Aris Kalaizis

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

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

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

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 façade. 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.

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

© Aris Kalaizis 2024