MUSEUM AVEROFF in GREECE "Creative Encounters"
Stavros Kotsireas & Sir Peter Blake
3 OCT 2020 - 18 JAN 2021
05/03/19STAVROS KOTSIREAS - METAMORPHOSES
"All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts! - William Shakespeare1
We live in a highly transitional period, in which the demand to redefine politics and review social values acquires has become urgent in every length and width of the planet. Riots and the rise of the far-right in most countries of the so-called "civilized" Western world reveal a serious challenge for the very principles on which it was built. In a post-truth and alternative facts2 era, are there any timeless truths to which we can hold on, in order to navigate to the uncertain waters of the present, with some certainty about the future?
Stavros Kotsiréas finds these values in great figures of literature, arts and politics: not only in the dialectic method of Socrates, which shaped the research spirit of Western thought but also on the Way of Confucius and the values that it inspired to the political and social life of Eastern culture. These are later traced in texts of great writers and poets of the past like William Shakespeare and Constantine Cavafy, which examine the private and public way of living, as well as in contemporary political thinkers such as Noam Chomsky.
They are also found in the example given by Mahatma Gandhi and Malala Yiousafshai, two people who struggled and still struggle for fundamental rights in oppressive and/or obscurantism regimes. As well as in the social activism of Martin Luther King and Simon de Beauvoir, who fought in democratic societies for true equality among all social groups - fights that seem to have special relevance in our era of movements like Black Lives Matter and Me Too. Artists were not absent from the social sphere: through the course of Art History, they used their medium, art, to leave a strong message about political and social issues, e.g. Pablo Picasso with his painting “Guernica”. The answer, therefore, to the pressing issues of the present lies, for Kotsiréas, both in fine arts and philosophy, as well as in social activism, since culture generally is not a luxury but a basic component of everyday life.
On this historical moment, the artist invites the audience to converse with great personalities of the past and the present, most of which are interwoven with our collective unconscious. Visitors are asked to put their thoughts on a table made of wood and bronze: the empty seat is reserved for them and waiting for their participation.
The personalities are placed opposite each other at the table, thus communicating beyond the boundaries of space and time. Each chair has carefully placed objects on it, which are directly linked to every one of them: Shakespeare's masks and costume, pallet, and other painter’s tools for Picasso, piano keys and scores for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, etc. Beyond their symbolic use, they form the basis for the artwork placed behind each personality.
In the current semiotic environment, the symbols chosen by the artist reveal the role that all of them, intentionally or unintentionally, have played in the world’s stage, as Shakespeare says. This practice, i.e. the use of “talking symbols”' 3, is not unknown in art history.
Examples are found in Renaissance portrait painting, where the person depicted is accompanied by objects that symbolically reveal aspects of his/her character, but also in religious compositions, where saints are recognized by the instrument of their martyrdom. The expression of the same idea is also found in modern art: in Vincent van Gogh's unique diptych with his chair and Paul Gaugin’s chair, the temperaments of the two artists are revealed in the eyes of the viewer through the objects.
In the field of literature, such transformations are presented in the homonymous work by Ovid 4. The Latin poet recounts myths where common mortals turn into the eternal symbols of the gods, which follow them and characterize them. Here we learn about the story of Apollo and Daphne, as well as that of Artemis and Aktaion, in which the unfortunate hunter took the form of a deer -the same animal that later was sent by the goddess to save Iphigenia in "Iphigenia in Aulis”.
In his own "Metamorphoses", Kotsiréas transforms the essence of the historical figures and the objects that he has chosen into paintings and sculptural compositions, which are conceived as a whole with their initial source of inspiration. The work is directly related to the evolution of the artist's practice: in his most recent work, "Silent Nature & Juxtapositions", he presented paintings along with the objects that lead to them. Searching through his emotions, the artist selects those that awaken his memories and transforms them into the footprint that they have left in his personal history, as the art historian and former director of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of The Hague, Dr. Chris Rehorst, have noticed.
In front of each seat on the table, there is an embossed bronze sphere, which receives a beam of light from above, declaring the spirituality of human nature. Each sphere is embossed with extracts from the works or quotes associated with each personality. Historical reality is not beautified and the female issue is presented in realistic terms: with just a few women sitting on the table, the artist records and draws attention to the injustice of history, far from the imperatives of political correctness.
Public participation is particularly important in this installation. In front of the viewers’ chair on the table lies a glass sphere with an opening cut in which the artist invites them to share their concerns and perhaps suggest solutions to the dead ends of our time. In this way, they have the opportunity to engage with the personalities of the installation in a mental feast. The table, after all, is an integral part of Greek culture: from the time of Plato's "Symposium" to the present day, it is considered the most appropriate way to exchange views or even philosophical ideas.
In the critical historical moment that we are in, Stavros Kotsiréas wants to activate the audience through his work "Metamorphoses", in order to create a collective pool of thoughts: a mapping of the sentiments and needs of a wide range of people, who will have taken the time to think and take a standing on how they want their future to be shaped.
1. As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII.
2. A term used by the United States President associates to cover clear inaccuracies.
3. A term of money for the declarations of the ancient Greek cities depicted in their coins.
5. "Kotsiréas reorganizes his realistic composition into the painting form of the Still Life. This reorganization is essentially a metamorphosis: unlike in the history of the Still Life, this transformation is made clearer by the fact that in the work of Kotsiréas, the source (the composition of the objects) is not destroyed but remains intact and is allowed to coexist with the inspired painting. "Silent Nature, Stavros Kotsireas, Melina Cultural Center, Athens 2010, pg21.
Annita Apostolaki, Art Historian, Curator
Anastasia Manioudaki, Art Historian, Member of the EEIT