Kalaizis grew up in communist East Germany, the son of Greek exiles. He has become a prominent member of the so-called New Leipzig School, and in 2005 he had his first extended stay in the United States. The paintings created that year, printed in the exhibition catalog "Rubbacord", combine Kalaizis’s typical subject matter: mysterious situations that allude to the presence of something eerie, something not directly pronounceable, with elements of American landscape and architecture. One understands immediately why these concrete and glass façades, not cold but just smooth and sterile, have found their way so easily into Kalaizis’s world of imagery; they meet his need for "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” (interview between Jan Siegt and Aris Kalaizis, "Rubbacord." p. 69). “Olentangy River I – III”, all in tondo format, show a river, strange concrete shapes in front of it or reaching into it, and vegetation in the background, on the other shore.
...the presence of something eerie, something not directly pronounceable
The contrast between two areas emerges quite distinctly: in the first picture of the series a clean concrete or stone curb encloses a very artificial lawn, where bright synthetic green, almost unreal, contrasts with the water, the dark trees and the pale blue sky and white clouds. The two areas, artificial and natural, are in indirect tension with one another; they negate each other. If one were to cover the lower part of the painting, a relatively peaceful piece of land remains, whose abyssal nature – indicated subtly by the different color of the flowing water and the black edge of the opposite shore – is accented only by the apparent “purity and clarity” of the foreground. It now seems strange how the foreground itself becomes somehow shady. Suddenly one does not trust the cleanliness and the peace any longer, and becomes aware of a menace somehow emanating from this foreground.
"An der Oper" [At the Opera]: a bright street, again a neat lawn, and the stone wall of a building with five rectangular openings, one perhaps a door, the other four windows in which, entirely unexpectedly, a dark forest is reflected. A path of sand leads up to the door, somewhat orange in color (introduced into the scenic composition like an extract from a piece of pop art). One would not quite dare to pass through it, for it may lead to an elusive twilight zone, like the entrance way in "Der falsche Weg" [The Wrong Way]. Does this dark area actually lie within this building, do the reflections show not what is without, but rather what is within, behind the façade?
This association is surely not wrong, though it may be misleading. Behind the smooth façade of consciousness, under the surface of the ego-shell lies rejection, ready for any kind of aggression - as established by the psychoanalytical approach. We Europeans are ever quick to the draw when tracing down the violent potential of the reified American society. Perhaps we make use of a theoretical construct which has long since become the subject of doubt. Perhaps Kalaizis plays with it without following its prior conditions. Let us take a closer look. The traces of a lawn mower on the grass in front of the opera lead directly to the window panes; as if the machine had driven into them, penetrating into the realm of the woods, so to speak. But this realm is not behind the painting, the painting itself is this realm. If we succeeded in perceiving the reflection on the panes, which in the first instance refers to a space lying outside the picture and then possibly to another one behind it, as its surface on which light and dark meet, we truly would turn into its beholders and would not any longer look for hidden objects in or behind it.
...does not lead into another area, but constitutes - together with the house front and its blue windows
The painting refers to its own surface, hence to itself. Thus, the entrance in “Der Falsche Weg [The Wrong Way]” does not lead into another area, but constitutes - together with the house front and its blue windows, the patch of grass, the street and the double figure of the girl with the anorak – its space on which or within which – its contrasting components meet. And "Die Nacht an jedem Tag" [The Night on Every Day], that continues to play and elaborate on the doppelganger motif, already points out in its title that the night, the ominous clouds, the second, smaller house with the empty windows and, of course, the woman dressed in black standing in front of it, call forth the presence of darkness and mystery under the light of day, and subsequently do so for the inner eye. The intertwinement of contradiction presents itself as a composition of its own: The picture does not consist of painted objects but of layers and structures that form a “place” which produces “the occurrences" or the figures on which the attention focusses at first (interview, in: “Rubbacord”, p. 71); pointing to itself by means of its contents is an essential element of the picture's reflection. Therefore it does not mean anything else, for that which wishes to isolate itself as meaning withdraws and becomes part of its own existence. The painting thereby creates its own special reality. Of which kind? That will require further examination.