A strange view of a Greek artist’s familiar land

When painting outside, traditional landscape painters would often squint while looking at their subject. In the hazy, faraway image that appeared before their half-closed eyes, the play of forms and colors somehow looked clearer. By distancing themselves from the subject, painters could pick out its essence and get closer to it. This method is an example that artist Alexandros Psychoulis mentions when talking about «Psycooglearth,» his recent work currently on view at the gallery. In many ways, this three-part installation can be seen as a contemporary version of landscape painting, the conceptual image of a piece of land drawn from a distance. The globe’s satellite photographs in Google Earth inspired Psychoulis to explore a region in Greece that holds very personal connotations and is tied to childhood memories. Using the objective, scientific perspective of those satellite photos, Psychoulis zoomed down to the region of southern Pelion – his favorite area in this country – and, together with material from the Greek Army Geographic Service, made exact topographical models of the area. Those models are a recurring theme in the exhibition’s three-part installation. They stand for an objective and distanced yet uncanny view of a very familiar place laden with psychological connotations for the artist. By metaphorically transferring an entire piece of land into the premises of an art gallery, the models bring physically close something that is far away, yet at the same time transform the familiar into something strange. «Psycooglearth» is a constant interchange between this internalized view of familiar territory and its high-tech, bird’s-eye viewing. Two large wooden constructions that connote trailer homes and are the artist’s take on the so-called «teardrop» constructions from the 1970s are visual metaphors of one’s home. Made out of wood and resembling toys enlarged to life-sized proportions, those mobile homes are like magic travel machines. By using a reversal of scale, Psychoulis inserts the topographical models of the southern Pelion region inside one of the mobile home constructions. The long surface of plexiglass tables (the black plexiglass connotes the sea) with models of the land on top becomes part of the other construction – this one is meant as the artist’s studio. The outside world becomes inseparable from the domestic environment. The microcosm of one’s home and personal memories contains vast areas of land. As with Google Earth, one can get a window into the world from one’s home, while at the same time being part of that view. Since the larger view contains the smaller one (one’s home is part of a broader region), the effect is slightly surreal. Seen from this angle the familiar seems far away. It becomes separated from one’s personal world and rendered strange. But this reversal and play with the familiar also brings it closer to us, clearer and easier to appreciate to the fullest. «Psycooglearth,» a one-man show on Alexandros Psychoulis, at (20 Aristofanous, 210.321.4994) through 31/3.