Of cosmic constellations and some other things
Somewhere between the Earth below and the Heavens above. Not in religious contemplation, nor in scientific investigation. Neither sacred, nor profane. Not as an illusion, but neither as a reality, but somewhere in-between Savvas Christodoulides holds time still and stages calculated collisions of things and words. Out of this world and of this world a constellation emerges.
A wordsmith and a craftsman, Christodoulides is a raconteur of things through the works of his hands. His gestural syncopated writing in space is composed of used and discarded everyday objects that are assembled and re-collected in a new alignment. They produce a narrative that has no-linear progression, neither a beginning nor an end, like abstract descriptions hijacked mid-through an inconspicuous conversation. Unassuming statements of fact and fiction. The words are crafted and the hands meticulously craft the work, as the one becomes the extension of the other and together they become poiesis. The gesture simply is, such as it is.
Like sentences taken from a novel the idiosyncratic titles encounter perplexing sculptural installations. Yet the cryptic titles do not seek to be de-codified, opting instead to vacillate between obscurity and clarity. They are purposefully left open-ended, a thoroughfare to the emotive silence of the works even though they are composed as an afterthought once the work has been completed. Titles facilitate a passage into the work, but never venture to describe the journey. The silence of the works is never broken, but its echoes reverberate in the void which is the host of and hosted in the space they inhabit.
The artist explores the void as a constituent part of the work, because the void is what defines the presence through its constitutional absence. Matter matters as the labour of the hands negotiates between the void and the full, between nothing and something. The artist carefully selects seemingly random objects that mutate into things. “But, what is a Thing?” asks Heidegger, before he proceeds to explain how “the thingly character of the thing does not consist in its being a represented object.” The German philosopher gives a poetic response using the paradigm of a jug which is a thing as a vessel and concludes that its “thingness does not lie at all in the material of which it consists, but in the void that holds.” Christodoulides’ work is not about representations, he is not interested in putting up a mirror to reflect the world. His work traces a presence. Writing on a tabula rasa he punctuates the void with things which are no longer what the objects were, but instead are able to order the chaos that surrounds them. Ellipses and solids, gaps and closures synthesize what is there and what is not.
These things present themselves through an absence and seem to have been almost accidentally conceived. The compositions defy explanations and give the impression of having few interventions in their making. The collected items appear to have been simply placed together in impromptu, the one next to the other, in spontaneous utterances. However, they are selected with calculated precision and rigorousness in their positioning while the artist’s hand leaves but an imperceptible touch. The uncontrived installations that seem acheiropoieta, not made with human hands, exude an otherworldly, cosmic, yet also strangely proverbial sensation. Christodoulides resonates the non-sense in these encounters and the out-of-this-world experience, becomes of-this-world. The logic he proposes makes reason with a truth and the truth becomes the real where there is conciliation between time and space. As objects become things they inevitably develop a relationship to time and space as it transforms both. These things that emerge deal with the notion of with as much as without. Christodoulides mobilizes a without and in-essentialises objects, extracting their established memories and forms. The uncoupling and emptying out of memory and form creates the space for a with, where new meaning and value are re-assigned at the emergence of prototypical things and essences. The artist weaves his meta-narratives as a constant negation and renegotiation. They are relinquishing a memory in the past, all the while retaining a presence in history, perpetually in-between.
Even in its abandonment it is this memory of things that allows the enunciation of intimité that which is intimate. Intimacy is about touching in a myriad of ways. “When our eyes touch” asks Derrida “is it day, or is it night?” The tangent potential of things in establishing what is close or near is at the epicentre of the artist’s investigation. However intimacy is hard to quantify and as Heidegger writes “nearness does not consist in shortness of distance”. That which is near can be distant and that which is far can be close. In the artist’s work it is memory and form, as inscribed in time and space respectively, that condition and measure our relationship to what is near and distant – both conceptually and physically. Memory is a relationship to time and form is a relationship to space. Man is the measure of both. The carefully orchestrated compositions redefine intimacy and closeness, employing different means of measurement. The things that Christodoulides has collected and presents, are a recollection both as a memory – remembered and brought forth in the mind – and a form – re-assembled and brought onward and forward in physical terms. Collecting the objects that surround us, he produces our surroundings.
The uncannily familiar surroundings become a landscape to be navigated through and explored. The scale of the works reaffirms the intimacy that is being pursuit. Although the scale has been amplified and the works command a presence, they resist monumentality and remain firmly grounded in the human encounter. The volumes created are on par to the quotidian experience, up to where the arms can reach and the eyes can gaze. Extending vertically or horizontally the works develop an uncomplicated trajectory. The pared down aesthetic and the simple lines purify the form and the ideas behind it, without implications.
These disparate objects, materials and functions in discord and challenging one another, engage in a protracted negotiation. Reconciliation is never completed and fusion into one is eluded. Yet the underlying geometric sensibility of the works, dictates progression. An equilibrium of forces maintains a fragile balance. It is the coming-together that is at the core of these encounters and the strange alliances need to remain unresolved to maintain their potentiality and their poiesis.
Chistodoulides’ work encapsulates a defined space and time of the real that is outside the real, but nevertheless is a reality. In this capacity it is designated as an umpire and its poetic enunciations mediate between the Being that travels the Earth and the Becoming that aspires to that which hovers from above. Like “Ladders Joined Together” (2012).
“From the top of the ladder, standing erect on the last rung, you could just touch the Moon if you held your arms up”
Italo Calvino, The Distance of the Moon
Pavlina Paraskevaidou is a curator and writes about art