Text by Kiriakos Spirou
Photo via The Breeder Gallery website
For his solo exhibition Mind Mischief at an off-site space of The Breeder gallery on Pireos street, Greek visual artist Alexandros Vasmoulakis presents a new body of work that deftly incorporates the most original and imaginative aspects of his previous work into a series of paintings on canvas. Known mostly for his large-scale murals, Vasmoulakis has also worked with found objects in recent years in the creation of sculptural installations; the common ground in all of his work so far is a strong sense of sarcasm and cynicism, as seen in the haunting grins of his street-art murals or the compositions of banal objects in his more recent installations. In the paintings for the current exhibition, Vasmoulakis deploys acrylics and crayons in a process of applying and removing materials from the canvas, together with cut pieces of other works which he pastes in a gesture of collage. What stands out in these works is the deliberateness and control in each of these gestures, and the masterful way all the layers are unified to transcend their mere materiality and render their expressiveness with emotional insight and artistic alacrity.
The textures of these paintings are described in the gallery’s press release as palimpsests, yet there’s not as much erasing in them as sheer accumulation and excess: like the peeled off walls of a decadent old mansion, Vasmoulakis’s canvases have thickness and depth that recreates a process of ageing, of layering and decay, of exposing something internal. This idea of exposure is also visible in the one sculptural installation and one ceramic object shown at the exhibition, where the former exposes the multicoloured interior of resin bars by scraping them like pencils (one could also liken these sharp objects to crude weapons from a sci-fi tribe) and the latter offers the interior of is hollow volume to view, but in the unsettling way one would open the raw stomach of an animal. In the works seen at Mind Mischief, abstraction is the result not of removal but of distortion, and hints more to the twisted impermanence of the world rather than the purity of a meditation of its ideal state.
Mixing bright colours and an imagery reminiscent of cartoon drawings, the works seem to be ebbing and flowing between the worlds of pop-culture iconography and Abstract Expressionism. The violence done to the materials is evident, but so is the care and attentiveness by which these works were created. As such, Vasmoulakis’s paintings occupy a space where aggression is rendered harmless, where an encroaching danger has had its fangs and claws forcibly removed. At the same time, the works exude a sickening happiness, a triumph perhaps over nihilism with even more nihilism—as if the artist presents to us a particular way of seeing the world where the figurative is barely present not because it is concealed or abstracted, but because to paint the present is a violent and paradoxical act, if not an act of perversion.
Alexandros Vasmoulakis's solo exhibition Mind Mischief is presented at Pireos 123, Athens, from 19 May to 05 June 2017. The exhibition is open by appointment. For more information please contact The Breeder gallery, tel. +30 21 0331 7527.