As you walk into the gallery, it is hard to tell the first thing that catches your eye. Two large steel sculptures are installed on the walls, fighting to claim your gaze. The works are bedecked with strips of concertinaed steel, perforated cylinders, a metallic arc and a crescent swathed in a gnarled plaster shroud: medallions on a soldier’s uniform. An architectural blue shape lacerates an embossed circle- the linocut Caliper is quietly alluring, possessing a subtlety that sits at odds with its larger counterparts. Yet it is this work that almost acts as a cipher for its siblings, a link to Basil Papoutsidis’ previous print-based practice.
Linocut with embossing, artist frame. 2016 $450
Image credit: Bruce Esplin
Livery is not the only one of Papoutsidis’ exhibitions to bring to mind battles. In his installation Auto Salon at Kings Artist Run, it is as if the large steel sculptures exhibited had been wrought into strange contortions by some unknown giant- placed in opposition to one another like colossal chess pieces, or soldiers in a tactical formation- or perhaps they are weapons: their jagged edges slicing through the air. If the sculptures in Auto Salon are like weapons, the assemblages in Livery are like shields embellished with strange inscrutable crests; insignia fitting for the city of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.
Graduating from the VCA in 2014, Papoutsidis shares a studio with his industrial designer father, their two practices united by shared interests. In her essay for Auto Salon: A Contemporaneity of Functionless Forms, Catherine Read describes this symbiotic relationship: “Within a studio space, a father and son’s practice is mirrored, creating a dialogue on aesthetics and the functionality of objects within our lives.” While inspired by the sleek contours of ‘60s cars, the heroism and stylised masculinity of Steve McQueen films, Livery is not the stuff of boyish dreams; there is a distinct maturity to Papoutsidis’ practice. While seemingly arbitrary in composition, each work is meticulously designed, possessing an intuitive aesthetic logic. Papoutsidis works to a rigorous edict, ensuring that each work maintains a hierarchical structure, ensuring that despite certain dominant elements, each piece remains balanced.
Steel, plaster, PVC, acrylic, enamel on MDF. 2016
Image credit: Bruce Esplin
Long captivated by the ‘titans’ of post-painterly abstraction, such as Anthony Caro or Jasper Johns, Papoutsidis aims to carry out rigorous formalist explorations. While one could also liken his practice to the work of other ‘60s abstractionists Imi Knoebel or Blinky Palermo, with their dazzling jewel-like colours, complex geometries and references to the speed and strength of the machine, Livery nods just as much practices of the Italian Futurist Giacomo Balla. The works converse with one another: an aesthetic discourse on colour, form and materiality. Together these structures form some kind of new geometric alphabet- modern hieroglyphs. Their smooth metallic surface is a platform for what Papoutsidis describes as ‘uncontained gestures and unrestricted forms’. Indeed, the works’ embellishments seem only just tethered to their surface. As though they have drifted and anchored only for a split second, that if I turn my back just for a moment, they will continue on their floating pilgrimage through space.
Basil Papoutsidis is a Melbourne based artist.