The documentation of the elemental

Dorothea Konteletzidou, PhD

Art historian

In the chapter ‘Art in 1985’[1], Claude Levi-Strauss writes that the birth of an another art, which will emerge and whose outlines we cannot yet perceive, will arise due to a conscious and determined denial of any art which is no more than the shadow of art and which will create the illusion that it exists.

 At the same time, surveying the two previous decades of western civilisation, Levi-Strauss argues that, for the first time in the history of humanity, the future of art would seem too uncertain, in a civilisation where the individual is cut off from nature and is restricted to life in a fabricated society where his/her role is merely the consumption of production, and is thus deprived of the sensibility of the creator.

Of course, in the text under discussion, Levi-Strauss employs the term ‘creator’ to denote the ability to create new compositions of visual images in which the artist has the role of creator-god[2]

I am not claiming Levi-Strauss was ‘prophetic’, as this is not the issue, but neither will I ignore the fact that the decade of the 60s turned the artist into a producer of objects or, as I have written elsewhere, into a potential subject of labour in the new chain of production.

Within this framework, the art of Hector Mavridis has, since 1994, drawn on two levels of exploration which, perforce, express, with abstract conceptual processes, the pursuit of and promotion of daily labour as an act of returning to archetypal material.

‘I was told I know’, 1996 and had already begun to question the system of communication not with rhetoric about a hypothetical content:  the observation of the everyday continues to constitute the palette of his imagination and, by extension, the work-labour produced.

The repeated manual work in the public space re-produces, as it were, the anonymous workshops, the repetition of a kind of serial enumeration, the transposition, the search for archetypal materials - water, fire, earth – all this is a kind of response to what Claude Levi-Strauss had predicted.

Hector Mavridis reacts to the constructed society by foregrounding elemental material, in order to redefine the archetypal in life.

Clods, a symbol of the common which have been defined and are defined by human tools (the plough, tractor) constitute a global collective form, which the labouring subject, the artist, returns to the public space but also retrieves it from anonymity, via his own anonymous work.

Earth, clay and tools depict the process of building a manual relationship, through which the body of Hector Mavridis becomes a kind self-definition of the forgotten creative spirit.

The common and ordinary, the familiar and the global, define Mavridis’ practice of questioning and interrogation of the issues that motivate his imagination and, by extension, his work. This process is directly linked with his everyday work, with the creative object produced by natural, manual labour which, by definition, is inherent in society as a whole.

Through this practice – and through the ‘de-materialisation’ of what constitutes ‘work’, Hector Mavridis obliges us to reconsider the relationship of the artist-craftsman since he does not depend on the industrial production of his work, even when he deploys the narrative born par excellence of the industrial revolution as a conceptual tool to urge the viewer to explore, via the issues he raises, the very question of production.

The labour-work of Hector Mavridis seems to suggest that the artist is not an active participant in the social and cultural forms of the endless chain of production - but neither is he an anthropologist, determined by globalization, since he is interested in defining a kind of cloning of the rationale of the spectacle of labour through the use of the archetype:  ‘in the beginning there was...’ 

[1]    Claude Lévi-Strauss, (1989). Des Symboles et leurs doubles. Ed: Plon

[2]    Nikos Daskalothanasis, (2004). The Artist as a Historical Subject from the 19th to the 21st Century. Agra Publications

        (Νίκος Δασκαλοθανάσης, (2004). Ο καλλιτέχνης ως ιστορικό υποκείμενο από τον 19ο στον 21ο αιώνα. Εκδ: ΑΓΡΑ)