Berlin, Apr. 2012: Angela Liosi applies her creative curiosity to unearthing the passionate potential in banal settings. Like a sharp crime writer, Lios can reveal dark depth in everyday settings.
Liosi’s 9 Scenes of Ordinary Murders series consists of a series of matchbook-sized murder scenes made from architectural model materials and red nail polish. Set in different domestic or cultured environments, these sculptures initially appear as genteel dioramas until their true narrative emerges. Once a bludgeoned, defenestrated or simply stabbed body is spotted, then these civilized scenes become as subtle and chilling as a Hitchcock classic.
The young Greek artist devised her micro-murders as a method of exorcizing both common and innovative morbid fantasies. Her tiny and entirely white characters cut each other up while another reads the newspaper; they sit idly while their companion purges red blood at the other end of the sofa; they pull apart each other's bodies with clothing lines and impale each other during private pilates sessions. Her minute white figures are indistinguishable to viewers but apparently they are fleshed out enough to each other to illicit pure sadism or vigilantism.
In contrast to the sinister social scenes that Liosi examines in her mini-murders, her on-going series of drawings and sculptures explores only the murky and unknown depths within ourselves. The one constant in her meticulous pencil drawings and multi-medium sculpture, is a surreally shaped rock emerging from water. Underneath the sea-level, the story changes. Each image offers an entirely different description of the cultivated, natural or supernatural world invisible by land. In some instances, there are cave dwellings carved into rock surfaces, rays of extraordinary light or impossible gaps between sections of rock. These structures can appear ominous or wondrous.
Although the rock itself is strikingly bizarre, it can serve as a symbol for our universal public selves. We all present something distinctive to outsiders. Yet, the layers of experience, influence and complexity underneath our exterior remain mysterious to outsiders, and often to ourselves.
I would normally talk to Angela about these dark depths over Greek coffee in her Berlin flat but I am currently in England, so we’ve used email to discuss the subtext to her art and her everyday.
Angela Liosi; Photo by Maxime Ballesteros
Ana Finel Honigman: What is the story to the rock you reproduce in your drawings and sculptures?
Angela Liosi: It is called the White Stone. Its location is a rather hidden place in the sea, right across my father‘s house. I faced this rock almost every day. It fascinated me in many different ways. It seems like this form flows in the sea beyond space and time. It created many different images in my mind of what could be hidden inside it. It has always been an extremely mysterious place for me while also the most familiar place of all.
AFH: Was the rock’s mysterious nature a source of fear or wonder?
AL: It was both. It is more of a wonder since I have a great admiration for the way that this thing is shaped. The fear that I feel is like exploring the attic of an old house. It is an “explorative fear.”
AFH: How has living in Berlin affected your practice and the issues you address in your work?
AL: I have many references to the places I have been physically in my art. I use Berlin’s architecture and the landscape of Greece. The architecture and the structure of the city have been a great influence. Architectural elements influence the forms and the materials for my work. For example, 9 scenes of ordinary murders is completely influenced by the city. The fact that houses here have no shutters excited me. I could peep into people‘s homes. Watching a family having dinner, I would think of how easily an extreme moment of rage can destroy what appears to be calm and perfect.
Angela Liosi, 9 Scenes of ordinary murders (detail), 2009, plastic and nail polish, 45 x 3,7 x 3,5cm; Courtesy of the artist.
AFH: Are you self-conscious of what people can see in your flat?
AL: Oh, yes! I try to hide myself behind curtains. I also visited the building across from my place once, just to check what kind of murder could occur in my flat. I also thought it would be really nice to surprise my “spy,“ if there is one. If I knew the exact moment when someone peeps into my flat, then it would be fun, to suddenly knock my head against the window.
AFH: Are the homes that you can view apparently perfect?
AL: Well, not all of them are, but the ones that inspired me seem perfect. They have a new-age aesthetic. Everything looks clear and well-made. Even the habitants look fresh from an IKEA catalog. These scenes compelled me to depict the urges and pure violence that feel more authentic and true than the surfaces that I can see.
AFH: Why do you think privacy is not a high value for Berliners?
AL: Berliners generally have a really comfortable relation with their body and their image. They are quite liberal, in that sense. Privacy is not a high value. They can easily let you into their lives, but only up to a point. Doors are closed from that point onwards.
AFH: What is the fear? And how does this fear play into your work?
AL: It does not really mater. It can be the fear of anything. In the murder scenes, it is the fear of our own suppressed violent thoughts. In the rock series, it is the fear of entrapment. Any kind of fear is relevant. It adds a slight excitement. I guess is just adrenaline, but in a more poetic sense.
AFH: Do you feel tempted or expected to address the current political turmoil in Greece with your work? Are viewers reading politics in your art, or are you hoping your work will be seen separately from your cultural identity?
AL: Politics cannot be separated from art. Even the fact of being an artist is a political statement. So, I do not feel tempted or expected to address these issues directly in my work. Since this is an element in my work regardless of how “political art” is defined. It is not necessary for me to be seen in any particular way. I want the viewer to have the freedom to interpret the works and find meaning.
Angela Liosi, There is No Escape V, 2012, pencil on paper, 35 x 50cm; Courtesy of the artist.
AFH: Why create sculptures, as well as drawings, of the rock? How do they relate?
AL: The drawings are being used to help me find solutions for the sculptures. I can have a more detached approach with the two-dimensional works, while I and viewers are part of the pieces when working on a sculpture. The drawings are like notes and the sculpture is the result of them. Although I have the sculpture in my mind, I enjoyed the freedom that the drawing gives. It is the freedom to fool around. Even the shape of the rock used is redefined with the sculptures, whereas the rock is always the same with the drawings. It is more like a diary, where the date never changes.
AFH: How does the extremely delicate and meticulous process of making the drawings and murder scenes relate to the emotions you express and evoke in viewers with both series?
AL: The relation to the emotions evoked is because of this antithesis that exists between the process and the theme. The themes are rather violent and stressful while the process is smooth and detailed.
Angela Liosi, One Step Before the Call, 2012, mixed media, 65 x 25 x 30cm; Courtesy of the artist.
AFH: Do you feel that your rock series is progressing in a particular direction or are the variations all diverse and independent? What I mean is, is the area under sea level getting darker, more intricate or focused on a particular theme?
AL: The initial thought was to keep this steady form of the rock on the top and play with the idea of what lies within. Proceeding through the series, this world beneath started to develop. Even from the first drawing I read this sense of entrapment and wanted to keep this sensation. Unintentionally every new drawing becomes a bit darker and more complex. It is always developing.
—Ana Finel Honigman
Artslant would like to thank Angela Liosi for her assistance in making this interview possible.