Voices. A deafening noise, then a door closes. We find ourselves inside a room infused with an incadescent, boisterous adolescence.
Kostas Lavdas’ painting transports us to the timeframe of an era long gone. Not in a nostalgic way necessarily, but in order to discuss the characteristics of a crisis that has no particular characteristics, no straightforward definition and doesn’t bother with finding solutions. Seemingly unedited snapshots of narrow alleyways of despair become a common meeting place for his striking figures who, enveloped in a mystic romanticism, parade in ALMA gallery through streams of intense colours.
All figures in Lavdas’ art are connected by a common thread, Ate. This blurring of the mind was brought onto Man by God, as a form of punishment for Man’s hubris in disturbing the secular order by exceeding human limits. Ate was followed by nemesis, where the abuser was punished for the sins he had committed, until we finally returned to the restored order. Similarly, Lavdas’ figures appear oblique, in various layouts that seem to overturn the logic of representation. Their bodies are bent and deformed, suspended between the real and the imaginary. Grotesque figures, reminiscent of comic book aesthetics, bring to mind familiar lyrics from the 90s, the years of Lavdas’ adolescence, with songs by Nirvana, Sonic Youth and Metallica, while simultaneously looking to their cellphones as gateways out of this reality. They are framed by heavy, classic frames, a clear contrast with the generally pop aesthetic of Lavdas’ works, as if trying to deceive the conservative viewer and seize a permanent seat in the living room of childhood.
Family affairs, familiar but unacknowledged. Such as the deformed "golden girl", desperately trying to please her mother’s expectations and wishes, standing in front of the father-despot who proudly clasps the gun-scepter (serving also as a phallic symbol). The enraged boy seems ready to dive into the flames of fanaticism, just below Hitler's portrait, while the carefree father enjoys the coolness provided by the air conditioner. An unsuspecting girl is staring at her cellphone screen while living under a pile of rubbish. Next to her, a naked man is watching TV reclined on the couch, while a catatonic woman on a balcony, is quietly being swallowed up by the darkness.
The artist finds himself in the middle of these illogical situations and having loaded his guns and placed them on the family table, succumbs to peer pressure calling him outside to play, leaves his adolescent bedroom and proceeds to enter a hard, reluctant and desperate world. He suddenly becomes the narrator of the tale of a depressed society, in the centre of which a woman is heard singing a song by The Doors -I’ve been down so Goddamn long, that it looks like up to me-, a bellman is paraphrasing the lyrics to “Come (cum) as you are” while shouting through his megaphone, Persephone ascends to the upper world, which doesn’t seem very different to Hades, essentially a war scene where children hover between earth and heaven like inflatable balloons, while in the background a group of people are seen sailing away, defying the soldiers waiting with the cellphone-guns in hand. Close to these petrified faces appears the biblical form of an angel, evidently connecting Ate to the will of God. According to one saying “God clouds the minds of those who intend to destroy”. Thus, the crowned King of Nothing, who always wanted to play the part of the king and is now left with an empty title, commits suicide, finally realizing that none of what he chased really mattered.
Where’s your crown, King Nothing?
Oh, you’re just nothing.
Off to never, never land.
Through familiar imagery, such as a family table, a suffocating world emerges infused with symbolism. Lavdas, drawing from his extensive knowledge in Byzantine Art, incorporates the tradition of tight design and rough outlines, as well as strong contrasts of basic colours in saturated tones. It is precisely his iconography that makes him an idealist when it comes to composition construction, but a realist in his representation of details. Lavdas’ painting includes all the shots from the "Strawberries and Blood" of our adolescence, but Time in his works is experienced purely psychologically, as it becomes a dimension of consciousness. It is also deeply psychoanalytic because it creates phobias and projections, repulsions and fantasies, expectations and denials, in a way that plays to the limits of the grotesque. This element dominates Lavdas’ compositions, recalling the German paintings of the interwar period of Otto Dix, Gross and Beckman. Without seeking labels, Lavdas’ painting, along with a bunch of artists who are about the same generation and share common characteristics, such as Nikos Moschos, Georgia Fabris or Stelios Faitakis, has a permanent parameter of futility and sarcasm, which continually scratches under the surface and often reveals a truth carefully hidden away and very often tragic. It condenses everything loudly and ineffectively into a generalized feeling of resignation and cynicism. This manner of painting may seem introverted at first, but it is deeply political and bound to leave an indelible mark. Under this light, Kostas Lavdas appears mature, even though his gaze is often focused on adolescence.
Exhibition text: George Mylonas, Art Historian
Translated from the Greek by Yota Dimitriou