Around the world in 80 seconds
In his, today well-known best seller, Douglas Adams did promise to give the final answer on the query about “life, universe and everything”. The answer was given, and it was of course surreal, correspondingly to the question, but, for the meantime you were reading a good story. For not – well - justified reasons the exhibition “Around the world in 80 seconds” recalls that story. May that be for it passes on a similar sense of long-lasting wandering around the world through the visual universe of Maria Toxavidi’s works of art in which every part of it enters into a tale. Perhaps then again for that “voyage” stands as the leit-motiv par excellence of her works, illustrated on various postage-stamps, the source of her inspiration. A basic tool on her work is a sense of underground humor that causes plates, serving dishes and jugs to spin round like flying saucer disks, the composition being a mingle of apparently heterogeneous elements that raises though a whole coherent world on her pictures: humans and comic heroes, animals characterized by the shamans of North America for their special arcane abilities, narratives inspired by the 7 deadly sins and Christ’s Passions, carousel toys and indigo children, polaroid snapshots and aged images mixed up with song lines, african landscapes that appear like illusive ethnological studies. All the above depicted on a pandemonium of symbols that penetrate the surface of her works as part of the Zeitgeist or “spirit” of our times.
The ornamented surface, pop, childlike happy on the face of it, keeps in secret the subversion for the viewer that will bend carefully to the work, on the details hidden from view at first sight, by the use of a tongue that bites: “Daddy drinks, because you cry” we read on the duplicated – dim as seen from drunkenness’s perspective - image of a baby. All over the little one we see violence’s “black hand”, blooded forks, the appeal for rescue written on the infant’s front. This art, superficially colorful and fairy is just as hard as it can be, plays with the danger and touches the dream as well as the nightmare.
On most paintings we perceive a sense of melodrama. It is melodrama on its lyrical overstatement that brings this art closer to Kitsch further than the identifiable imagery of mass culture’s trivial merchandises that fill up the outer surface of paintings and make it appear theatrical. The Kitsch on its seditious, subversive mode with that half-ironic, half-longing retro mood depicted in old photographs, in the sophisticated frame and the selected palette from the 60’s and ‘70’s that brings into mind maps hung in schools and old-style posted cards.
The rough nostalgia of these images reveals Retro’s cagey game withgender roles, all these cliché expectations of social convention. On the largest part of Maria Toxavidi’s paintings women have leading roles: coquettish odalisque-like females, Renaissance Venuses, a high and mighty lady accompanied by exotic dancers, poupées de cire which carry guns, dead princesses and women like Fani “the girl who always did have good taste”. A remark though: her intention is not to condemn, her disposition has nothing to do with feminist’s protestation. All these women portrayed in mythological, allegorical or film-like scenes are not role models, they do embody sex’s metaphysics and they do reveal views of their female archetypical essence and it is for that reason that they look like goddesses surrounded by attributed insignia, jewellery, ornamented garments, emblems and animals.
Surrealism, Pop, Kitsch, Graphic Arts as well as apparent influences from the American movement of the 70’s “Pattern and Decoration” with the emphasis that it puts on adornment, handicraft and on the plurality of composition mix and melt in a sui generis corpus of work, clearly postmodern in within styles, techniques, forms, ideas, materials and subject-matters coexist in plenitute and equality.
In Maria Toxavidi’s paintings, Hieronymus Bosch joins David Lynch and Julius Vern, objects and images with evocative, mysterious and secret meaning meet modern legends such as UFO’s, mythology comes near Bible. Pop icons, bizarre alterations of humans and animals, mysticism and metaphysical request, fantasy and symbols of a distinctive exotism are blended together on conceptual games. That results to works of art with obscure and weird atmosphere where different ideas correlate spontaneously in long narratives. Just as a jazz improvisation or a journey out into a strange universe.
Yota Konstandatou - Art Historian
By her own symbolic language Maria Toxavidi tells the story of the planet and of its inhabitants. Postage-stamps portrayed in hyper-enlarged format stand as her inspiration, a game of Subversion in which the minor – postage stamps- turns out to be the major and the major – human beings, emotions, anthropological references, universe- turns into minor.
Placed on the actual picture, stamps act as a second canvas: the portraits of “Friends-Strangers” will lie nostalgically on them whilst parts of cloth, resins, objets trouvées and printed sentences are imprinted around them in a unique handiwork technique of printing – impression.
Depicting her world is as if wanting to find out clear-cut explanations for the magic movie-world of David Lynch, scratching the surface above Arthur Rimbaud’s drunken words, classifying into living species the horrific fishes of Hieronymus Bosch.
Magic and poetry get dissolved if not they are set out of this world. However, no danger exists: a world parallel to the actual one keeps on in perpetual motion on the scene “lies inside your eyes”. Our eyes see but false images.
In within her art coexist conspiratorial portraits of humans and magical Indian totems, outer space babies and indigo children, animals, symbols like the pig that tenderly sings about violence, intercourse relationships and loneliness that lives here no long, games with extraterrestrial weapons desperately yelling “help me – save me out there” and, at the end, the “Stamp Collector”, the Major Collector of All, of bodies and souls, cutting and dealing out David’s psalms as if sheets of playing cards.
In every picture words as play, God, loneliness, violence, separation, void, are creased or symbolized so as to send letters from other planets, from a universe poetic and hot where the space-crafts are crockery cups crying out “eat me-drink me”.
Reality, for Maria Toxavidi, is a huge fraud, similar to the moon on the picture “Narrenschiff” (the lunatics’ ship), the port-hole of a black ship that sails to the cosmos.
Anastasia Alevizou – Semiologist