COSMOS

Start Date: 12.12.2015, Duration: 02.02.2016

There are times that painting’s purpose is to take us upon a journey in the world of poetry and dreams. Other times, it is way to push us to see things differently. Or rather, to see things in the clearest way possible, despite the darkness surrounding us. After all, it is the darkness that gives birth to the light. I personally stand for painting because I see it as the ancient womb of images, incubating ideas and infusing inspiration to expressions as different to each other as photography and cinema, or video art and graffiti. I have been following Manolis Anastasakos’ work with great interest, for many years now, mainly because he combines many and different ways of expression to fulfill his vision, but also because he has such a deep knowledge of the possibilities-applications hidden in various media, that he brings their intangible dimension to the surface, their essence that is. He draws spirit out of flesh, as his compatriot Nikos Kazantzakis would say. I am also interested in Anastasakos’ social intervention through the graffiti pieces he creates in the city, either on his own or with collaborators, as this is how a new epic tradition of narration is created in the urban landscape, a tradition that is detached from the decorative-commercial use of art. Nevertheless, Anastasakos’ artistic practice in the established-institutionalized art arena is also innovative as he draws elements from the Western painting tradition and blends them with the needs and the language of today. The artist takes elements ranging from the imagery of Hieronymus Bosch or Goya to the furor of the 19th century Romantics, from the myths and symbols of Middle Age to the pixels of the digital language and the comics, therefore making compositions which bear multiple interpretations and which do not simply state an aesthetic view, but in fact create one. Manolis Anastasakos is interested, both in theory and in practice, in photography and its power to truthfully depict reality. Its power to catch that flowing moment, the moment, which diffuses and is then gone forever… Perhaps photography is the most dramatic means of expression, a true reverberation of death. Perhaps it is the revenge of Time-Saturn facing the vanity of youth. By “youth”, I mean the disease of getting older, which is curable only in the boat of Charon. Take a look at any photo from the past. It feels like it is taking place in the present – the big illusion of the medium-, even though it could have occurred half a century ago. All the people depicted, brilliant and young, once upon a time. Never again, though. Never again, just like the joy that has once been felt. The beauty. Not theirs. Ours. That is what I mean when I speak of mourning. I refer to our last chance for passion. Οur only way to exorcise death. Before we become nothing more than a photograph that those who succeed us hold on to. All those concerns are present in the imagery of Anastasakos. In the artists’ work, the microcosm of a larva and the macrocosm of a universe, which surrounds many other universes, share a common secret that only art, hence only man, can shed light upon and comprehend. One wonders what it is that humans seek to uncover and understand… Is it the secret of life? Is it the mystery of death or the madness of Eros? Is it a moment that feels like a century or is it a century entrapped in a teardrop? A teardrop so powerful that it gives color to the sea? The soul hanging from the body, just like the sail hangs from the mast? I am not certain about the answer. Neither is the artist himself. And he should not be. Because art is more of that terrifying questioning, the echo of which is negligible in the chaos of the universe, and less of an answer that puts our minds at rest. Can all these be translated into images? Often, in the hands of Manolis Anastasakos, they are. Sometimes with meticulous precision, other times with techniques that make use of mechanical or electric energy, and at other times with big gestural drawings on the walls and planks of buildings, the artist attempts to tell his own personal truth: That from nature to man and from man to nature, the only path that is meaningful and worth walking is the path of art. Everyone is entitled to take that path, but only a few do so. A great Spanish poet, Antonio Machado, expressed this truth in his poem «Al andar Caminante»: Traveller, there is no roadway. By walking you will make the way…
Manos Stefanidis Art Critic Associate Professor Faculty of Philosophy, University of Athens.

How can exaggeration comply with prudence? How can saturation in color and style accord with an ascetic aesthetic? And in which way can a deposed value serve the vision of recreation and rebirth? Manolis Anastasakos tells us the story of an adventurous and melancholic wandering in an apocalyptic world of conceptual and aesthetic contradictions, seeking reconciliation, wisdom, freedom. Driven by his peripatetic approach to empirical reality, he often collects random discarded objects, “fragments” and “relics” of everyday life. Then he matches the poetic aura of the objet trouvé with a wide range of artistic expressions, including among others drawing, collage painting, photography, installation and sculpture. He does not hesitate to combine heterogeneous aesthetic references in one piece, to experiment with the assemblage of pop, realistic, surrealistic, minimal and baroque techniques, in order to explore the distance separating the «pompous» from the “modest” and to even highlight the common ground between them. In most cases what emerges as common ground is the effect of the palimpsest. The constant processing of the materials occurs in multiple layers which are continuously added in the original surface, so that the composition, in its final form, returns to point «zero»: exaggeration fades away and abundance disappears. The transition from redundancy to «abstraction» also takes place through over layering techniques, which always go hand in hand with the symbolic significance of each work: white – grey overlay for the sense of «loss» or the end of simplicity and innocence, gold hinting the transcendent and religious element, as a reference to the «lost treasure», to money and futility. Μanolis Anastasakos immerses in the world of Myth, contrasting allegories of mythological and religious traditions , Nature’s Myth or Art itself, with a variety of contemporary illusory myths. The maze, the thread, the Sphinx, Icarus, the Egyptian scarab, the vow, money, and new technologies are only a few of the symbols that he uses to describe how man nowadays, trapped by the luring idea of progress, fails to exercise self-reflection and to connect with History and Nature. They are symbols used to illustrate the consequences of contemporary technological experiments, the lack of ecological consciousness, the dismissal of love, the twisted perception of freedom in the context of a supposedly rational society. Anastasakos’ mythological dialectic however, is not restricted to already existing metaphors. The artist invents creative associations through which he captures, in a distinctively simple and dense aesthetic language, his concerns on the incomplete journey towards self-knowledge («Future is calling», «Now», «Eva»). Moreover, always in an ironic spirit, he examines the semiotics of various primal representations and notions (elements of primitivism, hieroglyphics, fossils as well as archaeological references or basic constituents of organic matter), sometimes embedding a sense of wholeness – completeness to his work, and other times suggesting a «frugal», ascetic approach to our experience of contemporaneity. Nevertheless, in a deeper analysis, the epilogue of Manolis Anastasakos must not be seen as another threnody. «Silence», as the aesthetic and conceptual essence of his work, is mainly self-referential; the creator renounces himself and decides that «the ultimate stage of our spiritual Exercise is called Silence (…) How can you reach the womb of the Abyss and make it fruitful? This cannot be expressed, cannot be narrowed into words, cannot be subjected to laws; every man is completely free and has his own special liberation. No form of instruction exists, no Savior exists to open up the road» (Nikos Kazantzakis, The Saviors of God- Salvatores Dei).
Vana Verroiopoulou PhD Candidate Theory and History of Art – Aesthetics (ΑSFA – Université Paris VIII)

Time and space are made obsolete in the Cosmos of Manolis Anastasakos, as he stimulates our collective memory by ingeniously blending archetypal motifs with our contemporary imagery that can only be testimony to the spirit of our time (zeitgeist). By crafting a world of contradictory and, at the same time, complementary elements, he takes an intimate look into the existential concerns of a mankind that is overpowered by the energy and laws of the universe: he accompanies us upon a journey from the intrinsic cosmos of each individual to the chaotic cosmos in which man’s existence, overwhelming as it is for the human being, nonetheless remains just an insignificant component of the circle of life. Hence, in Manolis Anastasakos’s view of the Cosmos, Science and Tekhne (art of knowing how to shape, forge the matter) embody the hopeless striving of man to escape the fear-raising and obscure immensity of the origin of things, of the primordial forces of nature. The word Cosmos also evokes inevitably in everyone’s conscience unfathomable strengths that cannot be controlled and dominated by man as the rational side of the mind is reassured only by what in our reality can be ordered and consequently organized: every element, which can hardly be embraced within specific boundaries, is sensed by the human being as a generator of anxiety and fear. Cosmos tends to establish order and harmony, but it is such an immense notion for the human mind to capture that it often takes the form of its seemingly opposite force, but, in fact, the only genuine ally, Chaos. It is a sacred union of the cosmic opposites: Cosmos and Chaos are the all-embracing forces that cannot exist without the other. They are entwined in an endless, spiralling dance creating infinite combinations of worlds and realities whose laws, despite our faith in tekhnology and progress whose meaning today is so far adrift from Tekhne, still (or always will) remain unknown.It is through this universal dance of the eternal opposites that the multifarious creativity of Manolis Anastasakos takes shape leading our souls into the depths of the most authentic roots of human nature: that human nature so much present, more or less in disguise, throughout the artist’s combinations of figurative and pictorial codes and languages passing from the spiritual and aesthetic legacy of our art collective memory to his unique, extremely personal and creative approach to the contemporary materials and chromatic expressions. Then every art element becomes the fertile soil thanks to which, Manolis Anastasakos, like in a dynamic flow, through matter, form and colour, highlights that man is nothing but a component in this cosmic duality, while he/she is seen, at the same time, as a special part of this eternally circular wholeness. The artist believes that mankind has the opportunity to rescue its essence and it is in virtue of such viewpoint that he continuously signifies our increasing alienation from nature, which goes hand in hand with a deceptive, growing conviction that devouring, massifying, consuming technology brings social and individual well-being. Anastasakos encourages us to rescue our harmonious dialogue with nature, which necessarily implies building a relationship with it by rediscovering a lost, authentic language that he, wisely and sarcastically, denies on purpose by fragmenting and dismembering it to mark and offer exactly its opposite: the language, uniquely and inevitably spoken by Eros, the divine symbol of the power of connectedness and universal conscience. However, the artist shows a defeated and abandoned Eros, another victim of our temporary blindness and dullness, which, as they are nourished by an ever-icreasing, unethical greed for financial profit, force us to recognize Eros exclusively as a consumer item for selfish use. Anastasakos’s creations, bearers of arcane suggestions mixed in a dense figurative matter, all together as a whole and one by one like in a magic circle, are an invitation to the initiation journey into the maze of life as imagined in the artist’s own internal Cosmos. Through his masterful technique, the artist becomes the builder of his own universe, a soul place animated by eternal archetypal images interwoven with recurring contemporary motifs communicating the shattered and chaotic current condition of human beings who, like confused and deceived consumers, believe in the illusion that technology can free them from the uncertainties and doubts stemming from the greatest, by necessity, of inventions/conventions: time.
Rino Sabella Art Commentator

Related Artists

Videos

EXHIBITION CATALOGUE