Journey of the self via the lens of an interior world
For an artist, life in a city as overbearing and fast-paced as New York must seem like an experience filled with double-edged challenges. With so many visual stimuli around and the kind of competition that typifies the field, there is the urge to keep up with the changes but there is also the risk of being swept away by passing trends. Managing to steer a course between the two is, of course, what makes some New Yorkers a sophisticated breed. When listening to the Greek artist Alexandros Georgiou talk about his life in New York, this sophistication is one of the first things one notices. Georgiou, who has been living in New York for the past few years, is greatly appreciative of the city’s variety but is also critical of the art scene, the fleeting trends and the pressures that those place on artists. Two of his photographs that are on view at his first solo exhibition at the Eleni Koroneou gallery capture his ambivalence for the city. One is a panoramic view of the urban landscape, an image which, as the reflection on the glass implies, is taken from the apartment of a high-rise building. The other photo shows Georgiou posing as a waiter (he actually worked in the catering business for extra income) in what looks like a conference room. An undercurrent of melancholy runs through both images and the interior decoration with its standardized, upscale design and minimal color and a uniformed man standing in the background seem like a metaphor for the stifling of individuality. Georgiou uses ordinary images but inverts their meaning and our interpretation of them; a skyline is thus not the image of a city but, through the skillful reflection of an interior space onto the window, more about the traps of urban life and loneliness than anything else. However, none of this is made obvious. Georgiou keeps his emotional distance and works with shades of meaning rather than with overt content. Indeed, some of the most interesting aspects of his work never fully reveal themselves to the viewer. This is the case with the series of photos that Georgiou has been working with for the past three years and which make up the bulk of the exhibition. Modeled on a single format and arranged in a frieze-like manner across the walls, the pictures, all bizarre depictions of the artist’s domestic environment (or that of his friends), resemble a visual diary. The series encapsulates some of the most characteristic issues in the work of Georgiou: identity in relation to domesticity, the depiction of the body – both of which are central to his work as well as recurring themes in much contemporary art. More personal than his other work, the photos build an entire microcosm out of the most commonplace, domestic environment. Emptied of any suggestion of the outside world, the images are insular and introverted. But they are also strangely surreal and playful, for what they show are tiny figures moving about a desktop, a bedspread or other domestic settings. Again, Georgiou works through inversion. He upturns the scale found in real life, building landscapes out of domestic settings which tower over tiny figures as if to suggest that one’s existence is determined by one’s environment. Georgiou also reverses the traditional use of artistic media. Hard though it is to tell, each image is a blend of different techniques and the outcome of a sequential work process. The artist begins by filming a video of himself moving or posing in his apartment. After that, he photographs certain video stills and then turns them into pop-up pictures by cutting out the outline of his body. The pop-up photos are then positioned against the background of his choice and the final picture is taken. In effect, Georgiou substitutes drawing by cutting, turns performance (his own posing) into video, video into photography and creates the illusion of sculpture (each figure looks like a small statue) out of photography. Each medium contains the other in an inseparable unity. Through their strangeness, the images challenge the viewer to study them more closely and break them down into their component parts. They also prompt him to see both life and his own image through the lens of an interior world. Alexandros Georgiou, at the Eleni Koroneou gallery at 5-7 Mitsaion St, (tel 210.924.42.71) to November 27.