The Praxis of Radiance and Form
The workflow of this painter is by no means marked by nervous hyperproductivity. Instead, Aris Kalaizis combines multiple methods when developing his pictures: 1) an inner sense of emptiness that makes him receptive to his inner eye; 2) the patience to rediscover and relocate this numinous feeling in real places, objects, and figures; 3) he builds up a model of his vision in the profane reality of his atelier or outdoors; 4) the photographic documentation of this model, for which he often employs an army of builders, carpenters, supernumeraries, and professional actors; 5) referencing those photos, he develops the canvas version of his vision; 6) the laborious realization of the painting in oil. The complex and extensive cascade of his workflow only allows him to produce a small number of paintings per year, maybe five or six. This small number of works per year indicates how highly Kalaizis values and honors the creative principle active in the process of artistic production. Creation is of course also skill and toil, but there is also an element in it that cannot be produced or demanded whenever it is required, a paramount mystery that must be patiently waited upon and then carefully weighed once encountered. Acting upon the fleeting apparition of that mystery with the skill, cunning, and patience of the craftsman, is the root of Aris Kalaizis' art.
In this creative process, especially the third stage shows how serious this painter is about his inner eye. His inspiration begins by turning away from the impressions that the outward physical world offers to us, in order to turn back to these impressions later more decidedly, after having encountered that which is within us. In an era dominated by an overbearing flood of media images, Aris Kalaizis is an insightful ascetic who cautiously cultivates the skill of introspection. Emptiness – mental as well as emotional, but also an emptiness of sight – is how this painter attains the clairvoyance needed to envision the wealth of potential creation. As soon as the mood is right, as soon as this strange glimpse of plenty has illuminated the retina of his inner eye, he enters into an intensive phase of planning out further steps that may lead him closer to the final product. In the following phase, Kalaizis seeks to give his vision a tentative material reality by constructing a life-size model. Building a model however is not a marginal event, but is an essential part of his aesthetic process. It involves elaborate scaffolding, fake walls, ceilings, hardwood floors, fixtures, props, lighting, actors, and costumes. In preparing the model that lead to the painting Homegrown (2011), for example, it was necessary to construct a large basin in an abandoned factory, which was flooded with water one foot deep. After then placing an aircraft engine and a full length rotor blade into basin, the actress Andrea Sawatzki was asked to take her position in the scene. The model for Past Presence Regained (2010), which shows Christian Berkel (Inglourious Basterds), was set at a private lake close to Leipzig: a wooden cabin floating on a raft, a bridge was built from the shore, the surrounding trees were cropped, white cylinders were fixed on the water surface, and finally the actor was asked to balance on a second raft, while the painter took multiple photos. This process of course requires a great deal of logistical coordination, when for instance the root of a tree is needed to be transported into the second floor of a building, or when deep ditches need to be dug, only to fill them with artificial fog and light, or when animals or animal carcasses are to play a role in the painting.
In the process of building models, Aris Kalaizis generates a photographic inventory for his oil painting. He uses the photographs as memory devices, arranging and rearranging what they show, when he develops the final composition. Thus, this outwardly active phase is followed by a period of patient assessment – and finally of the outwardly serene phase of painting, during which the only movements are made by his hands.
What is the history of these hands? What is their story? Who do the hands of Aris Kalaizis belong to? Where do they come from? Whence their skill?