Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Gracious Superhumans

If one of the many ways to think of a post-modern identity is in terms of a highly sexualized libido whose explosive and liberating energy extends fluidly, one might perceive a ‘no-identity identity’ in Jannis Varelas’ drawings. Using pencil and gouache, his impressive collage-drawings are often larger-than-life depictions of individual figures (an oberman in the Nietzschean sense in which ‘man’ is all-powerful) whose gender ambiguity is probably one of the least inflated elements in his work. Varelas’ drawings are muscular and brittle, unassuming and arresting. At the same time that the razor-sharp and tidy geometric verticality of his work suggests a powerful composition, perhaps an urban high-rise building, it also deconstructs itself in a playful yet defiant way.

One of his drawings, showing now at Athens 1st biennale, fuses cultural signifiers, christian symbolism, sexual innuendos and mythological references. At the base of Varelas’ superhuman figure is a collage of, what looks like, two ancient Greek sculptures, perhaps in the form of a caryatis or an ancient Greek column. If we ascend/climb the drawing, through the mind’s eye, from south to north, we might see a historical-creative transformation from a period roughly located B.C to what looks like a medieval era, suggested by a cathedral. Eventually, we reach a contemporary landscape of the imaginary where the abstract and decorative meet provisionally. This pictorial transformation works as the spine of the gigantic figure, as the column, which upholds him while also changing itself and the entity, as a result. A comment, perhaps, on the interrelation between the individual and his/her history.

Another of Varelas’ work points discreetly to facets of an apartment, decontexualized to fit as collage into a face. A profile that is temporarily identifiable through a city’s, Athens’ maybe, most characteristic element, namely, its apartment buildings. Each deconstructs and reconstructs the other. The individual’s eyes look onto a mobile and horizontal cityscape while the concrete construction of an apartment takes on malleable and anthropomorphic features. Is this an understated appeal to humanize Athens’ cityscape? A sensitive gesture towards creating a minimal façade by altering its current identity in order to realize a new Athens?

September 2007
appeared in ΥΓ of Phileleftheros newspaper

No comments:

Post a Comment