YORGOS GIOTSAS: Lift-off
text by Dr Kostas Prapoglou, curator
Galaxies, solar systems, extraterrestrial planets and the Earth are the source of inspiration for the new body of work of Greek artist Yorgos Giotsas presented by Peritechnon Karteris Gallery Athens on the occasion of this year’s Art Miami Context.
The story embarks from the ancient Classical Greek and Hellenistic astronomy, which, in conjunction with mathematics, first attempted to identify celestial motions based on the accuracy of Babylonian astronomers and influenced by iconic samples of written philosophical treatises such as those by Aristotle and Plato. The mythological aspect of the astronomy marks the beginning of a strong bond between the two, embracing the mapping of constellations observed from the northern hemisphere and the emergence of the zodiac circle. Planets received the names of the Greek gods and all myths found their narrational counterparts in star formations, clusters and nebulae.
Surveying elements of astrogeology –the geology of planetary entities– the artist soon obtained a fascination with a number of features such as rock formations and atmosphere imbalances directly affecting the characteristics of a surface. At the same time, the presence of smaller celestial bodies like asteroids, meteorites and comets, which traverse across our solar system releasing gases and creating visible tails as a result of solar radiation, were soon engaged as additional reference points in his visual repertoire.
The materials and mediums of Giotsas are alluringly diverse. Ranging from rice paper, textile and velvet to resins, acrylics, recycled plastic sheets, spray paint and glitter, the works on view synthesize enigmatic and perplexing domains. Sometimes more inviting and other times slightly more unsettling and uncanny, his heterogeneous landscapes resonate with multi-dimensional meanings and interpretations. Unconventional elements such as eyes taken from American cartoons and colorful feathers, interrupt the surface of his works rendering a fantasy and, undeniably, an out of the ordinary world.
“Influenced by the music of David Bowie as well as Robert Rauschenberg’s photo collages and Bruce Nauman’s luminosity, I define the multiple surfaces of my works in such a way that they draw color, light and shadow from one another evoking of what a traveler gazes from the window of a spaceship, which pronounces the ultimate imprint of speed”, Giotsas explains when it comes to his modus operandi for this body of work. Clearly stimulated and electrified by post-war pop culture and more particularly the aesthetics of the 70s and 80s, he looks back on how space and the unknown affected people’s lives, especially through music and the arts.
As an aftershock of Cold War games and practices, people in the Western world developed a fascination and even a fixation on outer space, the universe and alien life. This never actually went away; it was carried over from one generation on to another. The concept remained the same yet it gradually developed side by side by the rapid technological advancements achieved by governmental agencies such as NASA, intergovernmental organizations such as the European Space Agency and private aerospace enterprises like SpaceX. At the same time, the internet made a vast amount of information easily accessible to everyone; from the Google Maps and Google Sky exploration of neighbouring planets to all available data from libraries across the earth, live streaming, podcasts and millions of websites.
Scratching the surface of what is really available today, Giotsas conveys his very own passion and obsession with the cosmos. He starts his own engines to depart on a personal journey that will allow him to fulfil the need to explore unknown landscapes in different imaginary habitats.
Light, transparency, shadows, darkness, electromagnetic radiation, gravitational forces and their effects are some of the main components in his awareness of the universe. The sky, the ground and its erosion by natural phenomena, the colors of northern lights and solar winds as well as uncountable other occurrences, mesmerized and captivated the artist.
The speed of technological evolution trying to reach, compete and exceed the speed of light is also within the immediate interests of Giotsas. In an age when natural resources decline, poverty levels and societal injustices rise steadily and the Earth’s climate is being challenged severely, governments seem to be paying more attention in exploring beyond the known boundaries of humanity by seeking new opportunities elsewhere.
The colonization of the moon and Mars appear somehow more important than helping our own planet to recover from all environmental disasters caused by us. Having all these facts embedded in his subconscious, Giotsas devises his own planets, surfaces and life forms sprinkling them with glitter and space dust-like pigments. Filtered through a romantic take on what space means to him he mediates his dream for a spaceflight, a flight that will soon be available for some and, perhaps, not far from now, we will be given the chance to decide whether we wish to carry on living on this planet or opt out and try another one.