Michalis Manoussakis

Manoussakis Michalis
© Christos Avraamides

Born in Chania (Crete) in 1953, he was an Athens School of Fine Arts student of Dimosthenis Kokkinidis (1979-1984). In 1994, along with Marios Spiliopoulos, Antonis Michailidis, Vicky Tsalamata and Edouard Sacaillan, they won the Alexandria Biennale award for best National Pavilion. He has been teaching at the Athens School of Fine Arts since 1987 where he was elected Professor of Painting in 2014. Works by him can be found in important public and private collections. He lives and works in Athens.

Works

On Art and His Art: Michalis Manoussakis

The painter Michalis Manoussakis recites, in a poetic mood, a short piece that he has written, and describes the gaze of Sotiris Felios as erotic and human. He talks of his work Untitled, where he renders the existential dimension of the human figure and the world as memory. In speaking, finally, of the function of art as a primary need of man for communication, he underlines his aspiration to constantly redefine the world and man through his works.

Solo Exhibitions

2017

Her Long Hair, a Shadowy Breeze Ekfrasi – Yianna Grammatopoulou Gallery Athens

2016

Chania Ephorate of Antiquities, Splantzia Square, Turkish Fountain Chania

2016

Heroes in the Trash Athens School of Fine Arts, Nikos Kessanlis Hall Athens

2015

Born in Chania in 1953 Ekfrasi – Yianna Grammatopoulou Gallery Athens

2012

One Meter National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST) Athens

2011

The Space of Time Retrospective exhibition Municipal Art Gallery of Chania Chania

2010

The Reason Still Remains Unknown Apocalypse Gallery Nicosia

2008

Michalis Manoussakis 2003-2008 Ekfrasi – Fizz Galleries Athens

2008

Citronne Gallery Poros

2007

Perfect Tense Falatados School Tinos

2006

Artforum Gallery Thessaloniki

2006

C.K. Art Gallery (Alpha C.K. Art Gallery) Nicosia

2006

Nees Morfes Gallery Athens

2002

Little Prayers Artforum Gallery Thessaloniki

2001

Rossi & Rossi Gallery London

2001

Zoumboulakis Galleries Athens

2000

Opus Gallery Nicosia

1998

Parallel Worlds Zoumboulakis Galleries Athens

1996

Artforum Gallery Thessaloniki

1995

Titanium Gallery (Titanium Yiayiannos Gallery) Athens

1993

Europ Art Geneva

1992

Titanium Gallery (Titanium Yiayiannos Gallery) Athens

1990

Mylonoyanni Art Gallery Chania

1989

Titanium Gallery (Titanium Yiayiannos Gallery) Athens

1986

Ora Art and Cultural Centre Athens

1979

Diagonios Gallery Thessaloniki

Press

The Riddles of Vision

We accept reality easily,
possibly because we feel that nothing is real.

Jorge Luis Borges, “The Immortal”

Dangerous balances, Gordian knots, situations that could not exist, paradoxical geometries: A woman clings to (or pushes?) a leaning tree while a string keeps (?) it from falling. Two fishermen’ s lines meet at a clear angle. Optical illusions. Yes, but also a philosophical commentary on the fact that the entire world is one thing. So identical that representation in art (or elsewhere) seems ridiculous or unnecessary. The artist, as a small God who does not observe the external world but creates a system of his own, autonomous from everything else except, possibly, the world of contemplation. More than conceptual formulator, Manoussakis remains an artist who is loyal to the material as well as the meaning of the prototype. In an age that mechanical reproduction should define our notion of art, according to Walter Benjamin, we face a rare exception in which meaning meets the prototype. There, the viewer is puzzled at the decay and revelation of the wood, the traces of carbon on the oil, the contrast of materials and colours. He pokes at the base of the painting as if at human flesh and by taking off its complexion, renders it naked. Clear colour, when it appears, intense, resembles an alien body in the spine of Manoussakis’s reality, usually structured in earthy, melancholic nuances. The artist’s long enduring persistence on mainly tin toys, a form of colorful microsculpture now appears to penetrate his painting. It seems that these precious pieces of another era infiltrate their color into their adjoining works in his studio.  It is as if they became live at night, as in Andersen’s fantasy and dyed them their style. He avoids philology as much as impact, keeping the necessary distance from both, in an effort for art to be contemporary, a human creation in a turbulent age. It is intense humanism that characterizes the work of Michalis Manousakis from its beginning and until today, as well as an interest for humble, little things. Agony for man’s condition and art which immediately rejects any pretense of megalomania and impression. His “little man”, usually solitary in the past, here appears to coexist and converse with another, slightly smaller in size, “little man”. Is it because the adolescent is growing up and possibly a new life cycle begins?

Manoussakis constructs his own reality, which, despite its phenomenal similarities, bears little similarity with existing reality. Or, it possibly rewrites the latter in a virtual sphere. The sea of Manoussakis is not exactly sea, the sky is no sky and  shadow is no shadow. Here nothing constitutes a representation of reality. The boat we often meet is rather a symbolic arc, destined to carry a couple of people and no means of transportation. The occasional tree, despite its dangerous similarity to the pine, is more of a virtual comrade, a protective roof against the ominous sky. A great part of the works of this exhibition are made of diptychs, which usually constitute two parallel and paradoxically adjoining worlds which are, frequently, mutually cancelled both chromatically as well as conceptually. In one of them, the artist cancels a – genuinely – spontaneous function of vision: voyeurism. Here, we witness a woman in nude from beneath and from the most indiscreet position. In the adjoining part of the work a male figure gazes (at us) from above while shadowing his eyes with his palm, so as not to see. Here the denial of vision as well as of voyeurism function as a metaphor for the indiscreet character of all representation, image, art, as an extension of the Platonic allegory of the cave. Manoussakis seems to converse with a series of artists of the twentieth century. The Surrealists, possibly most of all Magritte, share with him his love of paradoxical situations and of the invention of riddles as well as the very commentary of representation as a lie (we can again recall Magritte’s classic words “Ceci n’est pas une pipe”). Naturally, Marcel Duchamp’s importance as a founder of the conceptual approach to art is projected on the work of Manoussakis. Those who believe that art should incessantly approach society, daily life or even the world of fashion and mass culture might speak of anachronism at this point, (although they are to be confused by the references to post-war toys.  But those who believe that art should be a closed, protected system that should exist on a level alien to the trivial facts of daily life and in dialogue with Philosophy and Thinking will here discover the very material that myths are made of.

 

Thanassis Moutsopoulos
* From the catalogue of Michalis Manoussakis’s exhibition “The Space of Time“, Municipal Art Gallery of Chania, Chania, 2011.