Aris Kalaizis

Tension, Uneasiness, Curiosity

In this text cir­cum­scribes the Dres den­crit­ic and cur­at­or, Susanne Alt­mann, the Leipzig Aris Kalaizis' world as a claus­tro­phobic ten­sion space in which the fig­ures seem to be on the edge of the selfresolution

Aris Kalaizis | The Cabin | Oil on canvas | 39 x 47 in | 2006
Aris Kalaizis | The Cabin | Oil on canvas | 39 x 47 in | 2006

Leipzig. The car. The house. The forest. The man. These are the four ele­ments com­bined by New Leipzig School paint­er Aris Kala­izis in his paint­ing Holzhaus (The Cab­in). They appear side-by-side on the stage of the can­vas and, as in good theat­er, he man­ages to make the view­er for­get that this con­stel­la­tion was con­trived in the ima­gin­a­tion of its author. We are cap­tiv­ated by the sug­gest­ive power of the plot and by its refus­al of res­ol­u­tion. But what is the secret of this coherence?

…to cre­ate a meta­phys­ic­al atmosphere

Why does this com­bin­a­tion work? Is it the water hose in the man’s hands that holds the ele­ments togeth­er? Is it the clev­erly devised, arti­fi­cial-look­ing light­ing? Is it the tense, slightly milky air that makes this out­door space vibrate? Or is it the starkly defined patch of dark soil on which the action unfolds? Water, fire, air, earth — an ana­logy to the four ele­ments that hold our world togeth­er in gen­er­al is one pos­sible inter­pret­a­tion. In this read­ing, the male fig­ure would be less a prot­ag­on­ist than a prop to cre­ate a meta­phys­ic­al atmo­sphere. And the action really does seem to focus primar­ily on the brightly lit win­dow of the wooden house at the cen­ter of the pic­ture — although con­tent of the kind one would tra­di­tion­ally expect at the cen­ter of a com­pos­i­tion is simply refused.

View­ing this scene, one exper­i­ences an inter­play of sus­pense, unease, curi­os­ity, and iden­ti­fic­a­tion whose psy­cho­lo­gic­al intens­ity is respons­ible for the unmis­tak­able mood of many of Aris Kalaizis’s works. Inde­pend­ent of a sup­posed before or after, such scenes draw heav­ily on their sim­il­ar­ity to movie stills. It is no coin­cid­ence that Kala­izis is attrac­ted to film­makers like Wim Wenders and Jim Jar­musch. In this sense, per­haps the bright aper­ture can be read as a ref­er­ence to the magic of cinema, as a trib­ute to spe­cif­ic mas­ters of the mov­ing image. The house’s interi­or could be the set­ting for explos­ive, scin­til­lat­ing scenes with two act­ors, like Kim Basing­er and Sam Shep­ard in a motel room on the verge of men­tal dis­sol­u­tion in Robert Altman’s Fool For Love (1986).

In many cases, the pro­found­est dimen­sion of such movie plots unfolds bey­ond what we see on screen; in the kind of North Amer­ic­an epic cinema clearly favored by Aris Kala­izis, the mood is often sub­lim­in­ally under­pinned by invis­ible inter­ac­tions, impen­et­rable set pieces or set­tings. Such moments, rich in inde­cipher­able emphas­is, are cap­tured in his pic­tures; less as quo­ta­tions than as symp­toms of every­day absurdit­ies and dark depths.

The kind of strange but far from incon­ceiv­able encounter fea­tured in the paint­ing Bahren is also part of this them­at­ic range. As in The Cab­in, the two prot­ag­on­ists meet out­doors, provid­ing a show­case for the artist’s ded­ic­a­tion and vir­tu­os­ity in the por­tray­al of nature. Pen­tagrass, the most eer­ie motif in the cur­rent selec­tion, is also set out­doors, in a park that actu­ally exists, but the view­er is not offered much cause for relief. All three paint­ings con­tain highly claus­tro­phobic com­pon­ents, which Kala­izis likes to put to pro­gram­mat­ic use in terms of both spa­tial organ­iz­a­tion and psy­cho­lo­gic­al order. In interi­ors like Stella, this aspect is fur­ther intensified.

And because his pic­tures are care­fully assembled out of indi­vidu­al pho­to­graph­ic ele­ments or based on exist­ing text sketches, he can cer­tainly be con­sidered a dir­ect­or. This is what gives rise to the blend of appre­hen­sion and famili­ar­ity, banal­ity and mys­tery that makes every one of his pic­tures an emo­tion­al and intel­lec­tu­al chal­lenge for the viewer.

(Source: cata­logue Artists Exchange Free State of Sax­ony – Columbus/​Ohio, German/​English)

©2007 Susanne Alt­mann | Aris Kalaizis

Susanne Alt­mann, born in 1964, is a freel­ance art crit­ic and cur­at­or who writes for a num­ber of sev­er­al Ger­man news­pa­pers and magazins. Alt­mann lives and works in Dresden.

© Aris Kalaizis 2024