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Blind Adam

In 2007, the artist Thanos Kyriakides, a former fashion editor who calls himself Blind Adam on account of a genetic condition that restricts his sight, began to render striking versions of haute couture garments and accessories in strands of black wool. His series ‘Collections #1 and #2’ (both 2007–10) featured iconic styles such as the flowing, tasseled Mata Hari Dress and the minimal Bustier Dress, whilst his ‘Wings’ collection seemed to transform the wearers into mythological creatures (2007–10). Displayed on hangers against white walls, as in a solo show at Souzy Tros, Athens (2012), they invoked the sketches of fashion designers; adorned on Parisian shop mannequins or donned by live models for photo shoots, they became elegantly erotic exoskeletons. For his first exhibition in a commercial gallery, Kyriakides fashioned a pair of monumental constructions and several canvases that together suggest the impossibility of perfect perception.

‘Cryptic Lexicon’, 2013, installation view

‘Cryptic Lexicon’ (all works 2013) is a series of white canvases embellished with hand-stitched signs, each depicting a mood or experience that coincided with its making. Diary Page 1 resembles a manuscript page or a line drawing of watery ripples; closer inspection reveals what look like stick figures in various postures. Diary Page 5 is animated with what could be flocks of birds in formation. The gestural marks, wrought from knotted and crossed pieces of yarn, are tactile doodles that evoke the primal desire for expression. Recalling the ancient Incan quipu knot-script, Kyriakides has created an enigmatic personal code that can be read equally through touch or sight and, like any language system, is inherently imprecise in its attempt to communicate.

Sanctuary was a ghostly Parthenon comprised of twenty-four ceiling-to-floor columns formed of black strands suspended from halo-like Doric capitals, transforming an entire room into a space highly charged with spirituality. Classical columns represented the transition from the earthly to the divine; the remains of ancient temples exemplify humankind’s futile impulse to create order out of chaos through aesthetic harmony, to circumscribe and communicate the unknown. Kyriakides’ ethereal construction in the fluorescent-lit space evoked both the outlines of a pristine ink drawing and a dream-like afterimage. One way of ‘knowing’ that things are real is by touching them, yet the structure of Sanctuary is revealed to be insubstantial as you move through it. Just as the symmetry of classical forms is based on a particular cultural notion of beauty in the pursuit of divine perfection, the elements of this virtual temple collapse upon physical contact, confirming the treachery of human perception. Thus the ephemeral installation spoke to the nature of reality as consisting of both physical and invisible phenomena, what we see and what we don’t see: some perceive the Parthenon as decaying ruins, or perhaps the crumbling of a democratic ideal, and others feel the immaterial force of a sacred site.

Melting Safety, 2013, hand knotted acrylic wool yarn, 3 x 3 x 3m

If the temple was a manifestation of the desire for belief in a collective illusion, Melting Safety was its antidote: a voracious vortex and a comforting caress all at once, a tender trap, if you will. The dense black web, fashioned of knotted wool, draped from the ceiling like an alluring gothic glamour puss, its long tendrils sweeping the floor. Kyriakides’ seductive winged creature is the materialization of a non-existent object, or collective apparition, perhaps the angel of death or the archetypal womb. The slight irregularity of its mesh-like structure, the result of a painstaking process of knotting by hand, recalls the porous fabric of existence.

Kyriakides is a gifted spy investigating the properties of perception, his compositions evocative mediums that elicit subjective narratives like Rorschach tests. Both monumental and intimate, his immersive installations demonstrate the deceptiveness of physical form and the fallibility of vision in a strange and wondrous universe comprised of vibrating objects, variously solid and nonexistent, held together tenuously by invisible forces. Blindness makes the world fragmented – a sudden blow to the head out of nowhere reveals only the existence of the branch, hanging in isolation, and nothing of the whole tree – but it is perhaps not so different from the way any given sighted person experiences reality. How we see the world around us, through the interplay of our limited senses, is indeed a hallucinatory projection of our own minds. As such, you could say that every version of reality is true. One thing is certain: Kyriakides’ objects are visions of beauty, no matter how you look at them.

Cathryn Drake