Conceptual art. Pierre Restany’s New Realism in France proposed a new modernism, where artistic creativity highlights the poetic aspects of urban life, showcasing consumer culture, technology, and new materials. The fact remains that in many cases during the history of 20th-century art, artists selected their materials in such a way as to expand the notion of visual creativity, or to promote material to a dominant component, or even declare the object itself as the artwork, as did the revolutionary artist Marcel Duchamp, for instance.
In the visual arts in Greece, this trend emerged in the early 1960s at a time when many artists incorporated into their work the element of materiality and the object, adding a crucial component to the Greek artistic horizons. Pierre Restany’s historic exhibition titled Three Proposals for a New Greek Sculpture at Teatro Fenice during the Venice Biennale in 1964, which featured three important artists of the 1960s generation – Daniel, Caniaris, Kessanlis – was a landmark event for contemporary Greek art. A number of authentic representatives of the 1960s generation chose materials that became their trademark medium.
Their dedication to materials and personal discoveries of new, original elements continued with remarkable artists in the 1970s who deeply engaged with materials, prominently incorporating objects into authentic, distinctive artistic propositions, including Dimitreas, Katzourakis, Bouteas, Papaspyrou, Stasinopoulou, Diohandi, and Bonatsos. In the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, many artists continued to process and highlight matter as a dominant idea, and the narrative is carried forward exclusively by their chosen materials, media, and production processes. To mention a few artists from the 1980s generation who made very personal choices of material, Voussouras, Divaris, Skourtis, M. Spiliopoulos, Tsakiris, Tranos, Haralambous, Harvalias, Hatziargyrou; and from the 1990s generation Gyparakis, Karatza, Makarounas, Andreas Savva, Kriton Papadopoulos, Patsourakis, Handris, Psychoulis, or from the 2000s Zafeiropoulos, Kamaris, Kliafa, Leonidas Papadopoulos, Sgouromyti, Hatziandreou, Christopoulos.
In this brief sampling of the historical evolution of artists’ use of material as a key concept, the narrative is realised through a variety of materials and objects used intact, unmistakable for each artist, such as Caniaris’s clothes or plaster, Daniel’s cartons or burlap, Nikos’s sails, Pavlos’s cut-paper affiches massicotées, Karahalios’s clothes pegs, Vassilis Skylakos’s wooden or metal objects. In the course of the decades, the choice of trademark materials expands into clothes, plaster, burlap, cartons, papers, clothes pegs, window frames and shutters, cement, detached surfaces, trays, wooden boxes, melted plastic, sheet metal, mesh, cans, resins, polystyrene, iron, bones, stuffed chickens, navy blankets, pillows, wood, records, window glazing, straw, detached book pages, ash, Plexiglas, cables, rope, twigs, pharmaceutical blisters, and more. These artworks propose and develop a narrative with social and political implications and diverse aesthetic qualities. The selection of media also extends from wall-mounted works, video art, sculpture, constructions, lightboxes through to authentic readymades, reflecting the diversity of contemporary art.
For their works installed in the vineyard, the three artists observe, study, and document, respecting the region, its traditions and history – qualities and practices that form the basis of their work.
The original inspiration for the production of the three works in the vineyard is the work by Michalis Katzourakis that formed part of the exhibition The Scarecrow, curated by Olga Daniilopoulou in 2006.
Katzourakis’s work Tsiakatoura was a 5m-tall thin structure made of steel tubes and CDs. The work subtly negotiated the notion of fear, evoking the feelings of birds, through the reflections of light on the CDs in the natural landscape. The work was reconstructed using circular metal elements in place of the CDs due to wear of the latter due to time and the elements. It is a unique, original piece of ambient art whose interior is accessible to the visitor, who becomes an integral part of it.
Specifically made for the exhibition, Peggy Kliafa’s artwork is titled Templo, or Fear, Vision, Hope. The artist was inspired by observing that vineyards and vines are commonly depicted on the iconostasis or other parts of churches, symbolising the importance of the vine and wine for religion, both in Christianity as well as in the worship of Bacchus and Dionysus. The artist focuses on a deification of the Vine and Christ’s saying, “I am the vine; you are the branches”.
It was selected as a site-specific sculpture installation in dialogue with a modern vineyard. Kliafa evokes the strong local cultural and religious traditions against the spectacular vineyard landscape of Metsovo. The artwork comprises a three-tier sculpture installation consisting of steel-wire rods used in building construction and aluminium sheets.
The horizontal construction measures H 4m × W 7m × D 2m approximately. The fine construction at the centre evokes an apsidal entrance. Different-size aluminium surfaces serve as mirrors, reflecting the vineyards and integrating the vegetation in a simple yet brilliant manner. There are many influences and dependencies in the forms from modernism, abstraction, and minimalism, as well as from Platonic philosophy, encouraging introspection and self-knowledge by having the aluminium act as a mirror and incorporating reflections from nature and the viewers themselves in the sculpture.
This artwork combines all three of the exhibition concepts. Reference to religion entails fear, vision, and hope. The metal iconostasis is also an “environment” activated by the viewer’s presence inside it, since it is not a sanctum.
The third sculpture installation in the vineyard was commissioned to the youngest artist of the Encounter, Vassilis Gerodimos. He is an artist of consistent, unmistakably personal style – that may be true of several young artists, but he is moreover a remarkable craftsman able to carry off complicated and demanding constructions. These abilities are certainly not unrelated to his studies. Vassilis studied sculpture at the School of Fine Arts of Panormos, Tinos (2002–2005), graduating with Honours. He went on to study at the Athens School of Fine Arts, in the laboratory of the pioneering artist and great teacher, George Lappas (2005–2010).
He stands out for his thorough research and study of the specific requirements for each work in the site-specific and in-situ projects he often engages in, focusing on the history and morphology of each location. He visited the area several times, on his own and with associates, in order to articulate his vision and select the location near a farmhouse. His sculpture in the vineyard is an outpost for a watchman who keeps guard over a treasure – the harvest – from animals and thieves, a structure that enables a view from a high vantage point in nature. The ancient Greek word of the title, dragatis, was found in an inscription dating from 220 BC on the Macedonian-Thessalian borders. It reveals that special guards, the dragates, were tasked with protecting the lands. Specifically regarding vineyards, which were his focus, the artist learned that dragates were particularly active during the summer months to protect the grape harvest. These guards know the ins and outs of property borders, owners, crops, land areas.
During the production process, Vassilis records what he sees. In this case, the vastness of the landscape made him want to gain an overview of the landscape from high up. Interested in the relationship between farmer and landscape, he built a narrative informed by history, identity, and tradition. Inspired from the site, he ended up constructing an entrancing 12m-tall metal watchtower, building it progressively from the bottom up and from the inside, rather than from outside, due to the challenges posed by the terrain. A thin structure of six interconnected columns that climb skywards, a towering observatory for the dragatis, the watchman, was thus built in Lookout Tower, which is inaccessible to the visitor. The galvanised metal pipe element is crowned at the top with durable black polyethylene watering hose; black polypropylene rope serves as a connecting agent. The sculpture, metallic silver on the base, becomes black towards the top. A3 m horizontal observation point is created, and the structure as a whole is reminiscent of a pencil drawing, not unlike the quick sketch the artist made in my office when we first talked about the exhibition and the artwork. Moreover, this work suggests the notions of protection, growth, and threat, thus encompassing all three exhibition concepts – vision, hope, and fear.
Vassilis Gerodimos’s visit from Tzoumerka, where he was with his family, to Metsovo to familiarise himself with the landscape and to seek inspiration for his new site-specific and in-situ artwork in the vineyard, was the beginning of his vision for this work, despite a pressing time frame. His work converses with nature and space, as always, but this time the artist moreover explored the region’s history and identity, the relationship between the inhabitants and the built environment, the contemporary daily life of the local inhabitants. He noted: “Only what is visible is recorded… The scale of the landscape makes me want to survey it from above… I live there… I survey the landscape…” Ultimately, the character of the landscape, the need to protect the fields, the age-old practices, the view from above to the endless, majestic landscape of the vineyard, all led him to produce this particular structure.
I express my wish to see this new initiative of the Averoff Art Gallery – to commission high-quality, site-specific art installations in the expansive landscape of the vineyard – to continue into the future, endowing the region with important works by contemporary Greek artists in an outdoor sculpture garden of veritable treasures which, thanks to technology, may also be enjoyed all over the world.
Three exhibitions at the Averoff Art Gallery feature representative works by each artist. For Michalis Katzourakis (1933), this is a selective and representative retrospective exhibition. The exhibition comprises some 48 works, in sections spanning the entire production of the pioneering artist from 1950 to date. It may seem strange, yet Michalis Katzourakis’s works always take as their starting point a visual stimulus; they are always in reference to the environment. The artist seeks to capture an abstract, geometric environment. Throughout the evolution of his work, we observe a minimalist, geometric research that focuses on material texture and the tactile essence of the composition.
Peggy Kliafa (1967) and Vassilis Gerodimos (1977) each show ten representative works from their recent production, after graduating from the Athens School of Fine Arts. Peggy Kliafa pleasantly surprises by using pills and pharmaceutical blisters as the building blocks of her works. Vassilis Gerodimos also surprises, by his selective and thoughtful combination of antithetical materials. Apart from the conceptual framework, their works impress in terms of technical excellence, formal, and aesthetic completeness.
The Michalis Katzourakis exhibition in the main venue of the Art Gallery begins with a small-scale oil p ainting on panel (23×20 cm approx.), a frontal Self-portrait (1950) of the artist at age 17, in which he appears quite serious and thoughtful – as he still is today, 67 years later. The next paintings are two extraordinary portraits of his wife, Agni, also oils on panel, made in 1953 and 1954. The same Agni we know now – modest, discreet, reflective. The beauty of youth in a serene evocation, impeccable both iconographically and technically.
The display on the large wall of the venue begins with a landmark work (pastel and tempera on paper), titled Paris A. Although dating from the same period, 1954, it is interesting in that it introduces a feature that would typify Katzourakis’s output. While it looks like an abstract, geometric composition, it originates in a visual stimulus derived from a specific place in Paris, which is depicted in the painting.
Despite the limitations of space and of the collection, we sought to feature works from almost all series and turning points of his development. Next comes a lesser-known series of works from 1963-1964, many of which he had shown in his penultimate solo exhibition, at Kappatos Gallery, in 2015. It comprises still-life paintings from Ouranoupolis, tree trunks – mainly pomegranate trees – acrylic on canvas, cloth, or panel, rendered very expressively, with plenty of colour, swift execution, and energetic forms, with concave surfaces and volumes. Although they seem to be abstract compositions, they are in fact specific views and compositions featuring marks on tree trunks.
Next up chronologically come works of a relatively large scale, square in shape, dating from 1967-1968, with vivid colours and horizontal lines joined into square geometric shapes – views of a kiosk at Syntagma as well as book spines. They are followed by series of a similar geometric approach but in a softer palette, from the 1970s and 1980s, as well as grey or dark works of the 1990s and 2000s from the Stalingrad Paris Metro station, in different media and aluminium sheets.
On the opposite side of the entrance, there is a harmonious composition of small-scale reliefs dating from 2010 to 2017, in various materials and multi-coloured glass – examples of his celebrated Windows, executed in a variety of materials. Next to these is a unique large-scale work, Broken Glass, measuring 180×153×7 metres, also in a variety of materials – asphalt and sawdust on canvas, acrylic, polyester glass, and lights.
On the second large wall, representative works from various series from 2003 to 2008 are on view: Cochin, Vondolas, Ovostem, and classic Windows prints of 2007. Often, the artist’s playful, cerebral mood is harmoniously and effortlessly infused into his work, for instance in works from Ovostem series, in which he prints images from the Metsovo region on canvas and processes them using oil paints. The title is the word Metsovo in Latin characters and in reverse.
Katzourakis has produced many sculptures, large-scale ones, in-situ and site-specific works in stainless steel, including Incontri, made in 1997 for the Venice Biennale, 13m-tall Sinandisi, of 2000, installed on the public square in front of the Research Foundation in Psychico, and 9.50m-tall V at Thissio for AICA’s major exhibition Athens by Art, organised with the City of Athens in 2004. Four characteristic sets of sculptures, relatively small-scale ones made in 2002-2012, are on display in the centre of the venue. The artist characteristically revisits and reconstructs earlier works of his; in the captions for all works, we therefore sought to list the dates of both the original work and the work on display. Polonnaruwa II, of 1996, made of galvanised-metal mesh and stainless-steel screen, is reminiscent of the Psychiko work. There are different versions of GT, of 2002, from white-painted wood, in various pointed geometric shapes. The all-red Group 66 B, of 2012, made of painted aluminium, features a sliced sphere. Finally, Boxmirror, of 2008, glimmers with the reflections of the different materials and mirrors. These sculptures make up a small, representative sample of the artist’s works in the centre of the venue.
This small but representative display of the evolution of Michalis Katzourakis’s work over 67 years, demonstrates an oeuvre in perpetual motion and a fusion of the conceptual and the visual. He started out in a painterly fashion, and never departs from representation and the visual stimulus; nevertheless, his research and artistic pursuit extend towards abstraction, minimalism, geometric art, and constructivism. Always favouring a combination of shapes with horizontal, vertical, diagonal lines, he arrives at austere, simple, plane reliefs effected through mental processing. Taking his cue from an image, he is inspired to work towards abstraction.
Another characteristic practice in his early career was observation of the urban landscape and nature, never lacking emotion or imaginativeness. With his trademark thoroughness, he captures almost photographically his random visual stimuli. Visual impulses and challenges from his travels around the world fuel his work, resulting in unexpected combinations from Greece and other countries. A typical example is Windows and other works featuring windows from industrial or degraded areas, which recur and mutate over time, manifested in different media and styles. Observation of the natural and urban landscape, and lived experiences are foremost in his creative process. With respect to his expressionistic Acacias, from the 1960s, the artist notes that he saw these trees in Palaio Psychico, in Athens.
He has received a strong influence from the American art of the 1960s, as well as from the European lyrical abstraction; he also has affinities with movements such as the French group Supports/Surfaces when it comes to his commitment to materials and their properties through the creation of visual stimuli. Throughout his artistic development, materials play a paramount role, as do geometrical and mathematical relationships, in compositions grounded in elemental structures.
His work reveals cross-pollination from his long professional engagement with the graphic arts, industrial production, design, and interior architecture.
The artworks by Peggy Kliafa on display are representative and unique examples of the series and types of work she has produced since 2011, from her graduation work as an Athens School of Fine Arts student to date. It was in the school’s annual graduates’ exhibition that I saw her work and met the artist; she impressed me with the purity and originality of her work, and we have worked together on several exhibitions since then. In November 2013, for her first solo exhibition, Pharmakon, at the Kappatos Art Gallery, I wrote an extensive and detailed essay on the works on display, which were made in 2011-2013, most of which are now on view at Metsovo. Various thoughts I had at the time are cited below.
In Peggy Kliafa’s art, the idea – the conceptual framework – is dominant, with many connotations and readings by the artist, and an astounding technical prowess. The uniqueness of her art lies in that she chooses as a key component of her work the pill, or the blister – pharmaceutical packaging. With the pill or the blister as her unit, she composes images of metal walls, evocations of stained-glass windows in European cathedrals, tapestries, lace, mosaics. In different colours and shapes, pills and their packaging – sometimes pristine and sometimes used, opened, wrinkled – grow into geometric patterns. For Kliafa, this novel medium takes the place of the brush stroke, paint, pencil, metal, glass, tesserae, yarn. The structured, total symmetry and perfect finish contribute to creating a hallucinatory image, with a proliferation of connotations and associations. The pill and the medicine certainly hark back to Damien Hirst, but Kliafa’s works are unmistakably personal and manage to elicit a pleasant, poetic surprise.
The artist arrives at her subject, content, and iconographic framework through research, study, and documentation. Religion is a recurring theme, also evident in her new installation in the vineyard. She has treated the question of religion and metaphysics in her Vitraux, made of pharmaceutical blisters, and Omphalio, made of pills in different colours. Vitraux evoke the stained-glass windows of Western European cathedrals, for instance in Rose Window, of 2011, on display, which comes from the Durham Cathedral. The artist believes that, “Similarly to a stained-glass window, a medicine is a window to the world, in the sense of both a way out of illness and pain, and of an outlook on life.” Omphalio, also of 2011, a colourful, geometric mosaic in white, yellow, red, green, and orange, replicates the mosaic floor of Sagmata Monastery in Boeotia, with squares, circles, spirals, foliage.
Commenting on the ephemerality of existence, a video installation follows the process of dissolution in water of a white sculpture – a stylised male figure – made of effervescent tablets, in a process that lasts only seconds. Works made of blister, such as Vitraux, impress and mislead by the perfection of their figurative accuracy, despite the contrast and challenge of the medium. Works such as Armory – a huge silver wall – of the same “inconsecutive” materials, astound with their minimalist power and the intense austerity of their conceptual potential.
Bacteria, of 2013, are a continuation as well as an exciting evolution in terms of both form and medium. The new, figurative works have biology as their basis, dealing with the microscopic images and shapes of bacterial colonies, their impressive formations, which resemble aquatic plants, corals, vegetable forms, vortexes, brilliant formations like snowflakes, or maps. Their title, Bacteria, is a chilling reminder of the origins and functions of these images. Less geometric, less austere, lighter, freer, more lyrical, these new shapes play on the contrast between their beauty and the threat that they evoke. In terms of medium, there is a new element here, as the building block in these more recent works is neither pills nor empty packs, but smaller, lightweight items – pharmaceutical blister packs.
An even more impressive, glimmering work is Chandelier II, from the Placebo series, which gives off energy through light. A newly introduced raw material in this artwork is clear, empty, hard-shell gelatine capsules manufactured from animal protein. A total of 35,000 capsules went into producing this artwork.
In all the artist’s series, but especially in Chandeliers, the concept of simulacrum is totally relevant. The faultless technique, application, and aesthetic effect achieve a simulacrum, a tromp l’oeil whose appeal – especially when the viewer realises its physical nature – transcends, perhaps even confronts reality.
The most recent work on display is CHANGE Pharmacy Cross. It consists of an actual outdoor pharmacy cross sign. Made of aluminium, Plexiglas, and LED lights, the cross becomes here a symbol of redemption; the scrolling text refers to encouraging people to find the solution.
My 2013 essay on Peggy Kliafa’s work had as a motto a statement made by one of the most important subversive artists of the 20th century, Marcel Duchamp, the “inventor” of readymades – objects incorporated into artworks or proclaimed by the artist as art. According to Duchamp, “All art is an illusion. This is not an era of finished works. It is an era of fragments.” Perhaps Kliafa’s shift to explore readymades begins from that reference to the great French artist’s words.
The body of her work, seen as a whole, has affinities with Minimal Art, Op Art, and of course Conceptual Art. Her artworks have a direct, sincere relationship with the minimal, the common, as well as with geometric forms that are clearly defined with respect to space and viewers’ perception.
While always remaining committed to the principle of conceptual art with respect to the supremacy of content, the superiority of concept, of the idea, over form, to figuration, she substantially deviates from this principle, as, even though the idea is dominant, the end result is just as essential. The emphasis on a manual, time-consuming, laborious creative process becomes central in her accomplishing, while also achieving a complete rationalisation of form. In this artist’s hands, the common is invested with power, with meaning. Her works interrogate the ephemeral, or the relationship of high art and low art.
The younger member of this Encounter, Vassilis Gerodimos, is a distinguished artist of the younger generation. His sculptures reveal rare qualities and technical capabilities, which come as a result of both his studies and his inquisitive spirit of research, observing and exploring at every phase of the creative process. These traits ensure a high level of technical expertise and skill. They are accompanied by another of the artist’s characteristic qualities – extensive research into the local history, traditions, and natural forms. His personal artistic language is informed by his quest to combine contrasting elements. Antithetical objects and materials of different natures fuse into an extremely rewarding and surprising union.
After the early inspiration and study of the locus and its history, and following the subsequent felicitous and unexpected combination of antithetical materials and objects, a third characteristic practice is introduced – the constant use of readymade and found objects. Unlike Peggy Kliafa’s typically pristine materials, Vassilis Gerodimos’s readymades are always used. Often, they are retrieved during a soul-searching tour of the project’s specific region; they eventually take on new life.
In his artist’s notebook, he acknowledges that no image comes out of nothing – an image implies a trauma, a miracle, a personal experience, as well as the human ability to see beyond the visible. The fusion and juxtaposition of elements of different materials produce a new image. The union of incompatible materials – soft and hard, worthless and precious – gives birth to a new narrative. The artist concludes with a multivalent principle, which also happens to be Marxist, that quantitative becomes qualitative. Engonopoulos said that more red is redder, and Gerodimos empirically finds that increasing the scale of an object effects a change in the perception of its state of being. His thoughts often surprise, for instance when he talks about a “fracture of linearity,” when he notes that “inspiration means rebirth,” or when he acknowledges the viewer’s contribution to art: “artworks change when they go on display.” Many of these works were featured in his solo exhibition Dissonance in Eleftheria Tseliou Art Gallery in 2017.
Birth, of 2013, epitomises Gerodimos’s qualities, virtues, and inventiveness in terms of inspiration, technical mastery, form, style, and conceptual framework. Produced in the period of anticipation before the birth of the artist’s first baby, this work is rife with symbolism and emotion. Two materials are juxtaposed – white paper and clay-coloured plaster – in a harmonious and effortless combination: The artwork is “born” from a stack of paper, at the centre of which the artist made a hole in which he poured plaster. By removing the paper mould, he produces its trace. He felt that by partly removing the paper, the clay-red plaster penetrates into the paper, while the white of the paper functions as a ring. Antithetical elements of matter, form, colour, concept, where the void produces the volume, reflecting the properties of paper. Conceptually and above all technically, it gives birth to a form as if it were a womb, alluding to the one that gave birth to his own child. In Sections, of 2014, we note the blending of valueless materials, such as grey-coloured cardboard and wood in a vertical arrangement. Poetry of matter. Perhaps this is where the “fracture of linearity” in his notes comes from.
The artwork featured on the exhibition invitation, Dissonance #1, of 2017, is perhaps the most stunning work in terms of form. Again, antithetical elements are used: hard and soft materials, an ingenious combination of found objects, for instance a part of a mechanical excavator and a piece of rubber. The sculpture conveys the effect of a moving hooded human figure in a hat. In Dissonance #3, the contrasting materials are dark blue paper and red marble. They are in fact discarded materials – paper and a piece of a sink. In a celebration of ordinary, valueless materials, the artist produces a monumental work albeit in small scale. He discerns affinity in the two materials, in their horizontal linearity. He seeks to harmonise and equalise the jarring elements, the different strengths, the dissimilar textures. Gerodimos confesses that he often finds inspiration during his walks in Tavros, an industrial area in Athens, where he wanders along the alleys to discover discarded objects and materials that trigger off his creativity. Similarly, in Dissonance #2, of 2017, an encounter of wood and polystyrene results in small-scale structures reminiscent of houses.
In Processing #3 and Processing #8, again of 2017, contrast is achieved through the materials and the subject. #3 is a collage of newspaper images, an excavated marble slab, and a piece of cloth from a garment worn by a woman demonstrator. Similarly, #8 juxtaposes a part of the jacket of a man from the Athens Stock Exchange and the bottom part of a refugee’s shirt. These images, materials and contrasting themes achieve an element of surprise, both the collages and the sculptures, as the antithetical materials are joined together in a harmonious, frictionless, smooth manner, coexisting as if in an embrace, as if they were always together, as if they were one. With political and social undertones, the concept is bold and surprising, seemingly evoking baroque forms through undulating curves. Processing #1, of 2017, joins marble and cast iron, juxtaposing forms, materials, and colours – white and bronze. Another set of works, Dissonance #4, #5, #7, also of 2017, highlights a new medium – radiographic film – pieces of which are framed, promoting them to main subject.
The fascination of artists with novel materials and found objects, as well as their desire for distinct, recognisable media of their own, for originality, ingenuity, and uniqueness, is revived and revitalized. A great example from the recent Documenta 14 is Marta Minujín’s imposing, pharaonic Parthenon at Cassel, using 100,000 forbidden books as its medium and building block. It is the application of a concept, linking the raw material of the monument with Greece, with the Parthenon, with democracy, in stark contrast with the fascist element and authoritarianism evoked by the forbidden books.
The distinctive use of media through specific materials is a prominent feature in all three of the exhibition’s artists; it makes for an authentic, original creative proposition, maintaining continuity over decades in a narrative with a social, political, and aesthetic starting point. This sparse retrospective of Katzourakis’s work reveals the quality, originality, and coherence of his output. Moreover, these artworks by three artists who belong to different generations comprise a bold, powerful proposition in all respects – in conceptual terms and in form, in execution and in completeness – and this is why the end result, after we get over our surprise due to the material, elicits enjoyment and uplifts the soul. It is the afterimage of the idea, of the form, of the aesthetic effect, in an utterly personal and unmistakable manner.
Dr Lina Tsikouta-Deimezi
Art Historian Curator,
National Gallery – Alexandros Soutzos Museum