Metamorphosis Exhibition by Sergis Hadjiadamos
11 January 2019 Events
Sergis Hadjiadamos: Metamorphosis
curated by Dr Kostas Prapoglou
Location: Annabelle, Mezzanine rooms
Exhibition will be open until the 30.06.19
The solo exhibition of Sergis Hadjiadamos at Annabelle Hotel in Paphos encompasses new works that balance between the real and the imaginary, bringing back to life echoes of the past and introducing to the viewer an entire unknown world of bygone eras filtered through the lens of a contemporary visual language.
The story embarks from an astonishing archive of glass negative plates produced by the artist’s uncle, Spyros Haritou (1901-91), stored untouched at his Paphian house basement for decades. This incorporated a major assembly of Haritou’s work, who is known today as one of the first photographers in early 20th century Paphos. The studio that he opened in 1925 became the epicentre of artistic activity during that period.
Haritou endlessly captured the portraits of high-profile citizens as well as other individuals with their families, concurrently developing a keen interest in aspects associated with the town’s daily life such as national celebrations, religious festivals and local fairs. After being granted permission from his relatives to use the archive in any way he desires, Hadjiadamos accessed the basement for the first time in 2006. What he witnessed was a time capsule containing Haritou’s photography apparatus along with 1,653 carton boxes, each containing at least 10 glass plates.
The extreme humidity generated from an underground water passage, built during the British colonial period on the island, drastically deteriorated the condition of most negatives, which were physically impossible to detach from one another or reproduce a complete image from any of them. Several attempts to restore them proved to be unsuccessful with some dismal failures. Then, Hadjiadamos instead of giving up on them decided to decipher whatever trace had been left by processing them through high resolution scanners. The results were unprecedented and utterly unexpected. A whole new world emerged with distorted and disarticulated human figures; often with missing limbs and altered facial characteristics, and sometimes all merged into each other creating convoluted multi-layered images.
The creation of a brand-new imagery with a totally surprising result is what stimulated the visual vocabulary of Hadjiadamos. Such metamorphosis in a metaphorical and literal sense pronounces the fragility of the original hibernating material. Over the passage of time, the elements of memory and identity inevitably change or are forgotten. Hadjiadamos’ first body of work inspired from Haritou’s archive was a triptych entitled Paphos Souls. It was presented at the first Larnaca Biennale in 2018 and received the Award of Excellence.
The works on view at the present exhibition embody a further investigation in the enticing world of Haritou. It comprises an amalgamation of imagery that has been meticulously scanned and printed on aluminium composite sheets rendering a material juxtaposition between the frail nature of the glass plate and a new sturdy surface that is widely used today for archival printing and framing and has progressively become an ideal medium of conservation practices. Going a step further, the artist selects a series of particular photographs and interferes with their surfaces by carefully adding rough brushstrokes and eventually layering the subject’s face with a new coat of coloured acrylic material. He establishes the recurrence of the past through the prism of a contemporary outlook that robustly manifests the awareness of impermanence.
Such images are redolent of the damnatio memoriae practice (latin for condemnation of memory) in Roman times where certain dishonoured individuals were erased from history after their death by having their names removed from written documentation and their face erased and recarved on sculptures. They are also evocative of ruinous Byzantine frescos where invaders deliberately withdrew the facial characteristics of the depicted protagonists and –in a more contemporary context– they recall the method of censoring and pixelisation of images in today’s media and mass communication channels. The resulting images are a combination of an enigmatic eeriness and a concealed playfulness, imbued with a surreal twist.
With clear references to a vivid sense of anthropocentricism, the works of Hadjiadamos emotionally benefit from each other. They are salvaged items from the past performing a balancing act between the elusive quality of memory and notions of nostalgia and loss. At the same time, they activate a social connection and a transhistorical perspective among the viewer, the surrounding habitat and the depicted person. The initial image now turns into a vessel of poetic and philosophical contemplation, simultaneously touching upon ideas of self-consciousness and ontological realism.
The display of some of the original negatives on a light box table sparks dialogue between the past and present and interacts with the viewer reflecting on the transformative power of time. It unfolds as a taxonomy of life itself embracing the qualities of being, the traces of our own existence and the perpetual journey of the soul.
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