Aris Kalaizis

Impulse of Joy. The Painter Aris Kalaizis and the Actor Christian Berkel

Anja Jahns describes fer­tile respect between the Ber­liner act­or Chris­ti­an Berkel as well as the inhab­it­ant of Leipzig paint­er Aris Kalaizis

Aris Kalaizis und Christian Berkel in Klinga (2010)
Aris Kalaizis und Christian Berkel in Klinga (2010)

It was a few years ago dur­ing his exhib­i­tion in the „Spin­nerei“ of Leipzig, Ger­many. Aris Kala­izis met the act­or couple Andrea Sawatzki and Chris­ti­an Berkel – and a friend­ship was estaib­lished. Aris has mean­while also done of either one of them. The fact that Chris­ti­an may now become Aris‘co-worker is a first.

Aris Kalaizis | Past Presence Regained | Oil on canvas | 51 x 63 in | 2010
Aris Kalaizis | Past Presence Regained | Oil on canvas | 51 x 63 in | 2010

„I painted the first steps for this paint­ing ten years ago“ says Aris. „When the pro­ject of a col­lab­or­a­tion became more pre­cilsely.“ This dur­a­tion becomes coher­ent, if you look at the way the Leipzig artist with Greek roots nor­mally works. It can take him two of three months to fin­ish a paint­ing. And he works on one at a time only. Hav­ing fin­ished one, he needs to clear his mind again. „So firstly, I look for void. I can only work if I feel this hun­dred per­cent impulse of joy. Feel­ing this void and hes­it­at­ing and wait­ing is import­ant to get to where you have nev­er been before. When I feel this moment of joy then, I must paint. The idea is ini­tially fol­lowed by the search for a place, some back­round he then pho­to­graphs. The pho­to­graphs he then pins above his bed, spec­u­lates about the pos­sib­il­it­ies, cre­ates an ima­gin­ery scene always includ­ing people at the end, takes sev­er­al pic­tures of them. He does. how­ever, not arrange the pic­ture in a pho­to­graph­ic­ally real­ist­ic man­ner. „Because I am not inter­ested in illus­trat­ing real­ity. But to per­ceive real­ity and to con­vert it into some­thing that exceeds real­ity, that is my approach as painter.“

The joint paint­ing shows a man in a thick hooded coat, sled dogs by his side. Whit a mask­ing tape, Aris defines the sec­tions Chris­ti­an should prime for a start – using a thick brush. An easy job for an act­or. Then some trans­lu­cent glaze is applied. „Use a bit less glaze“ Aris recom­mends „and try to work out more struc­ture. Chris­ti­an spreads the trans­lu­cent glaze with a brush and a rag. His enthu­si­asm is grow­ing stead­ily. „The back­ground is intense, like a unruly land­scape, which cre­ates a lot of great ten­sion in the painting.“

He con­tin­ues to work. Aris grins: „From a dis­tance, one might think you are obsessed with clean­ing.“ Now it gets a little harder. Chris­ti­an ought to carve out the sep­ar­a­tion between the legs by using black oil-col­or. He mixes the glaze him­sel­fs and starts with his work. „ It‘s like the ful­fill­ment of a child‘s dream, the move­ment helps you to get out of the sub­con­scious. That‘s great!“ He painted a strong line. Aris is impressed. „ What is your daily rate again?“ Chris­ti­an is still cap­tiv­ated by his actions. „When you are paint­ing, you can dir­ectly see the effects of what you are just doing.“

„That‘s true“, Aris nods. „It‘s relent­less“ To him the painting‘s motif – the shep­herd, the seeker – is also an import­ant meta­phor for him as a paint­er. „One who val­ues what has already been achieved, but con­stantly searches for some­thing high­er, some­thing bet­ter. And thereby gets dis­ap­poin­ted from time to time. What does not keep his from using lanes and byways. A paint­ing that was planned long before­hand, this is where I believe I have my strengtths. My ser­i­ous­ness also has to do with a soci­ety that gets more banal and trivi­al, at least it is tapestried that way. Art can make an altern­at­ive draft here. This could also be the recipe for suc­cess or the reas­on why interest in art has grown so strong over the last years.

Chris­ti­an could not agree more. „What I am exper­i­en­cing today and what dis­tracts me from art, and that‘s a gen­er­al trend in soceity, is that there are few­er and few­er shifts to either up or down. There is some kind of con­stany which is also lead­ing to a con­form­ity. Only a few pieces of art really offer res­ist­ance. How­ever, this one of art‘s approaches. To cre­ate a counter world, a counter image. Often the image can only be cre­ated with the help of a counter image.

Christian Berkel on Stage in Klinga 2010
Christian Berkel on Stage in Klinga 2010


Born in Ber­lin, Ger­many, in 1957. The son of a mil­it­ary doc­tor and a Jew­ish Ger­man moth­er became well known through Oliv­er Hirschbiegel‘s „The Exper­i­ment“, „The Down­fall“ and Quentin Tarantino‘s „Inglouri­ous Bas­terds“. As a act­or with just 19 years he played in Ing­mar Bergman‘s drama „The Serpent‘s Egg“. He is mar­ried with act­ress Andrea Sawatzki. Both are liv­ing in Berlin.

(Source: The Art Adven­ture, BMW-Art Advent Cal­ender Char­ity-Magazin Dez/​2012)

©2012 Aris Kala­izis, Chris­ti­an Berkel, Anja Jahns, Pho­tos: Stef­fen Junghans

© Aris Kalaizis 2024