Paintings that come from a Inner Felling

Dr. Peter Schlüter understands Aris Kalaizis a cryptic painter who rebels with formal severity, against the pitiless deconstruction of our modern age. In this article treated the paintings from 2001 to 2003

The Ideal Crash | Oil on canvas | 4x 53 x 69 in | 2001/02
The Ideal Crash | Oil on canvas | 4x 53 x 69 in | 2001/02

Aris Kalaizis’ paintings reveal a delight in arrangement. The components out of which the whole work is composed are very precisely placed next to or above each other. In short: they are constructed. The approach to his work is staging. He designs his paintings carefully and patiently in his mind. The clear forms of his interior images gradually develop into a precisely constructed total arrangement. The fact that he often speds months or even years on a painting is proof of his inner contemplation. This patience in the developing of his paintings is evidence of the calmness of his deep contemplation, his thoughtful reverie.

Kalaizis calmly allows the painting which he has decided to tackle to mature inside himself, allows it to take over him, to penetrate him. He is certainly not a painter with a continuous production. One couls see this development process which is characterized by slowness as a kind of counter design, as a rejection of the asembly-line product of post-modern painting. The absence of any kind of sketching, however, is not typical for a painter. Kalaizis prefers photography to sketching, since the surrounding places with all of their forms onla become comprehensible to him through this method. Of course, this unconventional approach is based at first on the painter’s observing approach. On the one hand he thus utilizes contemplation, and on the other hand this kind of observation grants him the opportunity to keep his distance.

...is certainly not a painter with a continuous production. One couls see this development process which is characterized by slowness as a kind of counter design, as a rejection of the asembly-line product of post-modern painting

In this way the painter borrows the painting locations of his environment, peels them out of their surroundings, as if the background scenes to be painted show the elements which have been overlooked to their best advantage. Like very few others he utilizes what is found and doggedly insist on conquering it as he has in his picture series The Ideal Crash or Fargo I/II. If his method sucessfully creates a linking, as it does in these paintings, a narration arises which is consistent with a „re-fetching“‚ in the sense of a regaining by the entire painting.

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

His earlier paintings already refer to a repeating expression. The are already severely sparing and captivate by their precise eye for concrete detail. In his years as a student at the Leipzig Academy of Visual Art he undertook an intense study of the pure formalism of Francis Bacon. While the paintings from these years attempted to evade any kind of conveying communication, it can be claimed today that the possibility of a narration has taken the place of the erstwhile negating interpretation of the painting. His artistic reality now allows for interpretability. The painter is still for invention, yet he has given up his studied avoidance of stories. One could say this: His prayer has now taken the form of narration. Of course, his painting has changed considerably since this time. Yet, the experiences of his student years still resonate in his most recent paintings. They, too, are compact and full of form. Yet, besides the emergency of clarity, they still need an element of uncertainty.

...that which is moveable seems to be rigid and that which is appears to be uncanny

The inventiveness of his precise, very considered naturalism represses any obvious realism and forms he foundation of the specific modernity of his images. The various paths of narrative interpretability are based less on a conventional expression of description, than on a magically animated world, which develops ist own life. By means of this magical narration things move into a new light in which they begin to radiate themselves. The impression which is evoked by a contemplation of his pictures arouses a certain dizziness, a disturbance of the internal balance which is based on perception so that the accustomed order, the structure of our world with all its steadfastness is affected. Through him the objects become ambiguous, and they evoke the question as to what extent they can be trusted. Life and death, dream and reality flow strangely into each other. That which is moveable seems to be rigid and that which is appears to be uncanny.

Kalaizis has no set topic in mind which will appease the experts. For him the context lies more closely to existence. Ho follows no topic; rather, he produces topic. In this context it is not surprising that Kalaizis declares himself to be neither a realist a realist nor a surrealist. However, a realistic tendency cannot be denied, not so much because he represents every day situations, but because he is able to lend a radiant reality to the potential which is concealed in the most commonplace objects. For one must distinguish between a surface reality and an in-depth reality, which might explain why Kalaizis does not declare himself absolutely to be a realist. In any case one might be allowed to assume that, despite his earlier protestations, he expresses a reality which does not correspond with an outer reality, but rather captures his own inner reality in his paintings.

While he was influeced in his early years by the painting of the Englishman Francis Bacon, one painter has continuously accompanied him from his beginnings to the present day: Jusepe Ribera. He has had an unceasing admiration for the great, gloomy baroque painter and has given him the role of an authoritative teacher. In Ribera Kalaizis sees a painter „ ...who designs his hopeless existence in paintings.“ His paintings, however, have an increasing effect of objecting to Ribera, since more and more Kalaizis sees his own life as a „gift of existence“.

...high level of sense to the general, a mysterious appearance to the usual, the dignity of the unfamiliar to the familiar, and the appearance of infinity to the finite

In his painting Die große Hoffnung (The Great Hope) from the year 2002 Kalaizis has thus structured two people before a dilapidated backdrop of a location where there once had been much activity. In tis seemingly dreary landscape he has organized a dynamic of movement which begins with an apparently needy person in the background and extends itself diagonally up to the top left-hand corner of the painting, where the head of a seductively beautiful woman can be found. One could assume that the extended arm of the man is striving for his female temptation, who seems to be distancing herself from him. Yet Kalaizis has constructed this woman who dominates the space only as a facade. The actual formal structure as well as the center with regard to context ist he plastic bag. This object which is apparently floating upwards in the wind and which the artist painted with the only warm color tones in the picture, represents a metaphor for the Annunciation for the person who is lying on the ground.

This metaphor reflects a baroque scene for the Annunciation, one which had already occured via the presence of angels in early Christian paintings. The fact that the man is able to see allows him to understand the situation and this enlightens his dignity. The forcefulness which has been worked through the whole picture is based on the confrontation of two image worlds, two parallel universes. On the one hand there ist he iconography of medieval salvation-histories, on the other there is the media world of today’s visual offers of redemption. Kalaizis does not separate thes two worlds; he rather links them together by installing a poetic hinge. The two worlds are thus placed on top of each other in a mysterious manner, so that they can no longer be distinguished from each other. Elements from today receive the appearance of yesterday, and the past receives a taste of the present. Of course, the medieval promises of bliss stand for a universe of a certain sense which is closed in itself, and we feel this loss to be tragic today because we no longer have faith in this cosmos, but would like to have retained the sense of it. In The Great Hope Kalaizis avoids a decisive outcome and retains uncertainty within the realm of possibility, no matter how hopeful the message may seem. This painting is a paradigm which imparts secular elements, but which is by no means a secular painting.

The Visit | Oil on canvas | 53 x 69 in | 2001
The Visit | Oil on canvas | 53 x 69 in | 2001

One believes that one can get close to his pictures, since the actions are presented in such a clear way, but on eis defeated by a second glance. He accomplishes this by granting a high level of sense to the general, a mysterious appearance to the usual, the dignity of the unfamiliar to the familiar, and the appearance of infinity to the finite. Enigmatic elements always seem to be indispensable and never to be added on, since they can be presumed to have arisen from the secrets of the painter.

Yet there are also the classical elements of Frauenbilder (Pictures of Woman, 2002) in which he gives expression to the mute strength of the portrait. In these portraits everything seems to be analogized: lighting, posture, dress and color. However, an emptiness which intended by the artist reigns within them, which weakens the classical individualizing portrait. An upsetting factor is almost always present. In Der Besuch (The Visit, 2001) a person comes into the picture who one might think comes from a time far back in the past. The tension in the picture arises because science stands between this prehistorically appearing man and his presumed rights. There is a tremendous explosive power in this constellation which is nourished by the physical superiority of early man, implied by the club, and by the subtle power of an intellectually and technically equipped group of researchers. A discharge of this power does not result.

Kalaizis’ paintings would not really be his if one did not feel the peculiar tension which lies beneath the calm surface. This kind of painting does not only consist ofits outer appearance. It is loaded with a strange vehemence within an atmosphere of highest sensualitiy. Even in the work Eine Sehnsucht (A Yearing, 2003), one of his most delicate paintings, an enlightening causation has been avoided. This painting, which can be perceived as a double image with the artist himself painted with his wife Annett, is anything but a selfexposing revelation. The flower which functions as leitmotif holg the entire scene together like a repeating pattern. The man is emerging from a cellar entrance, which itself might be able to explain everything; yet, this image has been only indicated.

...feel the peculiar tension which lies beneath the calm surface

In Fargo I/II (2002/03) Kalaizis consistently avoids even the smallest indication of a chaos-creating caus. In both paintings there is no evidence, no suspicion. And yet there is a threat which hovers over them. Something seems to be taking place outside the scene of the painting. In principle, this is like an ancient theater drama, in which the actual action never appears to be taking place on the stage itself. A perspective is hus revealed to the observer in which he can continue his own story within his own consciousness. Although the persons in both pictures are almost identical, and the backround scenery almost appears to coincide, these are still independet paintings. This can be explained less by the way the protagonists seem to have been thrown together coincidentally than by the increase of artifice. Why should that which has already occured not happen once again?

Despite the apparently tographical repetition, Fargo I/II is an expedition into the realm of possibility with a new arrangement of senses. In them one cannot rest, one has not arrived, one must continue to search. This is a why these great paintings are inexplicable, and this pecisely the eason why the demand interpretation again and again. This distinguishes creation from a mere work. And in this triumphant drama of appearances everything is simultaneous: magig, grace and sweetness.

©2003 Peter Schlüter | Aris Kalaizis

Dr. Peter Schlüter is a freelance journalist. He is living in Berlin and Amsterdam