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Alexandros Vasmoulakis' Uncommon People

Words:

Edd Norval
July 25, 2018

Alexandros Vasmoulakis puts things together from other things. His work mainly consists of collage and found objects, pieced together to create contemporary works that manifest as a deeply expressionistic type of surreal portraiture.

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There's something very 'Aphex Twin' about the disproportionate faces that he creates. Alexandros Vasmoulakis (although he prefers Vasmou) is a greek contemporary artist from Athens with a background in fine arts and a career in advertising, possibly one of the most defining influences on his work.


The impact of advertising's sensibilities on his works is evident in the 'cut-up' technique he employs to create the faces of his subjects. Their oversize lips, straight from the cover of Vogue or Cosmopolitan are symbolic of desire and lust. He utilises easily recognisable facial traits and emphasises them to an order of magnitude where they seem to morph into the unreal. This technique seems in many ways to be a pastiche of the industry that informs him. We are bombarded with images of botox'd perfection and larger-than-life lips. Vasmou takes them to their logical limits.


Public communication takes many forms, from newspaper to radio and getting it just right, as is increasingly more crucial, is somewhat akin to a dark art - we don't know how they do it, but they do. It seems that in many ways Vasmou is trying to understand the underhanded stages of this process and in doing so creates a sort of parodic image as if the whole industry is looking back at itself in a smashed mirror.

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Working mainly outdoors, Vasmou is an avant-garde muralist, working on large facades that give his Dada-style portraits an incredible power, their psychological explorations visible from quite the distance. It's not quite 'ad-busting' in the sense that his work doesn't necessarily subvert the message or conventions of advertising, rather they reconfigure it to say something that makes us re-consider - what is the relationship between this piece, a painting or an advert?


Subtle interplays such as this one are the back-bone of Vasmou's work. Devoid of extremely bright colours or overtly political or social statements, they catch the audience's eye because of their quality, their placement and their sheer oddity. Once they have you, then you can begin to think more clearly about what they're saying. In terms of context though, despite their wide-reaching influences, as previously mentioned, they are certainly aimed to be a commentary on societal (over) consumption. Beyond his murals and other collage work, Vasmou also creates installations that are constructed with plastic boxes, tubs and chairs - essentially throwaway items that are symbolic of our fast-moving culture.

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Consumerism takes a hard hit from Vasmou. All of his deconstructed portraits are essentially his own interpretation of the industry that helped him cut his teeth. He looks at several aspects of advertising and consumerism and turns it into art. Slogans and faces, chairs and empty branded boxes are re-arranged into something else. It's a unique type of reclamation that says 'Look, this isn't how it's supposed to look - but don't you think it's more interesting?'


For every advert, there should be a piece of art (not necessarily art that reclaims ads though). Vasmou, hailing from a country that took the economic crash of 2008 particularly bad and one that is still suffering the implications of the event, doesn't seem too comfortable about being sold things - especially if his fellow countrymen and women just don't have the money to buy them. In that sense, his work is a way of empowering people, drawing on his nation's vast artistic history. The murals are a rebellious statement - we are not for sale, we do not want your images of picture-perfect consumption. Instead, he's telling these corporations that the Greek people can look after themselves.

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