On December 08, Ludwig van Beethoven conducts the premiere of his seventh symphony at a concert to benefit the soldiers wounded at the Battle of Hanau during the Napoleonic Wars. Composed between 1811-12, the symphony is in four parts, in the scale of A major. The second movement, Allegretto, is by contrast in A minor, and develops in three sections. It begins like a funerary march, with the main motif being an ostensive rhythmical pattern that repeats throughout the first part like a passacaglia, evoking the military funeral processions that must have been very common during the war.
As it moves forward, the movement builds up variations of the melodic material on top of the funeral motif, with one instrument picking up the melodies of the other in every repetition of the main phrase. Academic formal elements (like the passacaglia device and the fugatto at the finale) are contrasted by symphonic ecstasy and overflowing melodic exuberance — which have little to do with a funeral, but still generate a different kind of drama. Instead of a linear monothematic narrative, the Allegretto unfolds more like a musical chiaroscuro, where black and white, joy and mourning, life and death constantly merge into one another. Their contrasts, the points where they meet and the drama of their coexistence create an ever-shifting cloud of bittersweet emotion, bourgeoning with an endless layering of textures and colours.
Somewhere on the Mexican coastline, American street photographer Joel Meyerowitz takes a photo of a playground on the beach (titled Mexico, 1965). Large stainless steel swings and slides stand in golden sand right next to a calm sea, while three children are using them. There is an oblique symmetry between the structures, and the way they have been framed shows how Meyerowitz was conscious of his composition as a total, taking into account the distant mountains, the waterlines and every other element in the photo. Right in the centre of the playground there is a vertical pole rising like an axis around which all the action takes place. The way these contraptions are captured makes them look like one amalgamated apparatus made of metal rods and columns coming out of the sand, forcing us to miss for a moment that these are in fact large toys meant for children to play with.
A pioneer of colour photography back in the 1960’s, Meyerowitz saw his images as “field photographs”: images where, as he says, “everything played an equal role; the people on the street, the architecture, the quality of the day, the angle of the light, the weight of the shadows, the simultaneity of minor events…”  For Meyerowitz, these field photographs are more about the experience of the moment, so that the viewer can partake in the mood and feeling of that specific time and place. The image thus becomes flat and deep at the same time, with the elements sometimes collapsing into one another to create new impossible bodies and shapes.
Just like the motifs of a symphony, the canvases at Philippos Theodorides’s solo exhibition Playground Bay indulge in their own repetition, with similar shapes and elements repeating across different works like a melody that keeps returning on different keys. There’s a definitely uncanny feeling of seeing something recognisable and different at the same time, with repetition being an intentional device for exploring the same idea in different ways, or capturing the same feeling at different moments. What we have here however is not mere repetition, but rhythmicality. The counterpoint of similar elements across different canvases creates a rhythm that carries the eye along. It is rhythm, and not repetition, that releases the body into dance. It is rhythm, and not repetition, that keeps a couple together day after day. Following the works along the gallery walls gives a sense of a story coming full circle, a closure that was perhaps anticipated but still very timely.
Abstraction according to Palestinian artist Samia Halaby is the most advanced way to represent reality, in the sense that it is not something subjective that has nothing to do with the natural world, but a way to describe the general and not the particular.  Going through Philippos Theodorides’s work one can trace how in many of his paintings the particular prompts an expression of the general, and abstraction thus becomes not a means of alienating self-expression but a lucid rendering of a universal state. In the case of Playground Bay, his own personal experiences in Los Angeles as well as the playground photo by Meyerowitz feed into a process of essentialising: of abstraction as a way of finding the core of a mood, a place, a mental state. Just as Beethoven’s 7th is not just about the Napoleonic Wars, Playground Bay is not just about sub-tropical playgrounds. It is about finding that which is shared in another’s view of the world, and exploring reality through its most “advanced” representation.