New York

Philip Tsiaras

Harm Bouckaert Gallery

If one could see an aura, a modern aura, it would probably look like one of Philip Tsiaras’ “Liquid Portraits.” I doubt if our auras resemble Renaissance halos or the pastel radium peignoir of science fiction. They probably come in wild colors, like sporting socks, and maybe have six eyes on a face and two noses, one before the punch and one after. That’s what Tsiaras’ portraits look like—spiritual renderings of the demented, with all of their wild energy captured on film. Tsiaras doesn’t use any photographic technique here, but it seems as if he does; dissolving, flowing lines look as though they were formed by photographic exposure rather than direct impression. Perhaps it’s washing that does it, but it looks as if the lines are self-propelled. The liquidity of these portraits gives forms radiance, captures a face turning into another face. In this way they are masks—posttribal mood archetypes, personality essences, affliction diagrams, targets. They are magic faces, totems.

Some of the faces map mutation. A single head wears two profiles; a nose has breasts; stigmata appear; a nose is an arrow, a mouth is a vortex; multiple sets of eyes (windows of the possessed, signs of polygamy) are common. Some of the faces are like the carnival masks of lesser gods, gods of witty conversation or strange dreams or dark department stores. In some, red seems to stand for blood and gold for gold. On one face hair is turning to a radiant crown. Within another face a strange crucifixion is depicted with an alligator superimposed over the body of Christ.

Despite the wildness of image and color, there is also a sensational justice,an outlandish orderliness. Ambience is energized with orderly fields, dots and waves and borders, against which the asymmetrical face of personality is scrutinized, diagrammatically crucified. This calm is exemplified in the “Stiff Horse Drawings”; the horse, natural even in his strange lusts, is symmetrical, well formed, and blends in with his surroundings. These works imply a high-tech cargo cult; simple magic in complex circumstances. But whether that magic is applied to the wild spectrum of the human character as mirrored in the face, or in the mystic collision of man and nature, Tsiaras works it wonderfully in form and color.

Glenn O’Brien