Vangelis Pliarides: The Bandaged Shoulder
22 March - 27 April 2019
Private View: Thursday 21 March 2019, 6-8 pm
515 West 23rd Street, New York, NY 10011
Christine Park Gallery is pleased to present The Bandaged Shoulder, a solo exhibition by London/Thessaloniki based artist Vangelis Pliarides. It is Pliarides’s third solo exhibition with the gallery. This exhibition showcases Pliarides’s most recent works following his previous presentation of his signature ‘traveling watercolors’ series with the gallery.
In his most-recent large-scale paintings, Vangelis Pliarides once again takes us to far-flung places in the world. The rich greenery and storm-swept skies of the tropics become the backdrop for disjointed scenes conveying vulnerability and fragmentation. Unsettling and lush at the same time, his works are monumental picture postcards from places where reality has taken an alternate course.
Each canvas is dedicated to a large human figure. Most of the works are inspired by the artist’s recent trips to Sri Lanka and Myanmar. However, Death in Malyvos draws on a true story from closer to home, it shows a tourist who slipped and died from a fall in a place of breathtaking natural beauty on the Greek island of Lesbos. With his stick-like body a man, naked except for a single sock and shoe, balances precariously before a backdrop of darkened skies. The figure of the tourist is a reoccurring theme in Pliarides’s works, who is often shown acting on carnal desires or in a state of injury or isolation. Although Pliarides’s tourist does draw on elements of the “ugly” and inappropriate western traveler, above all it negotiates an encounter with the self, whereby the age-old trope of travel as a path to self-understanding is turned inside out by the ambiguities and ironic undertones of his paintings, where dream, memory, and harsh reality meet.
This solitary male figure appears in a number of other paintings as a huge, almost sculptural bust balancing on large feet—a disturbing mish-mash of body parts and odd colorations of skin hinting at wounds. Titles such as The Blind Poet or The Bandaged Shoulder (taken from a poem by Constantine P. Cavafy) hint at a certain pathos, at creativity driven by eros, by blind desire. This is underscored by their diptych structure; each large head is paired with a floral theme: either a single red flower set against an ocean backdrop or a more virginal white bouquet in a muted interior. Here the incongruity of the pairing has a particularly post-modern feel, with the white bouquet seeming to reference deep-rooted traditions of painting, the studio still life, whereas its partner image, the “portrait” has undergone complete fragmentation.
Mawlamyine and Dawei Dream offer brilliant contrasts to the dusky palette of the other works. Despite a “naive” quality unabashedly borrowed from Henri Rousseau, Pliarides’s works never forgo an ironic bite. In Mawlamyine a man seems to be taking a devil out for a walk on a leash, but it could be the devil who is actually calling the shots, from the driver’s seat of a small red car. And while the sinuous erotic appeal of Dawei Dream appears to be offering a harmonic erotic respite from the conflict and contradictions of the other images, a dab of green paint on the woman’s back seems to hint that it is all illusion—not even a dream, just a painting after all.
Laura Schelenssner, Art Historian & Curator