The Cyprus Pavilion
Biennale Arte 2017

13 May–26 Nov 2017

The Future of Colour
Polys Peslikas

Curated by Jan Verwoert

  • Special Guests:
  • Mirene Arsanios
  • Valentinos Charalambous
  • Neoterismoi Toumazou
Link to Catalogue Text

The Future of Colour

Colour once was key to politics and trade in the Mediterranean. Fabric manufacturing, medicine, painting, and cosmetics alike depended on pigment supplies and colour binding agents like alum. Main alum resources lay in the Eastern Mediterranean. So Rome banned alum imports to curb Constantinople’s influence. Yet, despite the embargo, around 1500 the agent was still in circulation via the Venetian trade network, including Cyprus.

The Future of Colour takes this story as the point of de­par­ture for invoking the spirit of unstoppable exchange — in the key of living colour. Today’s political imagination seems to be stuck in apocalyptic scenarios of cultures at war (West vs. East). We rarely ask what it could mean for life to continue and our exchanges to create a future. Rejecting the false securities of catastrophic thought, the show pays homage to the vibrant insecurities of life and the trade of ideas, via painting and its sister arts.

To defy the endgame is to grasp past and future, West and East, as a fluid continuum that invites movement. This is the challenge Polys Peslikas has set himself. His new paintings, shown in the pavilion, draw on fragments of historic imagery. Peslikas zooms in on details of Venetian paintings and Modernist collages. He extracts colours, patterns, and ornaments that resonate across time. Mixing these ingredients, Peslikas performs an alchemy that liquefies time. A 500 year difference dissolves into the rhythm and rhyme of tonalities and textures. No occident, no orient, but an ocean of undulating forms, layered colours and differentiated details here come to define the world.

In opening up the horizon of experience, Polys Peslikas’ paintings set the stage for hosting further artistic exchanges. A series of cartoonishly oversized newspapers provide the platform for these transactions, conducted by three parties, invited as 
special guests:

Nicosia-based, internationally active, artist group Neoterismoi Toumazou (Maria Toumazou, Marina Xenofontos, Orestis Lazouras) are named after the local novelty shop of one member’s grandfather. Importing and exporting influences, they trade in many languages: poetry, performance, design, music and fashion. In her stories, Beirut born, New York based writer Mirene Arsanios interlaces biographies and histories. Her new piece of writing, Elemental Language, finds her revisiting memories of Cyprus where she briefly lived, before returning to Beirut at the end of the civil war. Places and words, remembered from childhood coalesce into one another, and the time is always now. Legendary ceramic artist from Famagusta, Valentinos Charalambous joins the conversation. Having travelled, made and taught art, for decades, in Baghdad and Limassol, he has been an inspiration to many, with stories to tell and a love louder than bombs for the arts of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.

The show invokes the spirit of the Eastern Mediterranean as a zone where routes cross, travellers meet and trade in a poetic knowledge that may render past and future in fresh colours.

Jan Verwoert