Remarks on the Installations of Evangelos Papadopoulos | By Dr. Peter Lodermeyer
Art (if there is such a thing as “art”) has been in the bizarre and thus extremely interesting situation of fundamental questioning for quite a while now. Everyone knows that painting has been regularly pronounced dead by artists and critics alike and also that painting has been surviving its own multiple demises with quite a bit of liveliness for at least a half a century now. However, worrisome rumors also continue to appear concerning the state of sculpture. During the year 2000, for example, Glenn Harper, editor-in-chief of the American periodical Sculpture, posed the question: “Is sculpture dead? Or is sculpture just really, really tired?”1 Good question! And, a decade later, a good reason to continue developing the idea: What would have happened if the tired sculpture had gone to sleep in the meantime and had started dreaming? And wouldn’t the dream have possibly been the ideal state of this ancient genre because it would have liberated this form of art from the heavy burden of tradition without having to be bothered by predictions of death and other denunciations at the same time?
The word “to dream” is not included in Evangelos Papadopoulos’ list of key words describing his sculptures that he has been creating since 2009. But still, his room installations do vacillate between fascinating foreignness and puzzling intimacy such as we are not least familiar with from powerful visions. Words such as “intuition / rhythm / action / motion” or “flow / grow / develop”2 point to a concept of sculpture indicating that ideally the works will automatically spread out in space with an exuberant dynamism, whereby their shapes should flow with the same implicitness as water would spread out in the space or organically like a sprawling plant. According to this approach, structures full of motion are created, very complex and expressive shapes which exist in space like frozen whirlwinds or like surging waves which break on the ceiling, funnel-shaped hanging structures of cocoons covered with countless lamella, constructions which look like they are made of layers of driftwood with tentacles extending out from them or protuberances welling up …
The work of Evangelos Papadopoulos consists primarily of sandwich-type plasterboards which are screwed together and mounted on wooden frames and, if necessary, secured with chains or steel cables or are held by iron rods above the floor. Plasterboard originated with the concept of drywall, a contemporary material which is usually used for non-load bearing, interior walls, for ceilings or for sound absorbent fixtures. With their everyday, banal material, the installations refer directly to the space in which they are created and, as constructed works, begin a dialog with their surroundings. But, on the other hand, formally they also absolutely refuse to mimic the functionality and purpose of the architecture. Although the usual horizontal-vertical tension of the architecture, the right angle, is touched on in earlier installations, but is shifted forward, so to speak, to the material of the standardized longitudinal rectangular strips of plasterboard. However, the way they are used is in the greatest imaginable formal contradiction to the space in which they are located. Papadopoulos works intuitively and situation-related (i.e., he reacts directly without previous preparation of drafts and plans to the particular space in which his installation is being created, and to the specific existing space such as layout, ceiling height, proportions, lighting situation, utilization, and so on). He works by adding. The individual elements are placed one next to the other (i.e., fixed in place with screws), whereby the gradually expanding structure is stabilized as necessary with supports and retaining measures. The sequence of same-shaped, modular individual components creates the impression of a time progression, a visual floating from one element to the next. (This may be one last, subtle left-over from film aesthetics. After all, Papadopoulos majored in the medium of film at the art academy of Muenster before he turned to room installations.)
However, in his more recent works (since 2010) plasterboard is used in a different way. Instead of elongated strips, Papadopoulos now uses boards which he breaks apart to obtain the desired size and shape. This creates irregular broken edges which further accentuate the brittleness of the material. Instead of visible impulses of movement, his latest works increasingly emphasize the moment of corporeality in the treatment of the material. Despite his recourse to the traditional theme of “instinctiveness” of the work of art, Papadopoulos does use a material and process-based language of form which strictly resists every romantic idealization or decorative look and feel of nature. Just for the fun of it, one could compare it with the famous facade decoration done by art nouveau artist August Endell for the Elvira photo studio in Munich (1898) whose forms “grow” and “flow” to see how far the installations of Evangelos Papadopoulos have distanced themselves from everything decorative and are “grounded” by material and working process. They internalize the lessons of advanced, material-accentuated art schools such as Arte Povera, Process Art or Anti-form but are not less valuable in their aesthetics.
The artist describes his work as “process-like / […] / nested / space-consuming / ecstatic”3. During our talk, he compares the ideal artistic state of creation with the actions of a shaman who puts himself into a state of ecstasy and brings along something unseen from his trip to other worlds. One should not misinterpret such statements as the desire for a pre-modern, magical practice. What is meant instead is the liberation of art from calculation and speculative intensions. When the artist “lets himself go” during this state of “madness” after continuously working for days on end, he discovers possible shapes which have absolutely nothing to do with calculation. Since the installations are materially bound to the space in which they are located but at the same time drastically contradict this space by suspending it functionally and to a certain extent confront them with their other side (emotional instead of functionality, fantasy instead of normalcy, and so on), Papadopoulos’ works virtually gain a hallucinatory power. They evoke a potential of emotionally-loaded spacial energy which cannot be applied to the term. These works are so many-sided, and also full of different aspects that they cannot be assigned to simple descriptive categories. In this sense, they are sculptures of experience at first. A study of these works only makes sense when they are in motion and can be experienced in the space changed by them so that the gentle, utopian potential of these works becomes obvious. The dream of the sculpture is demonstrated in Papadopoulos’ installations as an extended perception and imaginary enlivenment of everyday space. At the same time, a very important aspect is that the installations always represent temporary interventions in the normality of the architecture. After the exhibit, they are taken down and disappear forever. What remains (in addition to the photographic and film documentation) is a strong impression in the memories and imaginations of the visitors to the art exhibit (i.e., there where successful art always has its preferred spot).
1 http://www.artdesigncafe.com/Is-sculpture-dead-Glenn-Harper-2000 (accessed on 03.30.2011).
2 E-Mail to the author, 03.18.2011.