Visiting “Mine, Others and Yours”, a joint exhibition of new work by Greek artist Aristeidis Lappas and Berlin-based Sophie Vallance Cantor at WE ARE BUD project space, somehow feels like you are trespassing on the artists’ inner thoughts. Although quite different in style—Vallance Cantor’s work stands out in its unapologetic rebelliousness, full of bold brushstrokes, vibrant colors and brash slogans, whereas Lappas’s elicits a quiet introspection, distilled in monochromatic, faint, almost indiscernible forms—both artists’ work is characterized by a sense of spontaneity, a child-like expressiveness and a cathartic immediacy. Behind these similarities lies an urgent need to externalize their state of mind: a common willingness to expose their thoughts in the most raw and uncensored manner in an attempt to discover their selfhood.
Text by Eric David
Photos courtesy WE ARE BUD
These shared qualities make the exhibition venue, an empty apartment of five small rooms in a run-down building in Metaxourgio, Athens, ideal for presenting those two artists’ work. Eliciting both familiarity and intimacy, the compact sequence of spaces not only brings their work in close proximity but also dictates an experience that unfolds as a series of overlapping conversations, where used each room is set up by curator Eleni Papazoglou to fire up a new exchange between the artists.
The domestic setting is especially fitting for Vallance Cantor’s work which includes found objects such as sheets of plastic, napkins and rugs that she paints or scribbles over with markers, acrylics or charcoal, as well as large canvases which are surrounded with flowers and which are propped up on rolls of toilet paper or other household items like glass jars and cans—a practice that brings to mind Chris Ofili’s canvases resting on small piles of elephant dung, but was actually borne out of necessity in the studio Vallance Cantor shares with her artist husband in Berlin. Seen against the vintage marble-chip and cement floors and the weathered parquet, it’s as if the artworks have just been set up for inspection using whatever items were available in the apartment.
Lappas’s abstract drawings, which are in fact unique monotype prints on paper, are conceived as a series of movements and fluctuations that attempt to capture his mental and emotional condition. What at first glance appears chaotic and haphazard, looking closer reveals forms and shapes coming into focus. The opposite is true about Vallance Cantor’s exuberant canvases where the clearly defined figures jump out at the viewer with the forthrightness of a slogan, sometimes literally, yet her intent is the same as Lappas’s. Inspired by the artist’s own two feline companions, her paintings predominantly depict cats as both a testament to “everyday experiences and everyday things” and as representations of her thoughts and emotions.
In Vallance Cantor’s “CONSTIPATED AND ANXIOUS II”, a 1.7 by 1.7 meter oil and charcoal canvas that takes over the room it occupies, a clearly distraught cat, enlarged to fill most of the surface, bares her teeth in discomfort, perfectly capturing the title’s description. The work, propped against a corner on two rolls of toilet paper, is complemented with a runner rug ceremoniously leading the visitor to the painting, on top of which a bowl of white flowers is placed. The set-up elicits a religious act of adoration—where the painting is the altar-piece, the flowers an offering and the rug becomes a prayer mat—albeit one that should not be taken too seriously, as the painting’s epigraph “HOLY FUCK” attests. Accompanied on either side by two small line-drawing by Lappas that occupy a liminal space between mysticism and doodling, the room thus becomes a space where spontaneity and self-awareness meet in reflection.
The reverse dynamic between the two artists is happening across the apartment where this time one of Lappas’s pieces takes center stage. The sculpture, made out of MDF and outlined in black paint, is in essence a grand line drawing rendered in three dimensions. Its abstract, sinuous form is juxtaposed with three smaller works of Vallance Candor: “JUICY NUDES”, a small rug on which she has written the title in bright red acrylic, a small drawing of a cat painted yellow, and, in the middle of the room, "BOJOS", a plastic sheet painted all black from which several eyes peer out. Seen together, Vallance Cantor’s tropes can be interpreted as cues to decipher Lappas’s enigmatic installation.
Another interesting conversation occurs between Vallance Cantor’s “THERE'S A BLOWJOB ON YOUTUBE”, a rug with the titular message written in charcoal, complete with an explanatory sketch, and a large monotype by Lappas, where a Picassoesque human figure seems to be lustily enjoying a cigarette, a self-indulging preoccupation that playfully picks up on Vallance Cantor’s theme.
Similarly in the next room, "I BLED IN YOUR CALVINS", painted on an acrylic sheet and part of Vallance Cantor’s preoccupation with female bodily functions, sits under two large monotypes by Lappas where two nude figures faintly emerge. Their coy disposition and obscure poses take new meaning through Vallance Cantor’s declaration, as well as vis-à-vis the nude man that she has painted lying down in discomfort while holding a fish in “SOAR MUSSELS/MY BOY DREAMS OF FISHES”—a composition that is presumably an inside joke but also quite funny on its own—which is leaning against the opposite wall. It is precisely these dialectic affinities that the exhibition encourages between such disparately idiosyncratic artists that transform their confessional monologues into a thought-provoking dialogue which the visitor is invited to observe or even partake in.
The exhibition Mine, Others and Yours is taking place from 7-21 September 2017 at WE ARE BUD project space in Metaxourgio, Athens. For more information please visit WE ARE BUD's official Facebook page and Instagram.