Δευτέρα, 27 Φεβρουαρίου 2012

Nikos Alexiou

                                                                          Wikipedia
                                                                         "The End"

Regarding Nikos Alexiou participation in Venice Biennale 2007, Vassilika Sarilaki, a known Art Historian, interviewed him. Interview and text was published entitled In Trance in Highlights Magazine:

A master of space and the sense of the borderline, Nikos Alexiou, an artist known for his delicate works and motifs, his paper embroidered with perforations and his frugal constructions, will be representing Greece at this year’s Venice biennale.

The title of this year’s biennale,(2007) which will be held between June 10 and mid November, is “Think with the senses -- feel with the mind. Art in the present tense”, and Nikos Alexiou’s sensuous installation seems to get to the very heart of the matter. Starting out with the wonderful motifs in the floor mosaics of the Oberon monastery, which he reproduces in endlessly varying colours and designs to articulate an ecstatic world of beauty and moderation. His is a ‘structured chaos’ which balances the geometric nature of the material with the spontaneity of gesture.

Alexiou’s work emerges once more not as a product of a prefabricated idea, but as the source of an all-embracing gift to the beauty of forms. As a product and an engagement of his bodily devotion to it. And it is this which ultimately bestows a natural grace and an aura of redemption on the work.

Alexiou means tradition in the sense ascribed to it by Husserl. That “painting’s past creates a tradition in the artist, a duty to start over differently; not survival, which is the hypocritical form of forgetfulness, but effectual reclamation, which is a noble form of memory.” It is this “reclamation of memory” through the experience of familiarity that he attempts to convey today, though he allows the viewer to see the work unfettered and to lose themselves in the ecstasy of the small, psychedelic world it proposes; a world dotted with coloured motifs which flow in space, with tender sketches of the monastery and intricate digital labyrinths on video.

Taken together, the recollective designs, the fragmentary motifs moving imperceptibly on video, constantly changing shape, and the intricate patterns suspended in mid air define a new aesthetic world open to the imagination, to experience, to the viewer’s “individual breath”, and in so doing render largely relative the classical view of stability and the objectivity of space. Meaning the guise of material crops up again and again as a concept in Alexiou’s work as a pretext for taking a fresh look at our inner world and the way it is naturally reflected on the outside. And this might ultimately be art’s prime subject.

                                                                                        Interview

What will the installation you will be showing at the Venice biennale include exactly, and how will it be structured?

Nikos Alexiou: The work functions as a theatrical machine. Because the way it is set up ‘plays’ with the viewer. Inside its gate, there is a large screen with a video projected on it which invites the viewer to proceed further in, essentially to wander around on ‘stage’, into the heart of the machine. Meaning the viewer doesn’t watch from outside; he enters something that surrounds him on all sides. Behind the screen, there is a series of intricate hanging ‘embroideries’ which mirror the banners with different designs from the Iveron monastery.

  • What was it that moved you about this particular floor from the Iveron monastery? Were you just interested in its form, or were your personal experiences your starting point, given that you’ve been visiting the monastery since 1995?

These things are strange, as you know. You come into contact with something and you don’t know what it is that moves you… It could have been something else. But this floor was in the very centre of the church, and living in the monastery you would cross it several times a day. So the reasons I chose it were related to my experiences of it, and with my familiarity with it.

  • But as I can see from the video, in a sense these designs function as a pretext for a “meditative loss”...

Yes, they do. Meaning that what I do is lay all these lines out in a place in a ‘give ‘em all you’ve got’ sort of way. But see how nice it is… enjoy it. It’s a trip; isn’t that what they say.

  • It really is delightful. It reminds me of Arabic motifs...

You’re pretty far off the mark there. These are Greek motifs; we’ve had them since 300 BC. They’re designs you grow up with.

  • Why did you entitle the work “The end”?

I was referencing a wonderful text by Beckett with that title which really suited the work.

  • Which part of it?

Well, this design, these lines are on a knife-edge, a frontier. They are birth and death at once. Which is something Beckett’s text exudes, too. Which is why whether it’s a screen or a ‘curtain’ or a piece of paper, it’s always inscribed in one dimension. One level. It’s the beginning and the end together… Because the “End” here reminds me of the title descending the screen at the end of a film. And it’s a state of ecstasy that arises from the ‘reality’ of the work. It’s a trance.

  • And how do this state, these images, differ from pop art?

It is pop art. This video we’re watching now, for instance, is playing around with the Sixties…

  • And with psychedelia?

Yes.

  • Fine, but someone might wonder “Hey, how can he combine the floor from the Iveron monastery, which has its own particular experiences, octagonal cosmological symbols, mandalas, meditation and so on with a neo-pop or psychedelic idiom?

And what’s neo-pop? Exactly that… Jimmy Hendrix and Our Father who art in Heaven.

 

 

  • Apart from the obvious, is there any sort of concealment here? In your perforated curtains, for instance, through whose delicate fabric one sees and does not see?

There is the allure of the knife-edge again, of translucence in 2 dimensions.

  • Meaning you’re primarily interested in the surface. Does your work have a symbolic dimension?

Yes. Anyone can find any symbol they like in there. Meaning you see something and say: “Ah, that’s a garden” or a universal symbol. It’s whatever you see.

  • I asked you if your work was related this time to symbols because these patterns are joined together into mandalas, which are cosmic symbols, but also because the masters of abstraction—Mondrian, Kandinsky, Malevich, Kupka, Itten—were closely bound up with the metaphysical and its symbolism. And that’s no accident…

Metaphysical… Can’t we just say physical? That’s what I call it.

  • I’m not using ‘metaphysical’ in the sense of ‘non-real’ or to convey a suspicious or negative connotation. It’s just that the geometric form is a symbol in itself. In this sense, it produces specific senses and ideas. For instance, there were the theosophical views of Mondrian, who defined the vertical as spirit and the horizontal as material, or the “spiritual component” of colours and shapes and what Kandinsky or Itten defined as geometrical harmony. That’s what I’m talking about. Do the traditional, archetypal motifs you use reference symbolisms or not?

I’m not interested in symbolisms. I use all that to shape another reality. What that reality has to say is another matter altogether. What matters to me is how you stand in front of an art-work. I don’t look at it head on, I perceive it at my side. It’s beside me, in other words. It’s something I perceive better with my shoulders and my back.

  • What do you mean exactly?

I mean you have to be exactly where the work is. To be present at a given time and place, that’s enough. And then you carry it around you as a memory.

    • That reminds me of what Zen teaches about the experience of the ‘here and now’. You know that some people would refer to the minimal bamboo constructions you used to do as Zen constructions?

Why not… that’s Zen, too.

    • Do you think 21st-century art should return to the concept of the beautiful which came in for so much stick during the 20th?

I don’t think it came in for any stick. I’d say that beauty was held aloft again in both the 20th and 21st centuries. The concept of beauty is integral to art.

 

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