Aris Kalaizis

The Most Essential Things Lie in That which is Concealed

A dis­cus­sion about abstrac­tion in fig­ur­at­ive paint­ings, art and non-art and the dis­tance between him and seri­al-paint­ings. Form­ally strict, he revolts against the mer­ci­less decon­struc­tion of the mod­ern age. Since he doesn't endeavor to unravel or to demys­ti­fy, we are hence­forth even more induced to enter the realm of what is pos­sible to experience.

Aris Kalaizis | The Great Hope | Oil on canvas | 59 x 71 in | 2002
Aris Kalaizis | The Great Hope | Oil on canvas | 59 x 71 in | 2002

Siegt: Accord­ing to a com­mon pre­ju­dice which is wide­spread among admirers as well as detract­ors, here in Ger­many we under­stand paint­ing from the point of view of ”real­ism” as if a paint­ing could be dir­ectly based on a giv­en obser­va­tion. May I ask you to tell us straight­for­wardly about the way you under­stand painting.

Kala­izis: The European paint­ing tra­di­tion in itself shows us, and this is apart from the dif­fer­ent, flat con­cep­tion of real­ism from the 19th cen­tury, that paint­ing is an inven­ted real­ity. Before and after this time this had always been obvi­ous. Wheth­er or not one works fig­ur­at­ively, abstrac­tion or the abil­ity to cre­ate abstrac­tion should be an essen­tial skill.

S: I’m ask­ing since the ques­tion of reduc­tion or of avoid­ing and omit­ting is of cent­ral import­ance. Could you say that the pro­cess of abstrac­tion serves simplification?

K: Well, you could say so, although I need the pur­ity and clar­ity of the back­ground in order to provide a sup­port for the scen­ari­os which are not neces­sar­ily so obvi­ous. What I need is the per­spect­ive order of space, the inter­ac­tion of col­or, which includes the util­iz­a­tion of a strictly lim­ited palette.

S: Accord­ing to this could one say that the per­ceiv­ing obser­va­tion ought to be com­ple­men­ted by a con­struct­ive imagination.

K: Yes, no ques­tion about it! Yet in your ques­tion you have expressed a gen­er­al mis­un­der­stand­ing, as if there were an almost unbridge­able con­trast between rep­res­ent­a­tion and abstrac­tion. Of course an abstract image can exist without any form of rep­res­ent­a­tion, but a func­tion­ing rep­res­ent­at­ive image can nev­er exist without abstraction.

S: These days a lot of people under­stand abstrac­tion to be some­thing removed from real­ity. Just as if the term in itself does not have a rela­tion­ship to life, as if abstrac­tion is based in a sphere of miss­ing con­nectiv­ity. I under­stand that you are of a dif­fer­ent opin­ion and per­haps you could dis­cuss this a bit?

K: Just recently I was at a ter­rible exhib­i­tion, where I noticed an typ­ic­al example of this. In this pic­ture, which was a paint­ing, you could see a garden in the sum­mer­time. There were a con­sid­er­able num­ber of trees with count­less apples and oranges hanging from them. In front of these, about in the cen­ter of the pic­ture, there was a table with some chairs. Lean­ing on this table there was a shovel, and on one of the chairs there were even some garden scis­sors. In this image there was also a man, who seemed to be determ­ined to attack the observ­er, which in this case meant me. Not only did this guy wear a feath­er in his hat, he also car­ried a briefcase, and from that briefcase the title of a book, painted very pre­cisely, was peek­ing out. Although this paint­ing was undeni­ably executed with a sound crafts­man­ship, it was still a bad picture.

S: So you’ve used an example to the con­trary as an explanation?

K: This is because in that pic­ture, and there are many of these ulti­mately dumb pic­tures, things are only being described one after the oth­er without there being a need for this. The need to present some things and to omit oth­ers is a mat­ter of the con­scious­ness, or tech­nic­ally speak­ing, a mat­ter of the human pro­cessor. I judge the qual­ity of an image based on the spaces between objects which seem sig­ni­fic­ant at first glance. The space in-between is of the same import­ance and thus demands the same amount of con­cen­tra­tion. The equal rep­res­ent­a­tion of things in the sense of a homo­gen­eous descrip­tion, no mat­ter how well executed, is tir­ing and shows that the paint­er is lim­ited with­in his own méti­er, since he is not able to think on a broad­er scale.

S: This might be con­nec­ted with the fact that some artists see the degree of resemb­lance which their rep­res­ent­a­tions achieve as a criterion. 

K: I agree with you. And copy­ing is a mere mat­ter of crafts­man­ship, which in my opin­ion does not yet have any­thing to do with art. I’m also against a kind of paint­ing which ties its value only to the degree of recog­nis­ab­il­ity. I’m against paint­ing the already exist­ing, against por­traits, against unfiltered land­scape paint­ing, so to speak against the entire palette of the ”sum­mer­time garden.” Wouldn’t it be a skill­ful applic­a­tion, if you manip­u­late the object and thus cre­ate a dif­fer­ent situ­ation, which bears a some­what irrit­at­ing factor. Thus, I am able to oppose some­thing and at the same time I’m able to enjoy cer­tain aspects of it. This is my con­stant oppos­i­tion, a con­tra­dict­ory search for a scale which unites both the high and the low notes. Just as after my child­hood I always felt the urge to inter­rupt every­body who star­ted to speak with great sig­ni­fic­ance and to say some­thing ridicu­lous; I’ve used this atti­tude later for myself and have applied it in my painting.

Aris Kalaizis, Field Trial Eight | Assemblage | 34 x 45 in | 2003
Aris Kalaizis, Field Trial Eight | Assemblage | 34 x 45 in | 2003
Aris Kalaizis, Field Trial Three | Assemblage | 34 x 45 in | 2003
Aris Kalaizis, Field Trial Three | Assemblage | 34 x 45 in | 2003

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