Panos Tsagaris, The White Lady of the Glaciers, 2016, gold leaf, acrylic, spray paint, and silk screen on canvas, 78 3/4 × 59".

Panos Tsagaris, The White Lady of the Glaciers, 2016, gold leaf, acrylic, spray paint, and silk screen on canvas, 78 3/4 × 59".

Panos Tsagaris

Kalfayan Galleries | Athens

Panos Tsagaris, The White Lady of the Glaciers, 2016, gold leaf, acrylic, spray paint, and silk screen on canvas, 78 3/4 × 59".

At the gallery entrance, a large canvas, The White Lady of the Glaciers (all works 2016), hung on a narrow, freestanding wall partially blocking the view of the space behind it. All white, save for details rendered in gold leaf (a small circle resting on a white curve at the top, a semicircle below), the work invoked an icon in both title and position—as if marking the entrance to a citadel. A sense of the sacred resonated, too, in the construction of the canvas—which echoed the show’s title, “TIME” (curated by Maria Nicolacopoulou)—when one considers the lengthy (and meditative) process Panos Tsagaris uses to create works like these. This involves making a still life composition out of mirrors, photographing it with an iPhone, blowing the image up to use as a backdrop for further mirror arrangements, and repeating the process until a final composition is silk-screened on canvas. He then applies layers of spray paint and acrylic, normally in black or white, and gold leaf—he uses the colors to symbolize body, soul, and spirit—to create a rippling, multilevel plane, where shapes become visible (or invisible) from different viewpoints, and reflections are muted by the sheer density of their representation. The White Lady of the Glaciers—the title comes from a Tibetan name for Mount Everest—was composed in this fashion, as were three black canvases of similar size and style that lined one wall in the main space, their titles alluding to the artist’s conception of time, for instance, There is no word or action that does not have its echo in eternity.

On the other side of the entrance wall, a large ink-jet print on paper offered stark figuration in contrast. As part of the ongoing “Golden Newspapers” series, the September 12, 2001, New York Times front page has been enlarged with text blocked out using gold leaf to solemnly frame an iconic black-and-white photograph of the Twin Towers as a plane crashes into one of them on 9/11. This gold redaction of a defining historical memory’s narration illustrates a condensation of time into a pictorial echo. This point was extended in TIME (Somewhere between God and Naught): a row of twelve archival ink-jet prints of a blank Time magazine cover (title and bar code only) printed at various grades, from total black to all white. Here, the abstraction of a magazine cover considers the publication both as a form through which time is canonized and an icon of time itself.

In this show, then, two types of work faced off, albeit with an overarching sense of unity. In the case of the canvases, an ineffable silence encapsulated seemingly infinite shapes that formed the monochromatic purity so often ascribed to complex surfaces such as this—like gold, which for centuries has been viewed as a symbol of transcendence. And in the prints, the abstract was brought into the real through a moment of trauma represented in sublime—and unspeakable—horror. Perhaps the clue to this synthesis lay in the back section of the gallery, where smaller works were shown. These included Apotheosis, a canvas diptych on which a page from twentieth-century theosophist George Sydney Arundale’s Nirvana: A Study in Synthetic Consciousness (1926) is screen-printed on one panel, an abstract composition on the other. Arundale’s text discusses the difference between pure emotion, or feeling, which he can contact, and absolute feeling, or emotion, which points to something beyond. That intuitive desire to grasp something absolute that is sensed but not quite known frames this show exactly. In this regard, it made sense that TIME’s twelve panels lined the wall between the inner area and the gallery’s bright, glass-paned doorway—just as the three black canvases lined the other wall leading to the white canvas at the doorway—their colors gradiated to mimic the movement between inside and out, dark and light.

Stephanie Bailey