DIONISIS KAVALLIERATOS’ show at the Bernier/Eliades includes some intriguing glazed ceramic pottery – like you’ve never seen before. How about a pyramid of philosophers? Or maybe bird watching is more your thing – in a gallery?
”Birds are beautiful animals and they carry all kinds of symbolism and associations”, says Kavallieratos about his series of ceramic birds, in which a cormorant, an owl, a phoenix, seagull and canary greet the gallery goer with wings outstretched – and with a whole host of other birds perched on their wings. Birds of a feather flock together they say, but the birds that have flocked onto the wings of their larger hosts don’t seem to have any close connection. It’s a random arrangement on the surface of things, apart from the phoenix with its mythological and ancient Egyptian themes. Yet bird orders and families are a rather complex thing and prone to change due to new information constantly being brought to light. Consider only that there are over 8,982 species of birds and over 158 families (that are organised into other orders and groups) although different researchers have given different numbers. That’s why some have considered the study of birds more of an art rather than a science. What’s more, the ancient history and symbolism of Kavallieratos’ birds is also part of this artist’s interest in ‘ornithology’.
Take the cormorant for example, a prehistoric bird, that also symbolised Satan in Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ – the bat perched on its wing in this ceramic work does look rather sinister too. The owl, has been a symbol of wisdom but also of death, the gull is a symbol of freedom and the canary of joy. The legendary phoenix – a symbol of spirituality and rebirth.
In the work ‘Philosophers forming a human pyramid’, Kavallieratos presents us with various ‘species’ of philosophers, placing Diogenes the Cynic, at the pyramid’s pinnacle. Certainly the philosopher’s sense of wit must have appealed to the artist, who has displayed his own fair share of tragicomic, bizarre post-pop humour in his works, especially in his intricate drawings. But maybe also Diogenes’ lifestyle appealed to him – this philosopher preferred to live in poverty, in search of honesty and condemning corruption. He slept on the street, or in a large ceramic vessel. Nietzsche and Descartes are to be found in the second row. Third row: Socrates, Foucault, Epicurus. Fourth row: Russell, Hume, Bacon, Locke. Fifth row: Hegel, Krishnamurti, Plato, Chomsky, Kant. Sixth row: Zinon, Derrida, Aristotle, Confusius, de Beauvoir, Wittgenstein. Seventh row: Marx, Engels, Bentham, Rousseau, Camus, Sartre, Schopenhauer. Eighth row: Dimocritus, Machiavelli, Laozi, Thales, Hypatia, Pythagoras, Spinoza, Heraclitus.
One philosopher is a bit rough – he has been left unglazed and unpainted – Zinon Kitieus. Kavallieratos explains why:
”Zinon was the founder of the school of stoicism and he was one of the first anarchists, that’s why I left him unpainted, for aesthetic reasons, but also because I couldn’t be bothered to paint him”.
When asked which philosopher he would have liked to have been, Kavallieratos replies ”All of them, or none of them. I would prefer to have been a footballer”.
Kavallieratos is an artist with one foot in Berlin and the other in Greece, something which makes him give ”a lot of damn money to the damn airlines”. He can’t say whether the Germans or the Greeks prefer his work, some like it and some don’t in both countries.
The 37-year old hotshot artist also likes to dabble in different mediums: wood, drawing, ceramics. He explains why:
”Wood is a material that I love. I use ceramic clay mostly because I find it easy to work with, it’s a medium via which I can quickly and easily realise my ideas/stories in three dimensions. I’m not a ceramist, nor a wood sculptor – my use of both materials is pretty unsophisticated. The same with drawing, I draw with pencil because I can’t paint with paintbrushes like a master painter, but I do create a type of allegorical iconography.”
As mentioned before, there’s a lot of humour, quite black too in Kavallieratos’ work, but what position does humour have in art exactly?: ”Some artists have humour and some don’t. Humour is a very serious matter”, explains the artist.
Kavallieratos graduated from the Athens School of Fine Arts in 2002 and then went on to complete a Radar Project (residency) in Venice and Krakow. His works have been exhibited in many shows both here and abroad, with solo shows in Brussels, Zagreb, Paris. His work was also part of the group show ‘ametria’ at the Benaki Museum’s Pireos branch last year (a collaboration with the Deste Foundation and the Benaki) and at Bozar’s show in Brussels (2014) – ‘No Country for Young Men’.
• The show of Dionisis Kavallieratos’ work entitled ‘This Which All Want None Shall Ever Have’, at the Bernier/Eliades gallery (11 Eptachalkou St, Athens, Thissio metro stop), runs till March 31. Open Tues-Fri 10.30-6.30, Saturday noon till 4. (www.bernier-eliades.gr)