Airplanes, Ceramic Art and the Ambivalence of Experience

 

The dream of flying has been tightly interwoven with mankinds wishes and myths since time immemorial. As the ancient myth of Icarus demonstrates, however, the factor of hubris, which causes human beings, dissatisfied with their earthbound existence, to become haughty and careless, is an important element of that dream. Like scarcely any other accomplishment, the airplane can, in its fascination, stand as technical icon of the twentieth century.

Airplanes play an important role in the more recent work of Philip Tsiaras. Like formulaic silhouettes, they glide over the picture surface, transform themselves into the background, almost disappearing, and penetrate the various picture levels. The ambivalence of experience is present in these pictures: simple contours, resembling children’s drawings, refer to the private world of experience; like memories, they emerge from the depth of the picture’s base. As emblems of modern communications, airplanes span the globe, are omnipresent, and this presence also has a definite threatening component. Airplanes are used for observational purposes, airplanes have, for the first time, made possible a modern, simultaneously distanced warfare, the tool that turns against its inventor: the ancient dream of flying shows its Janus head.

Resembling radar screens, the pictures, structured in geometric subdivisions, demonstrate a complex meshing between memory,

 

reality and fiction, which materialize themselves on the picture surface. The restlessly spotted surface possesses a dynamic that seems to contradict the flight object’s calm basic form, which is reduced to its essence. Tsiaras captures these two opposites compositionally by placing the airplanes in the picture in a formatfilling manner, for example, or, as mentioned earlier, by structuring the surface with a screen which is faded in.

Philip Tsiaras’ pictures are a concentrate, an individual reception to the last forty years of cultural history. His images possess an intensity^ which link the imagination with collective experience to surpass the individual, and speak out to the vital consciousness of an entire generation.

The ceramic pieces are not dissimilar from the paintings as an artistic point of departure. They are figuratively conceived vessels filled again and again with memory.

They transport and contain the nature and cultural identity of an individual. Simple, traditional forms filled with fragments of reality gush toward the viewer with association. A lady’s shoe responds to the round female form of the container. These vessels are emanations of the inner self. In them Tsiaras explores his roots; in them he unearths the hidden, the buried. The forms of the vessels provide indications of Tsiaras’ correctness with classical Greek culture, part of his origin. His private mythologies play as much a role as coming to grips with growing up in the culture of North America.

 

Tsiaras’ art deliberately engages the dynamic fields of different cultural influences, which have shaped and continue to shape his individual reality. Out of this arise strong, willful artworks whose power have universal dimention.

Martin Stather

Curator

Kunstverein of Mannheim