Tom appeared on the sidewalk with a bucket of whitewash and a long-handled brush. He surveyed the fence, and all gladness left him and a deep melancholy settled down upon his spirit. Thirty yards of board fence nine feet high.
(The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain, 1876)
Kostis Velonis is something of a challenger taking aim at the granddaddy of the «Aesthetic Boys Club»: architecture. Like many artists of his generation he shares an interest in modern architecture and design, but his work sets out to emphasize the gap between the modernists´ original will to improve life for the masses and the ultimate incarnations of that will. He might be looking back to the style of high modernism with sympathy, but eventually his bittersweet and at times irreverent take almost constitutes a nightmarish version of the symbols of fashionable metropolitan life and of the theories regarding ´architecture´s proximity to life´.
Practicing his own craftsmanship, Velonis constructs narratives that stretch across history and geography and creates meaning in such a way that his objects appear both playful and powerful. His sculptures undoubtedly have an eye-catching quality, but he is not afraid of allowing his work to manifest some extent of hesitation nor is he afraid of allowing the audience a view of its failures. He analyzes the narrative elements of his works by displaying the mechanics of their construction; he integrates organic forms and points out a process not yet concluded.
Unfinished edges, unfinished woodwork, stray holes, half-painted panels combined with banal decorative elements like candles and crosses, appear as part of an alchemist’s experiment, as the work of a handy-man who got overexcited one sunny Saturday afternoon in his back yard and attempted to realize too many master plans all at once!
Yet, poor builder though he may be, he is master at deploying architecture to explore collective and unconscious histories, while concentrated and contradictory sources of energy set the works shooting off in all directions.
Velonis fantasizes about places and situations; he makes imaginary connections and then compresses everything into a fascinating title. He puts his objects out there where they acquire a life of their own and takes us on a journey to Scandinavia via Latin American with the all important stopover for re-fueling in the Mediterranean country side.
Despite their differences, the majority of his new works are obstinately low-tech and medium scale inviting the viewer for a closer look instead of giving away the big picture. Far from returning to the ´basics´ he uses sculptures and makes constructions of an inherent fragility.
An incongruously rural barrier of wood-fencing for kissing or leaning, small houses with alternative escape ladders or even miniature stools to watch the girls go by, this work is very much about the excitement and dangers of an active childhood and tells of the escapades of a young boy and his friends. Built on imaginative adventures, shared superstitions and a romantic mood, it is more a contingent exercise than a neatly finished ´product´.
© Xenia Kalpaktsoglou, October, 2004