Aris Kalaizis

Paintings with a future history

The Dutch museum-dir­ect­or Dr. Harry Tupan describes the nar­rat­ive ele­ments at the example of two paint­ings Aris Kalaizis' and the Leipzig School

Aris Kalaizis, Detail: Lost 22 | Oil on wood | 26 x 33 in | 2012
Aris Kalaizis, Detail: Lost 22 | Oil on wood | 26 x 33 in | 2012

Magic­al Real­ism is the head­ing under which one could view the work of Aris Kala­izis from Leipzig. It is a tra­di­tion that the Dutch paint­er Pyke Koch (1901−1991) described as fol­lows: »although magic­al-real­ist­ic depic­tions are pos­sible, they are unlikely.« That which is unlikely can be made likely through paint­ing. And this is pre­cisely what Aris Kala­izis shows us.
But his pic­tures are, how­ever, no mere corol­lar­ies of the purely ima­gin­ary and thus do not present exact effi­gies of dreams. Thus, his work pro­cess starts out as an obser­va­tion of the real world that opn­ens up new per­spect­ives to him. Cer­tainly, the air of a quest­ing nature belongs to him. But we may still safely say that Kala­izis is reli­ant on the shapes and col­ors that are in the invent­ory of our real­ity in order to approach a deep­er, inner, and fun­ally con­cealed real­ity. One could also describe this cre­at­ive pro­cess a dia­lect­ic­al unit of being an consciousness.

…obser­va­tion of the real world

His pic­tures are very exact, almost pho­to­graph­ic­al (but nev­er photoreal­ist­ic) rep­res­ent­a­tions por­tray­ing a neut­ral, even ration­al real­ity, on the one hand, and the irra­tion­al­ity of dream­s­capes, on the oth­er hand. He paints fig­ures in uncom­mon situ­ations that may irrit­ate the behold­er. For many this ten­sion brings about an effect of a strik­ing sense of estranging dis­place­ment, which at the same time is a great source of fas­cin­a­tion and attraction.

Without a doubt, Kala­izis often hints at a hid­den mys­tery that some­how tran­scends the sur­face of the pic­ture as in some sort of oth­er­world, which ori­gin­ated in the artist's dreams, mani­fest­ing his desires, the per­cep­tions of his imagination.

His works cer­tainly also exhib­it a dis­tinctly cine­ma­to­graph­ic char­ac­ter. They seem like still pic­tures, a freeze, that has care­fully been com­posed and orches­trated. This isn’t sur­pris­ing when one is a bit famil­i­ar with the artist's work­flow. Kala­izis indeed does pre­cede the paint­ing of a scene with build­ing the scene before­hand, elab­or­ate sets in which some­times human mod­els are placed.

The term often used in expert circles, »Neue Leipzi­ger Schule«, sig­ni­fies the third gen­er­a­tion of paint­ers who came forth from the dis­tin­guished Hoch­schule für Grafik und Buch­kunst, The Academy of Visu­al Arts. The term is more of an umbrella term than the label of a spe­cif­ic school. As a gradu­ate from that academy, Aris Kala­izis belongs to this group of artist, but it is more pro­duct­ive to con­sider his work indi­vidu­ally and inde­pend­ently from this con­text. His pic­tures are marked by a nar­rat­ive habit­us, which is char­ac­ter­ist­ic of the Leipzig tra­di­tion and we know so well from the work of Neo Rauch.

These paint­ings invoke ques­tions. We see an angel in a con­tem­por­ary set­ting. Courbet, the fam­ous French Real­ist said in the 19th cen­tury: “How could I paint an angel, if I've nev­er seen one?” As in the piece »Mak­ing Sky« (2008), the angel is only wear­ing a thong and seems to have sunken down into the scene through the broken ceil­ing. Those are angels we enjoy look­ing at – attract­ive, young, erot­ic. The beau­ti­ful body is high­lighted by a cir­cu­lar mir­ror and its blue frame that has been moun­ted on a wall with striped wallpaper.

Aris Kalaizis | The Hour of Disembodiment | Oil on canvas | 55 x71 in | 2012
Aris Kalaizis | The Hour of Disembodiment | Oil on canvas | 55 x71 in | 2012

Here we may observe the com­pos­i­tion­al bril­liance of Aris Kala­izis in optima forma. The beam that has crashed down and is now sus­pen­ded diag­on­ally with planks still attached to it has been moved in front of the angel, and con­nects every ele­ment with­in the com­pos­i­tion, includ­ing the man lean­ing on the oval table with his hand. He doesn’t seem to be real­iz­ing the mir­acle that is tak­ing place behind him. The artist, if asked about the mean­ing of this, simply shrugs his shoulders. Aris Kala­izis doesn’t offer com­ment­ary on his work. The behold­ers are to decide what we see in these works.

»The Hour of Dis­em­bod­i­ment« (2012) is a spe­cial piece of work in his Oeuvre that is summed up nicely by the fluor­es­cent let­ters on the bar. We are watch­ing the lib­er­a­tion of the ascend­ing mater­i­al body, while the spir­it – sym­bol­ized by the head on the counter – stays behind. Dressed like an archa­ic gravedig­ger, a male fig­ure in a black suit and a dark hat gently holds the spir­it back. The repet­it­ive viol­et pat­tern in the back­ground accen­tu­ates the ver­tic­al thrust and dir­ects our gaze upwards. The bar­keep­er is con­scious of the mir­acle that his tak­ing place before his very eyes, ›Wun­derbar!‹

Aris Kalaizis | The Scroll | Oil on canvas | 63 x 83 in | 2013
Aris Kalaizis | The Scroll | Oil on canvas | 63 x 83 in | 2013

In the large-size paint­ing »The Scroll« (2013) we are meet­ing with a duplic­ated angel that prob­ably just entered the scene. Is the man lying head­long on the floor exhal­ing his last breath or is new wind rean­im­at­ing him through the scroll? In this mod­ern cru­ci­fix­ion scene, everything seems to be frozen and tied down. And yet the paint­ing sug­gest move­ment. The hope and abysmal des­pair of our exist­ence anti­cip­ate a future in its narrative?

This is where the mas­tery of Aris Kala­izis is revealed. The char­ac­ter­ist­ic com­bin­a­tion of artist­ic intel­li­gence, crafts­man­ship, and phant­asy – all this comes togeth­er in this piece.

…enig­mat­ic light

I'd like to con­clude with a few final remarks on one import­ant aspect in his work — light. In many of his paint­ings, we encounter an enig­mat­ic light that in shape of bundles of rays almost seems super­nat­ur­al. Some­times, it is a simple light bulb or the head­lights of a car or an illumined globe. Light sources always play an import­ant role in his com­pos­i­tions – tech­nic­ally as well as in regard to the paint­ings sub­ject and substance.

›Wun­der­licht, wunderbar!‹

Aris Kalaizis and Harry Tupan in the café of the Drents-museum where the Kalaizis-element "Wunderbar" is integrated
Aris Kalaizis and Harry Tupan in the café of the Drents-museum where the Kalaizis-element "Wunderbar" is integrated

Dr. Harry Tupan was born in 1958. He stud­ied art his­tory at the Uni­ver­sity of Gronin­gen and was respons­ible for mul­tiple inter­na­tion­al exhib­i­tions and pub­lic­a­tions. In 2009, he cur­ated ›Real­ism from Leipzig. Three Gen­er­a­tions Leipzig School‹ as well as ›The Soviet-Myth. Social­list Rreal­ism 1932 – 1960‹ in 2013. He is a spe­cial­ist for fig­ur­at­ive art and is lead­ing mem­ber of board of dir­ect­ors at the Drents Museum (NL).

©2014 Harry Tupan | Aris Kalaizis

© Aris Kalaizis 2024