From South Africa to Laos, from the tropical islands of Sihanoukville in Cambodia to the cosmopolitan city of Bangkok, Pliarides’s painting trips have been playing an essential role in his paintings. Inspired by experiences and adventures from the trips, his Traveling Watercolors were created and carried during the trips and upon his return, such experiences were results in a big sized oil paintings in his London and Thessaloniki studio. 15 works have been carefully selected among the 10 year series for their first presentation in New York.
Through the numerous watercolors by Vangelis Pliarides, one can enter a space and time utterly subjective and enigmatic. The laws of reality cease to exist (bodies are often invertebrate, or even permeable), ghosts are real and singing songs, often made of sharp looks or deafening silences. Then again, perhaps in this pictural world the laws of reality apply more than anywhere else. The vast world of desire meets the finite world and cracks, holes, wounds and fantasies are established for good. In this world, individual memory (which one might call it imagination, if they did not believe in its power), shaped in the innermost recesses of the Self, seems to launch a fullscale attack on the order and logic of what we call "reality."
The hybrid body figures of Pliarides (the body is still the embankment of the "new age") are fluid and unpredictable, often fragmented and cracked, crowded and insolent, obsessive and curious, unfaithful and undying, familiar and immature, potentially competitive and therefore threatening or threatened. And so, the artist renews the exhausted symbolic repertoire of identity with great doses of vitality, incorporating the repertoire of difference to it. This is where the Ego fleetingly meets the Other in order to create the real condition for both sides to change, perhaps for us spectators to change as well.
His Garden is not an Academy. Tourists, hunters, wannabe conquerors, invalids, couples, balls, swim rings, coconut trees and tropical huts create the narrative setting. Traveling, places, love, accidents, violence and tenderness, broken men and women, where topsy-turvy life seem to be his endless pool of inspiration.
Pliarides’ paintings and journey draw a large map from Laos to South Africa, from Sri Lanka to Burma and from Thailand to Cambodia. In this map, art is reinvented not as a visual universe but as a representative enigma, an existential bet, a metaphysical challenge, a visual paradox, theological hubris, anthropological threat.
Thus, the wild joy in the paintings of Pliarides vividly redefines the notions and nuances of contemporary painting. This chapter had a triumphant opening in the 1980’s in the wake of the excited times of abstraction painting claiming the freedom of gesture, yet hasn’t closed yet with the paradoxically concurrent recognition of traces of the collapse of faith in the modernity of such expressions.
In these watercolors of Pliarides there is the representation or a “creation” of space of a psychoanalytical anthropology, along with the idea of a utopic Paradise (or an almost demonic Hell).
With his solid techniques and stylistic thematic orientation, Pliarides can awaken all of our nightmares along with the hedonistic side of life. While preserving his own moral independence as an artistic subject, he often presents an allegorical, almost cinematic dimension to the episodes of his narratives. The emotional resonances are well hidden in his imagery of tropical forests and strange heroes, while the painter painstakingly draws the “diary of his day and night”. Those who live with love and lust at all times. Even if they get sent to hell by mistake, the devil himself will send them back to Paradise.
Art Historian, Curator & Director of Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art