CULTURE

The potential of techniques explored in distinctive show

At a time when artists are increasingly using different techniques in their work and art is becoming more multidisciplinary and hybridized, it is perhaps appropriate to ponder how the discipline of painting is adapting to the changing times. Has the experimentation with new techniques and images bred a new, contemporary form of painting? The work of artist Costas Avgoulis raises this question. «Bete Noire,» which is the telling title of his third consecutive solo exhibition, currently on view at The Apartment, includes paintings made in a distinctive technique: Avgoulis first makes drawings using charcoal, pencil and paint; he then scans them in the computer and combines them with other images, some taken out of magazines. The final stage involves printing those manipulated images on canvas, usually in a large format and painting on top of them in some cases. The outcome looks, at least at a quick glance, almost unmistakably like a painted surface, but in truth is a manipulated form of painting, printed, rather than painted, on the canvas. Avgoulis is interested in this hybrid quality of painting, of capturing the middle ground between painting and its facsimile. This creates a certain tension in his works, a tension that also extends to the subject of sexual desire which Avgoulis has chosen for his latest paintings. Compared to the artist’s former works, those paintings are far darker – both in mood and color – more ominous and at times disquieting. Avgoulis still uses images taken out of magazines but masks their presence by mixing them with his own computer-manipulated drawings. Most of the paintings show sinister faces or nude human figures, often woven together and outlined, with clearly defined lines, against layers of paint or other images. Early 20th century German expressionism somehow comes to mind and so does the «decadence» of turn-of-the-century symbolist art. Avgoulis would like to suggest that the sexual aesthetic is a reinforced human construct in the same way that taste is an academic construct. This does not necessarily come through: What does is a certain tension, both in terms of the painting’s form and content. The viewer is somehow drawn into the paintings but kept at a distance at the same time. The ominous-looking figures are both enchanting and repelling. The paintings are both real and unreal, not real paintings but images that are technologically processed. Avgoulis captures the tension in what is one of his most sophisticated series of works until now. «Bete Noire» at The Apartment (21 Voulis, 210.321.5469) until January 8.