Painstakingly rendered with photorealistic accuracy using ink and paint, Elias Kafouros’ canvases are like mesmerising mandalas of interconnected symbols and images that draw the viewer inside their mystical realm. Interested in flow and narrative as much as he’s fascinated by geometry and symmetry, Kafouros creates his images using multiple layers of objects and figures, which are often related to the everyday, his life in Athens and concepts shared by our collective mind. A motorcycle, a tourist, ice cream cones and pipelines meet chainsaws, exotic birds and TV-show characters, all in visually saturated compositions which however are carefully composed and balanced down to the last detail. For Kafouros, his work is open to many readings and re-readings, “like a book” he says “which is never the same but as you grow older you discover new things every time you open it”.
The most important aspect of Kafouros’ work is its relation to a kind of virtual space. “All of my paintings —and I guess this is the case with most of art anyway— is that they take place in a mental place. For me, it’s more important for the viewer to experience the space inside the work than the aesthetic aspect of it: as you can see, there are objects and figures floating in my paintings, organised in groups and layers. These could’ve been three-dimensional installations in a museum, where the viewer can move around them and feel the space they occupy.” Indeed, Kafouros puts a lot of effort in creating a sense of depth, but his works still have something of an abstraction in them. “What interests me is to have a very concrete image, which at the same time is so convoluted that it begins to appear abstract. I like to have a conflict of layers and a certain complexity in how the symbols are related, as well as a sense of continuous movement and openness.” These principles are perfectly portrayed in Kafouros’ current solo show in Mykonos, for which he created a series of new works informed by his personal experience of Greek summer, the pop-culture celebrity and the concept of mask in everyday life.
A native of Athens, Kafouros loves living in the Greek capital despite the turbulent times. In Athens, he sees that there’s a certain space between things, which enables people to view and identify situations more clearly. “An object, as much as a human body, is made of matter; but this material form is moved by something. Just like an artist breathes life into an object, so are people moved by something. Now, that which is material can be measured, but the distance between things cannot, it is unmeasurable. I’m interested in that in-between, that which is unmeasurable —because when you can’t measure anymore, that’s when you find freedom”. Just as dreams take place when we’re not conscious, so does Kafouros’ work seem to occupy that space on the verge between reality and imagination, law and chaos. Seductive and kaleidoscopic, his work takes a daring leap into the more transcendental and mystical valleys of contemporary painting.