“The labyrinthine man never seeks the truth but always and only his Ariadne.” - Friedrich Nietzsche
Konstantinos Dregos is a smart guy. The smartest thing he said, amongst many smart and interesting things during our interview, fragments of which are scattered liberally through this publication, is that he didn’t feel able to speak meaningfully about his paintings.
I know how he feels! No, wait! Don’t be offended. I’m not being rude. As a sometime critic, gallerist and now a curator, I’ve spent a lot of time talking about art. In that time there have been many moments when the act of explaining images with words has seemed to me to be an especially futile andsilly activity. Many moments, when, to be honest, everyone would have been better off if I’d substituted the review / press release / sales speech with two simple words: Just look!
In the spirit of this hard-won wisdom I’d advise anyone looking for insights or guidance on the paintings themselves or searching answers to perfectly reasonable questions such as ‘What are those those V signs doing floating on the surface of that work?’ or ‘Are those squares of felt collaged onto the surface of that work a Beuysian reference?’ to stop worrying or even thinking too much, drop the questions and attempt the albeit impossible feat of enjoying a raw, unmediated, visual experience with the paintings. A little roleplay might help if you’re having trouble: Dim the lights and put on a little sexy, jazzy, mood music in your imagination try to imagine your eyes taking a little unauthorized break from your brain with these paintings. Relax. Let your eyes gently glide over the surfaces of the works… try to enjoy the textures… feel the smoothness of the oil paint and the rough, the seductive mattness of the surface of the scrap of collaged paper… tune into the frenetic energy of the chalked scribbles… slowly drink in those subtle tonal variations as gunmetal grey slipsinto those dark blue-gray hues… Well, you get the picture.
I hope that was fun. Anyway, this short introduction isn’tabout the paintings but about some of the ideas that, as far as I can guess, float around in Konstantinos’ head when he’s thinking about these works. It’s a kind of cosmological expedition into the primordial intellectual soup, if you will, that forms part of the conditions of the emergence of the work.
When, in our interview, Konstantinos so eloquently said that he had no answers about the paintings, he wasn’t, I suspect,just flagging up the obvious difficulties of talking about the images with words. Instead he was pointing at a symptom that, when investigated, takes us down the rabbit-hole and into the heart of the matter, where we discover a far deeper problem, an epic problem, a problem so large, perhaps, that it underlies all others. I believe he was hinting, like a reluctant mystic, at the incommensurability of all things. He was hinting that the world of full of fracture, that the world isfracture; that all language commits violence to thought, that thought commits violence to experience, that consciousness is a wound and that existence, at its very core, a meshwork of alienation.
If that sounds absurd or fanciful, I would invite anyone who’s truly been in love, and surely that includes you, to measure the vast, oceanic quality of that feeling against the smallness and paucity of the words we have to give it voice. We try to speak the universe with mouths full of sand.
I think, at its core, Konstantinos’ work is about these fractures and the inescapable labyrinthine quality of consciousness. A world full of fracture is a world with no exits. As Philip K Dick, that extraordinary neo-Gnostic, observed in his late novel Valis, “There is no route out of the maze. The maze shifts as you move through it, because it is alive.”
So perhaps its useful to think of Konstantinos’ paintings and drawings as a continuum of making, frozen in their various physical forms as signifiers of both a fractured world and the hope, even if futile, to overcome it. Because surely if Culture is anything it is the reification of that fervent, unspoken prayer that lies hidden in the heart of all communication; the desire to transcend this fallen world and to return to that mystical wholeness from whence our immortal souls once came and dissolve, with eternal relief, into the Godhead.
Why this is hell, nor am I out of it.
Think’st thou that I who saw the face of God,
And tasted the eternal joys of Heaven,
Am not tormented with ten thousand hells,
In being depriv’d of everlasting bliss?
Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus
But for the moment we’re still in the labyrinth and we must make do with what we have. Following Konstantinos’ insight - that error creates its own reality – an idea that is the creative motor at the heart of his work – we hold onto the golden thread of our thoughts and follow where they lead. And from time to time, when the conditions are just right,
the fire of imagination sparks the alchemy of art into transfiguring abundance and for a moment we are not alone.
One of my favorite bits of writing is about one of these rare moments. It’s Charles Bukowski writing about the moment he discovers the book Ask the Dust by the John Fante in a library in LA:
‘Then one day I pulled a book down and opened it, and there it was. I stood for a moment, reading. Then like a man who had found gold in the city dump, I carried the book to a table. The lines rolled easily across the page, there was a flow. Each line had its own energy and was followed by another like it. The very substance of each line gave the page a form, a feeling of something carved into it. And here, at last, was a man who was not afraid of emotion. The humor and the pain were intermixed with a superb simplicity. The beginning of that book was a wild and enormous miracle to me.’
And there it is. The hope of stumbling across ‘a wild and enormous miracle’. That’s why we hang on in here, following the golden thread.