The bizarre landscapes of Christos Michaelides
Christos Michaelides explores the limits of painting and sculpture today. The Early Echoes series consists of works with enamel paint on metal sheets, and metal sculptures.
What is the potential of painting today? Or what could it be? As opposed to the past, where painting was predominant, “modern painting is continuously asked to redefine itself in terms of the modern hegemony of the post-cinematic, digital, animated motion picture, and of the conditions under which art is hosted through it”.1
Despite the inherent difficulties in such a condition, Michaelides expands the, at first sight, disjunctive relationship between his representational and abstract painting. In any case, both natures remain within the common conceptual framework of a self-referring exploration of painting’s own potential.2
The artist’s key theme is the landscape, which has been a philosophical signified in Art History and Aesthetics since as early as the Renaissance during which it became a genre.3 However, the landscape tends to be a stimulus triggering his quest for plasticity of the form, rather than an obsession with depiction.
Landscape painting acquires another dimension in the work of the Cypriot artist: mysterious forest areas dominate all of Michaelides’ visual compositions. Geometrical shapes intrude into them; sometimes they emerge from the earth, at other times – on a number of occasions in a violent way- they continue their unending course towards the sky, sharpening up the spectator’s view and imagination, while creating a fluid and ambivalent situation, sometimes mysterious and threatening, but always atemporal.
The human figures dominating some of the visual artist’s landscapes are also enigmatic. People wearing masks and dressed in white overalls are highly evocative of biological warfare, and make up an unfamiliar landscape that gives rise to even more questions.
Another typical characteristic of Michaelides’ work is the intelligible dialogue opened with Western painting, sometimes consciously, at other times implicitly: as regards, either modern painting, as is the case of American artist Ruth Root, or 19th-century German romanticism, as is the case of Caspar David Friedrich.
The combination of all of the above, all the while considering the element of timelessness that holds a dominant position in the visual artist’s entire work, brings us to the disjunctive question: is the Early Echoes series a metaphor for videogames in the Digital Era, or is it a type of future archaeology, if not a futuristic dystopia?
Are the landscapes produced by Michaelides actual or imaginary places? Are the visual artist’s places loci amoeni (places pleasant) or loci terribili (places terrible)?
The Early Echoes series could also be viewed as an allusive comment on the timeless human perception of the landscape, as well as on the relationship between humans and the landscape: a dialectical, conflicting, and, therefore, political, relationship.
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