THE EMPEROR OF COLORS, Panagiotis Kampanis.
His name is Ioannis Kaiserlis. But his friends call him Kaiser (emperor in German). With a degree in industrial design, he started working in the family business, showing his talent in the applied arts. Restless and creative spirit, at some point in his life, he decided to create his own “Rubicon”, channeling all his energy and sensitivity to the art of painting. Today he is considered an extremely productive artist, who sees, understands and depicts the modern contradictory world with his own special view. Observing the whole of his work, the influence of two great artists of the early 20th century, Juan Miro and Jackson Pollock, is immediately apparent. Both the surreal world of the first and the abstract world of the second, found a prominent place, first of all in his soul and then in his aesthetic view. As the pioneering and unique revolutionary Miro expressed with his work his contempt for the conventional methods of painting, which functioned as a means of supporting civil society and proclaimed the “murder of painting” in favor of overturning the visual elements in the rulers of the visual arts, so Kaiserlis uses his wings in his creative universe and transforms his world with the simplicity of the means he uses, a visual language with amazing connections and unusual combinations.
Deeply symbolic, he formed a completely unique style. His frequent experiments on unprepared canvases, led him to capture in his works of art, both the material and the invisible world. Everything, visible and invisible, is presented through his bright soul. His existential artistic anxiety leads him to the search for truth, to its alternative reality. Characteristic elements of his art are considered to be the intense pure colors and the indefinite and semi-abstract forms, which emerge from the depths of the subconscious. In fact, he developed what André Breton called “pure mental automation.” The terms Charles Baudelaire used to describe what art evokes were: “waves of consciousness” and “waves of clarity”.
Abstract expressionism, which Kaiserlis decided to join, is an artistic current in post-war New Yorkbased painting. It was perhaps the first major art movement to be born in America, while declaring its independence from the rest of Europe in modern art. The term abstract expressionism was first used in 1946 by the art critic Robert Coates. This name contains the main technical and aesthetic characteristics of the movement, as it largely combined German expressionism with the purely abstract tendencies of other modern movements such as futurism or cubism. It is considered by many that surrealism is its main predecessor, due to its emphasis on spontaneous, automatic or subconscious expression. Perhaps the greatest representative of abstract expressionism, Pollock, developed a very special technique in painting (dripping method), in which he dripped chaotically on the canvas, which he placed on the ground. His creations, which have a fractal structure, are considered almost impossible to reproduce by imitators, as they reflect the particular internal structure of the artist.
During the 1960s, the abstract expressionist movement began to lose much of its radiance and ceased to significantly influence other artists. In our time, the phenomenon of redefinition is intense, not only of art, but also of human thought as a whole, it is considered a wishful work that some artists are inspired by these “modern movements”, which have significantly influenced the evolution of societies. The chaotic result of the dripping technique can initially create a negative impression to someone, even discomfort and uncertainty in what they see. But observing it, not in a critical mood, anyone discovers a structured work, in which colors and shapes are balanced, in a way that stimulates the mind and emotion. It is the creative expression, which in the work captures the mental state, emotions, ideas, feeling and vision of the artist. If we let ourselves feel free, then we will feel that inside it is hidden a heart that is constantly beating. Like the modern world we live in. Looking at it, the sense of creation is created. “When you look down, the world looks like a painting”, sings the well-known bard Costas Hatzis. Almost everyone considers Pollock and his “artistic descendants” to be abstract artists. Personally, I classify them as documents. When there were no drones for aerial photography, the soul of the artist soared into the sky and gazed. When he returned, he recorded on the canvas in his own way what his soul saw.
The pictorial eclecticism of Ioannis Kaiserlis under the sign of Abstract Expressionism (IE), Marta Lock
The choice to freely express sensations and emotions without having to stick to the scheme of figuration represents for many artists the maximum form of freedom, necessary to communicate everything that cannot be explained, which often does not have a full meaning but only needs to escape in order to extricate itself and emerge to the consciousness. The artist I am going to tell you about today is moving on the ground of emotional non-figuration in order to satisfy his feeling.
When in the first half of the twentieth century arose the need to affirm the independence of art from any form of representation of reality, claiming that the act of creating was already itself the purest artistic manifestation and the only one capable of moving away from contingent reality, sometimes too disorienting and sometimes too rapid in its evolution, feelings and emotions were put in the background. Abstract Art, from Geometrical to Spatialism, from Suprematism to Minimalism, omitted subjectivity to exalt objectivity, the rational study of lines and colours on the canvas to seek a purely aesthetic, mental and meditated balance, an almost scientific approach to the work that necessarily had to distance itself from all that was observable in reality. The paradox to which on came wanted to be overcome in Europe by Vassily Kandinsky who wanted to reaffirm the importance and natural tendency of the artist to infuse and communicate emotions giving life to Lyrical Abstractionism, while in the United States developed a much more extreme movement, in his return to pure inner sensation, which took the name of Abstract Expressionism. Jackson Pollock, its founder, promoted an immediate, instinctive painting, without anything being held back by the reins of rationality, in which all that was subjective, an expression of the interiority of the performer of the work, had to escape and impress on the canvas in a free, irrational, impulsive way. Action Painting was as functional to this philosophy so much as Dripping, Color Field, all techniques used by artists who joined the current, each with his own personal pictorial approach. From the sign painting of Franz Kline and Adolph Gottlieb to the irrational and impetuous works of Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner, from the meditative atmospheres of Mark Rothko to the intimist monochromes of Ad Reinhardt, Abstract Expressionism gave artists the freedom to be and express themselves in the manner closest to their own inclination.
The Greek artist Ioannis Kaiserlis, aka KaiZer, approaches the American movement with a very singular manner, moving like a tightrope walker between the stylistic variations that have characterized it, thus creating an eclecticism that becomes his personal distinguishing mark; the ability to explore the different expressive languages corresponds to his desire to tune the artworks with the modes of expression, the sensations of the moment when he starts painting.
His sense of freedom is also manifested through the choice not to give titles to the artworks, entrusting their names to numbers because everything he wishes to tell and express must reach the most intimate chords of the observer without being influenced by the link with rationality, by the guidance of a title that could distract him from the immediate and instinctive approach to the observed canvas.
For KaiZer, Action Painting is the most appropriate choice when he wants to narrate the strongest, most intense, often confused sensations, precisely because he is impetuous in their manifestation, those that induce him to look inside himself in order to be able to free everything that would otherwise be entangled in the deepest folds.
When, on the other hand, he finds himself in a calmer, meditative state of mind, the one during which he needs to reflect, rationalise and give a name and meaning to what he feels and perceives, he approaches the signs, the grey scale, the need for a balance between canvas and emotion, between outside and inside which becomes a narration to the viewer of the artwork.
And then suddenly he moves towards a more lyrical style, almost tending towards figuration, introducing round shapes or elements recognizable by the human eye, to express lighter, more vital and amused sensations, because he feels the need to come out into the light and tell relaxing and sparkling moments, perhaps those immediately following the most collected phases, and therefore the shapes become softer, the colours more lively.
Sometimes he chooses primary colours, while other times he widens the chromatic range in order to reach the final aim, that of the explosiveness of enthusiasm, which however appears to be very different from the more impetuous and impetuous series of artworks where restrained emotions need to explode and be outsourced in any form. Finally, in the most contemplative moments, he moves towards Material Art, for which he chooses the monochrome necessary to let the object hidden in the canvas speak, which it lets himself be glimpsed to symbolize Kaiserlis‘ need to cling to a reference, to something that slows down the rhythm, that creates a friction in the fluid and fast everyday reality and that constitutes a solid base from which to examine the silent reality of the non-visible.
His emotions alternate, as much as they do in life, and therefore he cannot but tune those passages to his artistic manifestation, letting himself be guided by instinct and by the freedom to decide each time with which language to express himself, to tell his story and to communicate with the observer who lets himself be conquered by his works in an instinctive, atavistic way. Ioannis Kaiserlis arrives at art concurrently to a different yet analogous professional path, in which he has measured himself with flat design and interior decoration, fields that have led him to feel the need to express through the creative act and to discover how art is able to modify an environment through its communicative capacity and strong emotional impact.
Ioannis Kaiserlis, the Informal Material to describe the impetuousness of nature, Marta Lock.
The Greek interior designer Ioannis Kaiserlis, discovers an unexpected creative vein that pushes him to give life to real works of art, strong of the experience in the field of furniture and aware that an environment is enriched and illuminated thanks to the presence of a canvas able to excite, to make the intimate strings of the observer vibrate. He chooses, precisely because of this expressive awareness, as well as the need not to let himself be caged by the academic and predetermined rules of figuration that he would perceive as a limit to the inner flow that he wants to escape, a pictorial approach linked to Abstraction, declined from time to time on the basis of the subject he wants to represent, the concept he needs to free and the feeling that presses to be expressed in a more or less incisive way. He approaches Abstract Expressionism when the pictorial gesture is more instinctive, almost primordial and irrepressible in its communicative urgency, and then moves on to the Informal Material in the moments in which his inspiration dwells on contemplation, on natural events that cannot help but strike him but also induce him to reflect on the smallness of the human being before the greatness of the world that hosts him, the atmospheric phenomena that often overwhelm him, thus revealing a feeling very close to the themes of English Romanticism, those of that William Turner who made the relationship between man and the impetuousness of nature the fulcrum of his artistic production.
Therefore, romantic poetic poetic romantic but contemporary pictorial style, that of Ioannis Kaiserlis, especially in his work The Wave of Venetian Life, a great triptych that wants to be a testimony of the great flood of the seaside town after which people, but also nature, have rebuilt, regenerated and recreated what has been mercilessly destroyed by nature. The artistic language is therefore structured, consistent, because it is functional to combine the artist’s thought, his philosophical concept, with the evident impetuousness of the event and therefore it was necessary to use an Informal Material approach in which the superimposition of oil with 3D images merges with the materials used to give relief, thickness and plasticity to the scene described, the one in which the sea entered the city and destroyed what it found on its overwhelming path. In the surreal landscape that is revealed a moment after the flood, Ioannis Kaiserlis lets us glimpse the testimony and disorienting co-presence of interrupted life, the gondolas and people completely swept away by the destructive wave, and that of the animals of the sea, such as fish and dolphins, who suddenly find themselves in an unknown environment, destabilising and frightening because they do not belong to their habitat.
The final result is an indefinite tangle, a place devastated and to be rebuilt because, after all, all that man can do, when he comes across the impetuous force of nature, is to get up and start again from the point where everything had stopped, more conscious of his slenderness but aware of that inner force that allows him to regenerate as much as nature itself is able to do when man corrupts his balance, his vital circle, through technological and industrial intervention.
But let’s get to know better the artist who has chosen to make an Italian city, Venice, the protagonist of one of his most important works.
Ioannis, can you explain what it meant to you to make this painting?
I started to create the artwork abstractly. As I was painting the second of the three paintings, a person close to me noticed the gondola I had designed. Then with the suggestion of an another friend I realized that the gondola was a sign to capture the destruction of Venice. It took six months to complete the triptych, after several changes, work and passion for development. I felt the need on the one hand to highlight the daily deterioration of nature and its reaction to the disturbing action of man’s actions towards universal equilibrium and on the other hand, the constant search presence of the Divine Providence, which in any case intervenes to save man and in the specific case Venice.
Is there an ecological message in the artwork or yours it’s simply an acknowledgement of what happened, as if it were a historical testimony of an event that took place?
Yes actually, there is an ecological message. The artwork is a tangible example of natural disaster as a result of human negligence and presents the flood of Venice. The security of the house and the protection it offers becomes questionable when nature decides to rebe the and respond with hostility to the forcing that man exerts on her. Human activity is a process that causes gradually irreparable damage to the natural environment. The urban landscape often violates the rules of nature, wastes its resources and inadvertently creates concrete places for the falsification of man himself, and not sites for the development of the spirit. Man does not respect that ancient and personified figure of Mother Nature that from the beginning of his path and his evolution in any geocultural environment he began to venerate. So this work is in a certain sense a tribute to her.
Explain to us why you chosed to mix three different techniques, even if they are definitely complementary; is it a pictorial enrichment or is it a need of yours not to stop at a single style because its expressiveness needs more space?
I decided to use three different techniques to be able to highlight the greatness of the artwork, to capture every detail, to show the ability to make three-dimensional touches and elements and the technique of scratching the board in order to capture the debris. I wanted the observer to perceive the intensity of the work by the three different techniques. and at the same time that my deep conviction emerged that it is precisely in chaos that new ideas, new points of view, new opportunities are generated, it is from the darkness that we begin to see light, movement, life again.
Which are your projectsr for the future? Are you planning important exhibitions or publications?
In the near future I plan to make an online exhibition, so that the public knows a part of my work through the descriptions I will give for my paintings. Later, when conditions allow, I want to present all my works. Of course I will continue to paint, to attribute my world and my soul to the canvas and to develop my art and to evolve my experiments and my contemporary sculptural art. Specifically, I want to exhibit “The wave of the Venetian Life” in Venice, which inspired me. My faith has led me to love and passion for painting!
3. G. Orfanidis [PhDC, Archaeologist – Art Historian, Curator & Director (UnEdu 02/Hellenic Ministry of Culture Archaeologists – Art Historians)] writes about Kaizer.
The ecological consciousness of the artist is occupied by various extensions, with the primary one being the religious one. Kaiserlis, on the one hand, is sad and mourns for the daily deterioration of nature, and on the other hand, he is subconsciously constantly seeking the meanings of “Divine Providence”, or in other words, that plan of the Creator who (will) direct all earthly activities, so that the universal balance is not disturbed forever. After all, the religious ideal follows the inspiration of the artist, sometimes openly, and sometimes secretly, covertly, to a point that is only implied if the viewers-readers themselves have similar experiences and cultural perceptions. For example, the signifier and signified of the Bible inside the gondola – sign of salvation of the civilization of the Universe – dynamically highlights the mature religious thought of Kaiserlis. The same is found in the signifier and signified of the Cross, regardless of the form it may take each time (Greek, Latin, etc). The Cross, a symbol of Divine Passion, characterizes Christian art from its beginnings, as confirmed by archaeological excavations in the Catacombs of the Italian peninsula. Human activity is considered by the artist as a process that causes gradually irreparable damage to the natural environment. The urban landscape often violates the rules of nature, wastes its resources, and ultimately, inadvertently creates concrete places of falsification of man himself, and not places of development of the spirit. Man does not respect that ancient and personified figure of Mother Nature, whom from the beginning of his course and evolution in any geocultural environment he began to worship, paying maximum tribute to Ηer. This personification is not accidental. On the contrary, it emerges from the bosom of the artist’s psychosynthesis, and in a sense is connected with the memories of him from his place of origin, a place rich in cultural monuments of Antiquity and Byzantium. Therefore, the ancient inscription from Lefkopetra of Imathia, with a direct reference to Nature-Gaia-Mother of the Gods, is engraved in the innermost world of Kaiserlis as a proof of respect for the natural environment, even in the light of another cultural reality, different from the Christian.
Kaiserlis creates from nothing. He deeply believes in the birth of ideas from the ruins, from the gloomy, from where apparently there is no light, movement, life.