Smashing Games

December 15, 2023March 2, 2024

Listen and See! Alexandros Vasmoulakis is the painter who solved the riddle of my “listen and see” puzzle. He is also the only painter I know who has “departed.” He left behind a career, a tremendous child, that talented young artist who already possessed virtuoso technical ability. He captivated with large explosive murals, caressing the taste of the Athenian, bourgeois neighborhood. A new street (art) and salon star. How easily do you leave behind the golden hood of early success to dive into the depth of existence? To Un- Escape? Who does it today when the sirens of success seduce even the most virtuous? Vasmoulakis made the tremendous turn before becoming the absolute “favorite” artist. The contemporary Athenian art scene has not witnessed such a spectacular turn towards the “inside.” A new spirituality. Vasmoulakis transitioned into an unorthodox, slanted abstraction. A visionary painting of heightened reality. His practice became a part and ritual of a spiritual life. In Eastern tradition and psychedelic literature, the death of the Ego is the liberation from accumulated memory, creating the sense of the Ego, and causing attachment to the self and its suffering. Vasmoulakis records as he progresses in this exploration of the limits of the Ego. This mystical journey shapes his work.

The word “vibrations,” mentioned at some point, decrypts his work and especially the palette of his colors. The frequency of color, the vibrations it causes. His color is explosive and completely foreign to the Greek palette, to anything experienced under the “Attic light,” and primarily, collectively registered as Greek. Of course, colors have long been silent in Western painting. Their spiritual imprint remained eccentric and neglected in the era of teachers like Item, Klee, and the Orphists, Kupka, and the Delaunay couple, up to Rothko. The hyperbolic use of color almost stops there. Vasmoulakis, probably unwittingly, rediscovers the painting of Kupka through self-exploration and contemporary efforts to achieve altered states of consciousness.

Someone superficial might be dazzled by the intense colors he uses and see a pop abstraction. This happens because he does not pose questions of gravity or seriousness; he escapes the existential pain of European monotonous works of painting. On the contrary, and against the trends, he seeks with the painstaking effort to scrape the surface until some hidden substance emerges.

Wallpapers, the background, swallow, do not accommodate the gaze. The power of the curves of his forms creates a kaleidoscopic frenzy in which one can see outlines resembling the curved figures of Disney characters or the inflated kimonos in Hokusai's woodcuts. In other words, a design that has no counterpart in Greek illustration. Another peculiarity of his works is that they seem to be fragments of a larger image. The boundaries of the canvas are not limits and barriers for the forms, for the composition, but function like a random parallelogram framing the universe. Like a snapshot of his internal visual field. All elements overflow abundantly; color and form create an uncontrollable whirlwind. And within this vortex, forms of bodies appear, as in a pareidolia. Faces and bodies, ghosts within the color. These broken, distorted, stain-like bodies resemble a pareidolic reconstruction of Duchamp's “Nude Descending a Staircase.” So, is his art ultimately abstract or descriptive? 

According to Vasmoulakis, he wants to paint as if he were a child. The innocent eye, how is it possible today? Yet, amidst the frenzy, he becomes a child playing at a frenetic pace, smearing, scratching, tearing the vast surfaces of his works, his own childish ring. His devotion comes to justify the power of performative painting, the performativity of painting. The impossibility of the ontological detachment of the painter from the act of painting and its documentation. The works do not show; they are. We live in an era that cannot accommodate the heroic, self-destructive masculinity of a prospective new Pollock. It would seem foolish, unbearable, even toxic. The big boys, the child painters of the 20th century, fall from collective oblivion one by one. Thus, new gendered readings of art history emerge.

However, Vasmoulakis seems to slip away from the gendered reading of grand gestures, large-scale works, the maximalism of form, and the lavish use of painting materials. He manages this because he maintains innocence. Because he is a mystic, a humble devotee who lets himself be carried away by the complexity of his visions. This new spirituality, the echo of corresponding spiritual-artistic aspirations a century ago, is certainly an outlet, a departure from today's dark condition.

I am interested in the relationship between individuality and the broader whole, “says Vasmoulakis about his experience. Continuing, he mentions the “Consciousness, of the Baby, a perception free from the burdens of memory and knowledge.”So,this”child”has indeed gotten lost in his own game! Disdainfully, some say, “he’s heard it all before.” But how could such a sensitive person, with such ambitious goals, be understood by many? Vasmoulakis feels, or rather experiences, the vibrations and translates them into color and form, into parallel circles. A new Tibetan Bardo Thodol, a guidebook for visual recognition of the Beyond made by a contemporary and ”naive” mystic.

And all this he discovers behind the glossy images of advertising, the saturated colors of cartoons, the sparkling materials of three-dimensional graphics. From there emerges something timeless, something transcendent that Vasmoulakis has perceived in the abundant play of his art. His cryptic language is protected by its glossy surface. For many, he is a pop artist. I think he has “heard” it all and “seen” much more than the most of us. His paintings is a powerful voice urging:

“Listen and See!” Poka -Yio2023