“I can’t understand why some people believe completely in medicine but not in art, without questioning either.”
Placebo is a medicine prescribed for the psychological benefit rather than for any physiological effect.
With Placebo, Peggy Kliafa’s latest exhibition at Lola Nikolaou art gallery in September 2016, the artist continues to explore medicinal themes and the therapeutic nature of illusionism in art.
I would add to these a disjunctive personal interpretation: “Placebo, or an ‘artist’s’ melancholy invention.” Just like the mind creates “healing” poems by combining loans sourced from literally everywhere, so does an artist collect materials by creatively blending media, assemblage and handicraft, whose distinctive blend results in the kind of intellectual product that soothes the mind – by invention! In this light, Kliafa’s interest focuses on the foundations of the Western perception of natural or scientific “wonders”, as well as intellectual ones, as is the case in all arts.
Stained glass, tapestries, rosettes, lace, latches, reliefs, chandeliers, mosaics, assemblages and framed “portraits” of pills – all made of used blister packaging, or emptied transparent capsules and pills, intact and untouched, often in confectioner sachets. Special care and attention is evident in the selection and classification of this material. Elements of heretical architecture, Peggy Kliafa’s constructions claim their stake on three-dimensional space by recreating what could be construed as memories of places of worship and mystical rituals.
The construction process highlights a variety of visual motifs, and the variegated treatment of the readymade materials results in a kind of embroidery on flat surfaces or stylised cumulates in the round. This is a craftsman’s condition in the greater scheme of inventive artistic practices, where high-accuracy gestures enable works almost not made by human hand.
Smart re-dis-positioning of the selected material, collages of “stolen”, now empty medicine packages, whirling, hybridised, meandering, the spyres and rosettes, the metaphorical depictions of familiar symbols and shapes, all serve as board-game pieces that make for a new game each time, generating a bewildering universe.
Everything, from material selection to end result, attests to a patient labour of love, a kind of meditation, from which springs forth the artist’s intimate life experience. The eloquent stillness of Peggy Kliafa’s works unequivocally fosters a mood of concentration, paradoxical discreetness and profundity – further intensified by her use of timeless symbols of the sacred.
Although the materials used by Peggy Kliafa in her work allude to the power of science to heal through medication, the exhibition title hints at the possibility of self-delusion. The potential of “placebo” is purely imaginary, just as the idiom of art is. This, then, is an allegory of healing and its effectiveness, as well as a parody by a modern-day Faust, who, having discovered the elixir of immortality, whiles away the time meticulously hand-crafting works of art. In this respect, Peggy Kliafa’s studio is populated by aesthetic “alchemical preparations of art” – illusionistic remedies and potions for “disease”. Her creative output testifies to the fact that all manifestation of creativity is a near-religious experience, a mind-expanding enhancement of our perceptive ability with an eye to healing…
Art Historian/Critic, Curator
English translation: Dimitris Saltabassis