Panayiotis Kalorkoti

Seurat, 1984
56.5x67.3cm (sheet), 34.9x49.2cm (imp.), Edition of 50
about this collection Click image to enlarge

The work of Panayiotis Kalorkoti draws on a diverse range of histories - that of art, of politics and of his personal ideas. The result is an art which is often fragmentary and which brings together imagery culled from heterogeneous sources - graffiti, street art, comics, the great caricaturists of the past (Hogarth, Kay etc.), and modern masters such as Matisse and Picasso. The results are inevitably humerous and ironic as is the work of the artists he admires most and the impression gained is of a commentary on contemporary society - sometimes absurd, sometimes tragic-comic. The device which he employs to shape his ideas is that of contrast of one image with another and this is reinforced formally by an unusual and vivid colour sense. The feeling of cultural references thrown into a melting pot conveys a vivid sense of the dislocations of modern life.


Panayiotis Kalorkoti's work is frequently produced in series and included is a detailed description of eight related prints on the theme of the fathers of contemporary art.


In this sequence of prints, I have used a personal selection of eight figures who might well stand as the Fathers of Modern Art in order to explore the interlocking patterns of personality, surroundings, influences and friends which have coloured the output of each. The choice is idiosyncratic rather than comprehensive or encyclopaedic, yet no detail has been included at random, so that my researches have here constituted an intrinsic part of the image-making process. The result is not, however, art-history or biological illustration, but rather an act of homage conceived in visual terms. Such homage inevitably reflects the giver as well as the receiver, and in these prints the stylistic and technical decisions of my own art have fused with the details borrowed from the lives of my subjects to indicate the dynamics of continuing influence and the value of myth-making and role-playing. Through these images I can stand at the feet of my chosen Pantheon, worshipping but also enquiring, fired by the mundane as by the sublime and slightly bemused to find myself reconstituting their images from my own viewpoint.


"Seurat" sets the tone by dislocating the barriers between picture-spaces, so that while a corner of "La Grande Tatte" is seen fixed within a border and securely identified as a painting within a print, the voluptuous figure from "Woman powdering herself" has transcended her frame and re-emerged as the artist's mistress, now seated in his studio and continuing her toilette in serene self-absorption. Artistic cross-currents are indicated not only by the figure of Signac, but also by the works of Millet and Ingres which Seurat owned, here shown summarily lined up behind the artist in order to convey that familiar relationship which even such an apparently "new" style as Pointillisme may continue to enjoy with its artistic forbears. My own method in this print, with its deliberately speckled surface, is not so much to suggest an etched analogue to Pointilliste painting as to re-unify the various pictorial realities I have juggled by imposing across them all the grainy texture of an old photograph.


In "Cezanne" it is the familiar elements of the still-lives which have been translated back into the "real" world of the print, to the extent that the artist interrupts his painting to eat one of the apples. Pissarro and Cezanne's wife make no attempt to divert his attention as he engages the viewer's gaze more directly than any other figure in the series. The magnitude of his reputation is hinted at not so much by a glimpse of the "Bathers" as by the presence of Maurice Denis's "Homage to Cezanne" of 1900, homage here finding expression at a respectful distance while my own move in close to find identity in the informal moment of trivial detail.


In "Whistler" the background of green dadoed wall embellished with a butterfly signature suggests the artist's self-appointed role as arbiter of aesthetic taste, while the pendentive lights belong to the Peacock Room he decorated (notably without permission) for his patron Leyland. It is impossible to find a visual equivalent for Whistler's acerbic wit, but the portraits of Ruskin, Rossetti and Wilde on the wall hint at his intellectual ambiance, and at the taste of the time for bringing matters of morals and aesthetics to trial. I have not attempted to reproduce Whistler's consciously exquisite effects of colour, so none of his own works appear, but the figure of his mother from his best-known portrait now sits in frozen Victorian rectitude in the same room where her son gives his quizzical contemplation to the hint of a mistress.


Picasso, whose name must be the best known amongst 20th century artists, appears twice in the "Picasso" print: surrounded by motifs associated with himself and his contemporaries (books on Gris, a Leger and Braque himself seated behind the table) he stares out directly in an indirect form, as a sculpted head which suggests both his work in different media and the classicism which underlay a central core of his output; and secondly in an image taken from an earlier print of my own, which jokingly reverses the roles of Nature and Art in what might popularly be seen as a "typical" Picasso painting. The lute stands by the wall as a component part of a Cubist still-life, the unassuming raw material will be fragmented to celebrate the coming of Modernism.


"Matisse" plays with technique and surface, with "La Danse" cutting abruptly to a dot-patterned wall while still-life elements loom large or hover insubstantially, both denying and emphasising the two-dimensionality of the picture-plane. The figure of the artist is taken from a photograph which actually shows him drawing, but here I have withdrawn him from the sphere of action to incorporate him into my scrapbook assemblage of flat patterns and deceptive spaces, so he merely holds his cat.


In "Klee" the artist withdraws further still - unlike Picasso, here it is the work rather than the man which is part of the mythology of Modernism - but I have reserved an area of central importance for his cats, Nuggy, Myz, Tripouille and Bimbol. Otherwise, as the styles of his work are irreducible and untranslatable, I have simply included as large a personal selection as possible, to signify his fertile and poetic imagination.


"Jackson Pollock" is deliberately different from the rest of the series in its attempt to convey rapid movement, Action Painting in action yet paradoxically frozen on the surface of my print. The appurtenances of the painter's craft are significant - no longer palettes and easels but here great tins of paint, opened and ready for the rapid gesticulation which makes the artist appear as a kind of athlete. He is isolated on a narrow platform, almost overwhelmed on all sides by the evidence of his activity, though here it is accorded less than unquestioning respect: only the horizontal area of "Summertime" actually reproduces a Pollock painting, the other panels being my own free variations on totally abstract theme.


"De Kooning" is a joke on a joke, for as the painter steps back to survey his work, what he actually sees is my own version of a De Kooning, put together from newspaper articles of suitable vintage and mood. Throughout the entire series my own stance has inevitably coloured the perception and representation of my heroes, and I see my process of selection, re-assemblage and emphasis as a footnote on the mythology of Modern Art.