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    Evros Evriviades
          
Sites and Scenes of the Familiar

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''That means… we would have to eat of the tree of knowledge a second time to fall back into the state of innocence."
"Of course," he answered, "and that is the final chapter in the history of the world."

Heinrich von Kleist
On the Puppet Theater (trans. Philip B. Miller)*

 

I am picturing the visit I made to Evros Evriviades’ atelier and the rest of his property where his constructions are “exhibited” for private view.

Eclectic materials, ready-made household objects, manufactured parts, remnants of tools, plastic toys, knick-knacks of pop culture, funny animals, small porcelain vessels, decorative objects, small-scale replicates of well-known statues of Aphrodite, fabric, metal, polyester, plastic, plaster, porcelain, rope…

Cheap materials that lend themselves to the creation of small anomalies in space and peculiar pairings that explore sites of memory and perception, with the demand that it be handled with sensitivity and particular thoroughness. An exploration into x-treme games, delicate, risk-laden work with ready-mades. Objects superimposed and juxtaposed, set in contrast and confrontation-a world of small worlds, a form of “simple” entertainment, an osmosis between High and Low that bears an aura from far beyond the ephemeral and makes the viewer pause in front of them and let his gaze wander around them; a strategy for organization and ordered process, as found in the bedrocks of culture, with means and forms selected from a wide range of references, systems and multiple interrelationships.

Works of art in process or ready as statement and exhibit, a scene of stories articulated at times with references to fairy tales, at times in a literally futuristic atmosphere and with a surrealistic wish to render the conceptual perfection of pop with the requisite visual sophistication or paranoia.

The forms and ways in which a work of art has been realized reveal first of all the subjective intentions of the artist himself; at the same they determine how each age defines its aesthetics. A century after the liberating principles advanced by Dada and the poetics of surrealist objects we can clearly see that the groundwork laid by modern and modernist practices set forth a common demand: the independence of thought, which every creative process requires, but also playfulness, humor and deconstructive logic. And a scale large enough to accommodate variations and unexpected reversals of the absurd, as if authenticity were to be found in reusing existing shapes, as if the objects of a civilization which have lost their original context could be creatively transformed into a strange yet appealing spectacle.

A large part of Evriviades’s talent is his characteristic insistence on the playful and imaginative use of a bric-à-brac of objects and memories, his insistence on a demanding handcraftsmanship that forges a highly individual path. A child plays and becomes engrossed in a game of putting together the jumble of pieces before him. So, too, does the artist, but the difference here is that the latter consciously uses the allegory of the game, provoking at the same time a redefinition of the values that characterize or enhance aesthetic qualities. The remnant of the child’s way of thinking is transformed into the creative manual labor of the adult.

I spent hours examining his assemblages, these small microcosms that unleash a chain of imaginative narratives, and made notes to record the thoughts that sprung to mind.

Evriviades’s objects/constructions are ambiguous, hybrid and simultaneously iconoclastic, with strong elements of the grotesque and with the strange and absurd eroticism between unrelated and unlike things. What we have here are smug oddities that seem to be enjoying a covenant of cohesiveness in which they agree to coalesce into an assemblage or even into an organic whole within their creative sphere. There are times, I think, when we encounter things that have an elusive charm, an almost natural grace, a “something” that most of the time remains indeterminate. They are often impressions based on the element of surprise - or better, on the element that impregnates the “grand beauties” - which begin from the familiar, even the ordinary, but nonetheless proceed to the uncanny, the peculiar, and thus to the wondrous. Unpredictable relations and correlations, a riot of meticulous details in diverse proportions and scale that lets loose narrative caprices and that emblematically epitomizes the dilemma between the neoteny and maturement of art but also… of life.

Like surrealist montages set on pedestals and informed by study and knowledge (an equally important part of the overall visual proposal), Evriviades’s sui generis art works are places, myths and ambitions, arrangements and rearrangements, motionless spaces faithful to their own instantané. Utopian bibelots, objects for the adult’s aesthetic pleasure. A pop aesthetic with a generous measure of the familiar but of the unfamiliar and strange as well. Constructions of makeshift games or makeshift farces combining Freudian psychoanalysis and the interpretation of dreams that are interwoven with the almost hallucinatory meanderings of the artist-as-seafaring-Little-Nemo. Nonetheless, they demand to be read as seriously as the official art of the canvas is. In his last group of works and in a clearly personal style that is highly suggestive of “manual labor”, Evriviades seems to be piecing together variations of stage sets in continuous mutation, and in so doing leads us to a “privatization” of utopia and to interpretations that quicken and liberate thought.

Mousetrap castles or women’s shoes caught in a trap.
Carts like Epitaphioi.
Receptacles/gardens that have sprouted feathers.
Terraced “arks” with white ponies affectionately conversing.
A large talisman, mandala and target in one.
A paradisiacal space/a boat that transports the Goddess.
Raised totems of Aphrodite**, decorated with a diverse mix of toy animals, toy soldiers, pearls, feathers, braids, votive charms.
Buggies with the Triumph of Aphrodite, overflowing with flowers and fruit, or Aphrodite Flora, Spring herself.
A savannah of hard yellow brushes inviting Aphrodite to take a stroll.
Aphrodite in the land of the Nile, with golden hens and a turkey, all a fetish of fertility.
Encomiastic cakes with flying Aphrodites.
An Aphrodite adorée wrapped in a mauve-dorée floral-print tie and guarded by toy soldiers.

An Aphrodite, tied and bound but dazzlingly bronzed, touched by the hands of the healers and the healed, the Aphrodite Chaironeia and others, and others, and still others… all handmaidens of the Beautiful, in the familiar and in the grandness that lies beyond the familiar.

A visual mythology, but one in which archetypal symbols and codes are used to express the personal experience of the artist. Assemblages with cumulative self-referencing details, re-situated in arrays of narrative chains, offer the viewer a wealth of unique opportunities to explore concepts of play, memory and the image of memory, dream-fiction, associative references to symbols that classify systems of thought and aesthetic experience. A visual mythology whose main aim is to draw attention to the allegories of Beauty and/or the Beautiful. An ironic handling that identifies and records a mutation of meaning with regard to the idea of the image and the means by which it is observed, and documents the adventure of roaming through the imaginary world of the tableaux vivants. At the same an effort at masquerade and pretexts to recruit memory. A poetic disposition to comment on past moments or the here-and-now, all of it an imaginative, expressive and highly individual patchwork, one that suggests a preoccupation with the search for identity. An attempt to adapt an artistic temperament that seeks refuge in the knowledge of a few age-old enduring values: whatever is connected to the body, to sensations and to nature, but put forward indirectly, suggestively.

I wonder if Evriviades in the end is a dreamer or a romantic. Is he being ironic or critical? I would say he’s encouraging, as if he were confessing: “Live the ephemeral joy of the game – there’s no sense in building tombs…” or even “Aphrodite arose naked from the spume of the sea, go dress her…” but not of course with the conventional costume of maidenhood but with whatever a creator of shapes and forms could choose from: taking everyday objects, building assemblages, tinkering, in the end playing an exciting adventure of the heart and soul, inviting us to share in the world of games he has created.

Thalea Stefanides
Art historian and critic – Curator
June 2011

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* From An Abyss Deep Enough: Letters of Heinrich von Kleist with a Selection of Essays and Anecdotes. Edited, translated, and introduced by Philip B. Miller. EP Dutton.

 

** Note: Among the best-known museum Aphrodites are the Cnidian Aphrodite, a Roman copy of the work by Praxiteles, the Venus de Milo of course, Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, Titian’s Venus of Urbino and Manet’s Olympia. However, the Aphrodite that remains unrivaled is the one at her birthplace, the Petra tou Romiou in Cyprus, the one the eye cannot see.

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