DIMITRIS TRAGKAS 1990 – 2000
A journey through the highways of thinking and art which intimates that
“there is as much space that is missing from the whole, as there is included in the point itself.
In the last ten years, Dimitris Tragkas’s work has systematically and clearly developed towards that direction in which Art is not understood only as an accumulative invention in the field of formalist transformation or as an aesthetic fabrication of some specialist learning, but as the point of condensation of all the parts that comprise the totality of knowledge and the perception of the world. This approach reflects the artist’s double understanding of art as both a manifestation of a broader cosmic energy and also as a reflection of a distinct spiritual tradition. As far as Tragkas is concerned, the distinct cultural characteristics are impressed on the perception of space-time and nature-man irrespective of the national descent of the individual. In the dense rationale that traverses the valuable logbook of his journey in the last few years, he notes that “If I want to be Greek, I must think of the World”. Philosophy and Science, Art and Life are for Tragkas an indivisible One. He consciously posits this maxim as necessary for the demystification of the myth of the scission which opened between reason and intuition about four centuries ago, directing civilisation to an unprecedented shattering of cohesion among the multiple fields of activity and levels of human existence.
Tragkas’s current work is the offspring of a methodically applied exercise to re-open the points of intersection of disparate fields of knowledge, science and philosophy and also an opening towards the corporeal experience of the natural and the material environment. In the last ten years he has worked with perseverance, methodical study and exercise in order to attain this double opening, thus counterpoising the weight of this work between the intellectual and the natural relationship with things. Art unfolds in front of him as an infinite space of intellectual correlation and natural experience, where actions such as the study, contemplation, journeys, a game of chess and the time dedicated to martial arts comprise a totality which cannot find its correlative in any closed form. Right from the beginning and throughout the course of his career, he has especially emphasised the notion of infinity through corporeal contact with matter. Since the late 1980s, he has worked on black canvases with a method of “blind” detection of the features of matter. By wielding fire itself as a tool, he creates series of works in the dark, where the nature of the material (paper, tar paper etc.) prescribes the route of the tracing on the surface. His “fire-moulded” works – as I had described them in 1990 – are not depictions of a subjective or an objective expression or interpretation of the world, but impressions of natural situations which result from the contact of the energy of matter with the energy of writing. This meeting point was to engage the artist’s attention completely and become the central pivot of his wanderings in a space which in not delimited only by historical references and structures. He considers this space to be the vacuum in which human activity functions as a point where the signifier and the signified denote the dual nature of the mechanisms of perception. Being a freethinker meditating on the meaning of life and a restless explorer of the natural phenomena, Tragkas in not concerned with the semiological analysis of the systems of expression. On the contrary, he starts to hover over and wander round the concept of human approach in the secrets of creation, abolishing – at the same time – all narrative aids, whether rational or instinctive. He realises that the language of the form classifies knowledge according to a specific method of learning which automatically establishes a system of hierarchy. This is something which opposes the expression of the quest as well as the sense of the whole and the absolute which are investigated in his work.
In 1993, he constructs a huge three-dimensional black amorphous mass which he suspends in a dark room. The condensation of materials into an amorphous mass, which looks like a black zeppelin, the name he was to give to his work later, evokes the double concept of space and energy not only in matter but also through the notion of vacuity. The process of spatial perception becomes for the artist a work of art, where the minimal and the infinite con-note their identicalness and parity. The manifestation of the work of art in this meditative and natural framework outshines the value of the aesthetic form or the descriptive commentary and sets off the unity of existence and space outright. In the same period, he stresses in his logbook that “by ignoring a kind of form, I reject the closed system proposed by it. Any kind of form distinguishes between existence and space”.
These thoughts and meditations prompt him to wander freely in the texts concerning the Philosophy of Nature, to retrace his steps to Pythagoras and Newton, and to cherish Arthur Koestler together with the setting up of a personal attachment with the very places where important and distinguished Astronomers lived and flourished. He visits Uraniburg, Tycho Braher’s renowned observatory on the island of Hven in Denmark. At the same time in those creative years of his exploration of the intellectual fields which investigated the alteration of our knowledge about the universe, he is obsessively concerned with the idea of an existing but invisible work of art; he is concerned with a point which ejects itself in the universe, whose orbit will render its earthly observers from disparate geographical locations the center of the world in time. In this enterprising and unattainable idea, he manages to reduce to a minimum and to amorphousness the concept of infinity and the work’s continual rebirth and development. His unbridled imagination and his insightful intuition become the objects of a systematic discipline, which he records, in the first stages, through the creation of works based on essential geometrical principles. In 1995, he starts working on the idea of “The Centre of the World” which he initially applies onto a large two-dimensional cruciform construction that consists of five black squares coated with the same method of writing which he had used in his early works. The terrestrial and the spiritual elements of art are equally emphasised on this immense cross as they co-exist in an harmonious layout. It functions in space as a monumental reference dedicated to the perennial relationship of cognilion with precognition, which Foucault defines in his treatise on the mode of the existence of man as the continual detachment from and return to descent. We can only agree with Foucault’s analysis that “after the nineteenth century, meditation seeks to establish philosophically the possibility of knowledge in the analysis of that mode of existence, not in the analysis of the representation”.
The great dissolution of “representation” in Tragkas’ s work takes place in 1997, when in a group exhibition within the framework of the Eleusinian Festival, he represents the Centre of the World on a massive three-dimensional cruciform construction consisting of cubes made of wire-ropes and black cloth which intersect while being suspended in space like a pendulum. In that work, the multiplicity of centres, which result form the intersection of the logical structures in enhanced to such an extent that the material casing becomes superfluous as far as its content is concerned. The concept of the centre is reflected within the entire space and finally the cruciform construction, with which Dimitris Tragkas terminates once and for all the representation of aggregation for the sake of aesthetic pleasure, is set on that occasion ablaze. “Nothing closed again. There is no return now”, he points out because “I agree with Pascal that space is a sphere whose centre is located everywhere and its periphery nowhere”.
The artist’s standpoints reflect his awareness of the deadlock which art found itself in as a result of the cumulative agglomeration of formalistic innovations through the centuries. The laws of the structure of evolution which govern nature do not seem to adapt to the sphere of spiritual development in the history of western civilisation. The exaggeration on the specialisation of knowledge which multiplied the conceptual centres of epistemology inevitably incurred the fragmentation of those parts which comprised the initial House in which man had developed as both a healer and a magus, a craftsman and an architect, a hunter and a priest in a harmonious and dialectical relationship between his mental and spiritual entity. Modem man, instead, is carrying the cross of the celebrated and also insuperable division, without any promise of future redemption, fully conscious of the restriction impose on his concurren movement and development in various fields. Man recognises the tree but is unable to live in the wood. Because the truth, as Tragkas points out in his work, seems to lie somewhere between Koestlelers remark that a totality and a civilisation are not defined by the summation of their parts but by the relationship among those parts, and Foucault’s conviction that “man’s knowledge, in contrast to natural science, is always connected, even in its mo unsettled form, with moral and political principles”. It follows that the choice of a form of knowledge of the World is a moral predilection. In art this kind of choice is translated into a proposition of a vision. Dimitris Tragkas indisputably poses a moral issue by proposing to view the multiplicity of centres from a distance, like random points of an infinite horizon where the established hierarchy is automatically abolished. He traces on his blackboards the itinerary of an interminable journey in a world made of an infinite number of points and an infinite number of modes of approach. His airy writing is just the impression of a weightless body resigned to the attraction of those multiple points where “the meaning of time”, the significance of a game of chess and “Reti’s afternoon love”, “the cube in love”, or Kepler’s inspiration that “the beauty of truth is eliptical” or “Archimides stripped of his instruments” (and so many other verbal and poetic accompaniments, dotted on the blackboards) mark no less than this vast sky, where millions of thoughts, feelings, fears and loves have been launched from this planet into the infinitude of knowledge, into the firmament of primal origin.
The infinitude of knowledge, the infinitude of possibilities, the infinitude and modicum of love for the World and man, Dimitris Tragkas’ sense of the infinite seem condensed into a point “as if it were engraved on a God’s ring”. It features as a sign traced at the threshold of the twenty-first century by the auspicious start of an artist, who refuses to be fitted in the part of an already fragmented whole and forcefully “stretches out his arms” not in the spirit of conqueror, as he points out himself, but in order to design the lost embrace of the World with fidelity. Such is the power of the artist in the year 2000.
Efi Strousa, 2000
Translation: Athos Panourgias
(from the catalogue of the exhibition “There is as much space that is missing from the whole, as there is included in the point itself” at Medusa Art Gallery, 2000)