“CONTAINER: Fragility and Force of Philip Tsiaras” by Francesca Alfano Miglietti

The boundary between visible and invisible is no longer the boundary between matter and spirituality; the contemporary “imaginary” is more and more influenced by the awareness of a mutation that strikes the senses through messages which produces estrangement. A world where the image is patinated, shiny, and glamorous, even in the saddest moments, even in the representation of anguish, grief, and fear. Philip Tsiaras is a “foreigner”, the most interesting of conditions for a contemporary artist. He has a mixed culture and a mixed nationality. He is Greek by origin, American by choice. Even though born in the U.SA, his childhood fantasies were surely influenced by tales saturated with myth and epic. His works are morbidly curious about the language of materials and shapes, archetypes of one of the oldest culture in the world: the Mediterranean culture.

To Philip Tsiaras, it is necessary to set forms against one another, thereby putting the human mind in touch with the invisible through communication. It is about the evolving processes of the senses, the composing and decomposing process of matter, and choosing the point of view of a deeper materiality. The invisible is not only spiritual but the actual movement of the matter as well. He looks at things from a “foreigner’s” point of view. Philip Tsiaras is a foreigner because of his way of looking at things, because of his sense of touch, because of the way he regards myth and culture, legends and news, his own body, the eroticism surrounding beauty- all combined; because of the way he touches materials, discovering them as a child, longing to take hold of their secrets, to use them in building dreams which become the works surrounding his own existence.

Philip Tsiaras is neither an exile nor a refugee. He loves the magnificence of the American surface, the multiethnic contamination, the exaggeration of goods as well as the radicality of everyday existence which can be a fairy tale or a nightmare. He is a foreigner, too, because of his way of thinking and feeling, because of his capability of feeling astonished, and because of his naivete when in contact with other lifestyles, other myths and fables, other origins. He appropriates them, and as a real foreigner he doesn’t consider them as detractions, but rather as a sum of wealth which adds up. He works with materials in the same way: using bronze, painting, pottery, drawing, steel, and now the fragile strength of glass. Glass - made of breath, a handful of sand, and fire - seems to be his favorite material. The materials he uses are elemental, springing from the mythic origin which surrounds him, and which he imparts to his works. Philip Tsiaras creates works as containers for secrets, enigmas, dreams, sensibility, and poetry, yet another field for his spiritual exercise. This last piece of work is composed of real containers: glass vases and little pottery shoes. One of the more fascinating things in his last work is the ability to tell a story without narration. Symbols can accomplish this although his work does not depend on symbols. It is more and less, a continual examination of both faces which invests his work with a monumental solemnity and primitive antiquity in which matter and soul, form and nature, archetype and culture co-exist. In his work there is also the memory of ancestral rites, their sacredness untouched by time, the memory of old gestures with the taste of the contemporary, and a sense of theatre deeply rooted in myth, rendered dramatically live by the visionary use of deep colors, gold and traces of “materia” which evoke by their rich compression the secret tension and indefinable space in which the antique drama mysteriously links signs, colors, and words. Glass guns, glass shoes, containers for glass: he shows the desire to build up poetical worlds as well as a deep, archaic, and contemporary thought, the same fragility of a myth losing all its references in the act of becoming a distant universe. The dreams of others, which we are no longer able to dream. Philip Tsiaras’ foreigner nature comes out when he creates objects to tangibly testify the existence of life’s silent, continuous movement. This aim is visible in his works, in frail fragments, showing the memory of a world in which we still live, even though we are no longer able to feel and perceive it. In his strong and sensitive artistic language formal elegance and refinement combine to produce intense expressive power. In this Biennale exhibition Philip Tsiaras shows a great ability to “feel’: His work is made of forms and colors perpetually in tension, hanging in silent unlimited space, dominated by a precarious balance fixed in time. His work is composed of myriad fragments, hundreds of tiny pieces, like notes of an existence composed of gestures, drawings, signs, dreams, worlds, objects, memories, colors, a constant flow of imagination in the same direction of a life made of meetings, clashes, tensions, and obsessions. Philip Tsiaras has always worked with different media and different techniques to represent the subjects which compose his vision of the world and his existence: sex, irony, mythological freedom, flight, and the body. His messages seem to come straight from the core of the material; it seems that Tsiaras chooses materials because of their innate voice, because they seem to be able to listen to a tale he tries to guess. Sometimes his objects seem to be praying or waiting for something. In his forms there is always both the inner and the outer part, the pleasure and the sorrow. Some of his works seem to show the power of mind and emotions over the human body, but as a matter of fact the worlds he represents belong to an imaginary reality where past and present as well as technology and primordial elements co-exist. Container is an exhibition made of light in which everything revolves around this theme: the vision, the frailty, the transparency, the strength, the exposition of a sensitivity obsessed with an all-powerful desire to show the inner world. Container is made of works that inexplicably attract your gaze, creating thereby a deep relationship. The private memory on which these images draw becomes a shared memory: the artist’s memory becomes the viewer’s memory. Thanks to the evocative power of forms and colors this memory connects itself to the memory of the world present in everyone’s soul. He manages to speak through archetypes - models building the “collective unconscious”, which can be recounted only through myth and poetry. The Container works indicate origins reborn in myth and retold through it, attaining new symbolic dimensions. Philip Tsiaras’ mythology is not only the evocation of the origins, but is also a journey in the soul, mysteriously manifesting itself in both historical and contemporary contexts, clothed with new signs and shapes to decode in order to reach the essence. Philip Tsiaras’ project for this show is based on three installations realized with a series of objects suggesting a Container. There are hanging objects in bright and lifeless structures, and objects suspended like secrets in every element- desires and ideas. Tsiaras has created this series for Venice - the city that invented commerce, that created the cafe, the city that floats, the city of masquerade, the city whose history is frozen in time. He has been inspired by Venice’s lights and darks masking passion, love, and business, by its splendour and gloom. Once again he chooses the mythology moving from the commonplace to a higher imaginative dimension exploding with fresh vitality. His aim is “communicate through a container”: communicate through materials and light, a state of grace that illuminates its medium. There are containers, wrappings, vases, shoes - objects hiding our deepest secrets, our bodily necessities. His containers are at the same time rite and rebellion, erotic signals or parts of a definition of art, imagination and frailty included.

Philip Tsiaras creates an exciting mode to communicate, a way to reclaim your sensory organs. Your eyes, hands, taste, touch, hearing are re-awakened as protagonists, not inanimate recording devices. The works are mutely poetic - typical of their strong emotional message - fleeting and strange, revealing, but still concealing, their true soul.