CULTURE

A Philip Tsiaras retrospective

His father may have left Greece for the United States after being threatened at gunpoint, but the son has now returned to the motherland carrying weapons of peace and a photographic portfolio reflecting both his personal and artistic identity. Philip Tsiaras, a Greek diaspora artist who has gained international recognition for his 75 solo exhibitions, returns to his roots with the creative impulse that defines his multifaceted work. The retrospective exhibition features some 200 works out of the 5,000 images that comprise the photographer’s archive, essentially tracing his 40-year career via a number of thematic categories, including «Family Album,» «Motion,» «Body Works» and «Architecture.» «The road is endless and painful for the artist to reach his destination or to go back to what inspires him,» Tsiaras said to Kathimerini. «I have spent countless hours in the magic black room in order to become a magician in my field, looking for ways to describe who I am, where I’m heading, who we are. This could never happen using Photoshop. You can’t eat burgers, watch television and do Photoshop all at the same time. It’s like going to war without having served in the army.» With the Leica his father gave him in 1969, Tsiaras began early on to discover the medium’s potential – his first images being that of the Acropolis – before entering the worlds of painting, sculpture, ceramics and installations. «Whatever it is that the artist holds in his hands, he has to turn into a work of art. In the United States, you have to disfigure your artistic image, you cannot move on otherwise. Competition is fierce – 200,000 artists exist in Manhattan alone – and in order to be successful you have to work extremely hard. I see artists who have made a name for themselves in Greece, but they are so stagnant, so banal. Their work is not moving forward, but they are still considered top in their field.» Tsiaras is not after capturing the moment, hence the show’s title, «Supereal» presenting the idea of yet another dimension. «I have the power to take a coffee cup and give it another form, an image that is understood by a great number of people, as opposed to a single one,» he says. Whether directing, developing images in motion, or painting over his own photos, the artist’s route is one of narrative, imaginative and poetic photography says Vangelis Ioakeimidis, director of the Thessaloniki Museum of Photography and the show’s curator. Tsiaras boldly photographs his family in New Hampshire with the spirit of ancient Greece, takes a self-portrait in his underwear and shoots his Grevena-born father clad in the armor of his youth, in order to show the family’s roots and give immigration a mythical dimension. Running parallel to the exhibition at the Thessaloniki Museum of Photography, «Guns in Glass» is a series of works previously exhibited at the Venice Biennale that is currently on display at the Donopoulos International Fine Arts Gallery at the city’s Mylos cultural complex. Thessaloniki Museum of Photograhy, Warehouse A, Thessaloniki Port, tel 2310.566.716.