A world made of tears
by Manos Doukas
Art Historian

text also available in Greek


“The world is an onion that we peel with tears” (French proverb)

¯ Nothing is sold... I will become a post-modernist, like Marina Abramovich... I will do artistic performances... I am thinking of cutting my ear for a start.

¯ But I came to buy a painting.

¯ Really! Wow! I will sell my first painting. I will cry with joy!...

¯ Oh! Vincent how beautifully you cry!

(dialog between Vincent van Gogh   and “The Eye” from the film "A World made of Tears")

n 1995, Marina Abramovic presented a performance titled “The Onion”: while talking to herself, complaining about the various hardships of reality, she peels an onion and, of course, she cries.

The artist sets up a web of meanings that complicates the current distinction between reflexive and emotional tears. It is well-known that the exploration of the body and of our physical reactions in conditions of subversion and experimentation lies within the interests of the art of the recent decades, and tears would be no exception (Bas Yan Ader, Georgina Starr, Nao Bustamante, Abramovic). When it does not become over-rambling, modern art broadens the understanding of human behaviour, pointing up parameters that were so far blurred by stereotypes.

[…] So what is painting’s fault? Painting is not to blame at all. Not honest painting. To put it in Spartalis’ language, if a modern Van Gogh were to do only ‘artistic performances’, he would be as unjust to himself as a Da Vinci who would add a moustache to Mona Lisa (Duchamp is granted the right to). What can art be other than communicating vessels of expressive mediums and a fruitful dialogue within a frame of liberty? Maybe one eye needs to cry so the other can see…

[…] The idea for the group exhibition “A World Made of Tears” originated from the delightful, 60-minute film by Angelos Spartalis, of the same title, which caused a well-deserved sensation in last year’s Film Festival in Thessaloniki. Cristy Mengou, Ioanna Delfino and Spartalis himself add a series of paintings and etchings, re-examining aspects of the tear question, but under no narrow, pre-programmed limitations. There is no strict cohesion of subject, as this would not be an appropriate background for an interesting artistic meeting. On the whole, there is a convergence and exposition of a dialogue between ‘new’ and traditional mediums, the history and the present of art, the concrete and the metaphor, the personal memories and their specific expression…

[…] Angelos Spartalis made a film about tears that feels like a song. A film in which the only one who really cries on the screen is his new-born daughter (we cry when we are born, not when we die). Among the people of the artist’s immediate environment we also find Alexis Politis and Nikos Koundouros, and they all talk successively about tears: when do we cry, how do we cry, when did we last cry? The camera focuses on the people’s eyes, as if to state the most important thing: no tear can move us unless we have previously been moved by the eyes. This is exactly why Spartalis will paint his heroes with a personal expressionism - that of consent, of an adventurous but not loud-mouth surface (portions of which he ‘uplifts’ with cement), making use of various elements, from the French Fauves to the recent German Neuwilde. With these portraits he returns to figurative painting, through which he obviously has a lot more to tell.

[…] It is only fair that Manos Stefanidis labels the artist’s way as ‘intentionally subversive’. Was the anarchy of the Dadaists not of the same quality? As with them, so with Spartalis there is plenty of suffering at the foundations, but even more hope. He is a ‘story-telling’ deconstructor. He deconstructs in order to build viable spaces, believing in the potential of modernism as a historically incomplete, mercifully inexhaustible undertaking. There is no artistic medium that cannot be exploited towards this direction, and multifarious Spartalis has known this for a long time now.

Manos Doukas

October 2006...........


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