passages through the caustics: Elli Antoniou | Curated by Antonia Stevenson

31 May - 6 July 2024 Gallery Exhibitions
Cob is pleased to present passages through the caustics, the London debut solo exhibition for Greek artist Elli Antoniou. Curated by Antonia Stevenson.
Kinetic stands by Christopher Towers.
Sound piece by Nanzhen Yang and Ziúr.
 A short film by Yasmin Vardi accompanies the exhibition. 
Poised for movement. A window or passage on the verge of opening, you enter and become fluid. A light flickers, there’s life within and beyond. Sucked in and spat back out into a world, familiar but not. Awoken to a glitching scene made apparent by the light that energises this reality we are now within. The control over your time and movements that you held moments before is no longer in grasp. Transfixed on the screen, time and space become redundant anchors passed this threshold. Boundless, you begin to float over the railings and through the constructed landscape. It’s surreal but familiar, mirroring domains and signposts of visions or places you’ve encountered before. All signifiers of the present have vanished and metamorphosis has begun. You can sense impressions of life are vibrating through the space, due to the confronting forms that seem to respire in an asthmatic way. The steel reflects and refracts almost returning itself back to it’s original fluid state pre manufacturing. Now that we too are scaleless, the fluidity of this cosmos spurs a perpetual motion that carries you through. Images melt into pure movement, morphing into a choreography of synthesis. The enigmatic forms provide speculative spaces that invite introspection as we fight to defend the dissolution of our present and drift further away from the space we occupied before. 

Details that seemed once important have evaporated under these new conditions, the gap you passed through is closing up. You look around for something familiar to latch onto and catch a hazy mirror projecting back your image, but you too have become a form, a movement, deduced to a spatter of molecules pulsating in the shadows. 


The installation converses with the natural movement of the light that occupies the space. Activating the energies of the work’s surface, our encounters of its luminosity are guided by a sequence of movements we feel compelled to follow; becoming an accomplice in Antoniou’s endeavours to activate the materials fluidity. The sculptural forms regenerate new visions that protrude and then fleetingly vanish within a single step. The screens are not self illuminating yet their images regenerate under the play of light. The powers of metamorphosis are apparent as we lean and sway round a surface toying with us to dance back. Visions converge to result in dynamic compositions alluding to anime stills, Italian Baroque paintings, trompe l’oeil details in frescoes, figure skaters, divers mid-air, magnetic fields and star formation visualisations, amongst others. Sci-fi aesthetics fuse this magma of images through the lens of a reality awaiting beyond the other side - inciting transformation. Referencing ephemera such as chains, jewels and coins, we are transported to an atmosphere almost religious in setting; glistening icons behind the alters of the church or ancient roman coins at the bowl of the fountain; wishes and hopes for the future. Invigorating an atmosphere with the possibility of transcendence, vying to be transported to another realm. A passage to beyond what we know within the human existence. Engaging in the notion of black hole formations, the sequence of the exhibition appropriates an imagined narrative of being sucked in and flowing through a black hole. Source material references the visual language of A Space Odyssey, engaging further with the sensation of extreme gravity stretching you through into this constructed new universe; a nod to Deleuze’s relation to time and space.


The application of force onto the surface conjure energies that oscillate between close in grasp but also far, fast and then slow; winding through the morphing slopes and swoops. Compositions enlivened by motions where strokes appear to evolve before you; flourishing anew. From one angle a mountain emerges amongst the clouds and from another an energy glides past you into the distant landscape and around the bend. Enticed to follow and confronted by further passages - windows of opportunity into new realms. Breathing forms sync in rhythm, pulsating at a rate almost invisible to the naked eye. Drawing on some of the qualities most frequently associated with the Baroque - grandeur, sensuous richness, drama, vitality, movement, tension, emotional exuberance, and a tendency to blur distinctions between the various arts. The screens act as membranes you can peer beyond as boundaries between the near and far obscure - the edges of the real world and this imagined state dizzying you further. Rendering visible the invisible forces / energies the artist endeavours to encapsulate. 


The images emerge from the process, activated and guided by the constant rotary motion of the abrasive tools used to etch out these evolving images. Transfiguring their reflective properties in an almost mirage like way. In the moment of making, intentions that pay homage to traditional Shan Shui techniques relating to spacial compositions and awareness become warped as the machine takes hold in a synthetic dance. Antoniou’s misuse and appropriation of her high power tools render them ethereal; sparking compositions that come to have a life of their own beyond her direct interventions. The demands of this bodily process leave Antoniou to become entangled; embroiling the relationship between artist, medium and art object.The marks made and motions of the tools become extensions of one another as they converse and guide one another. Revolving around this idea of a cyclical, curving movement attributed to a total centripetal force; utilised here as guidance into a state of becoming. Imbuing the sculptures with kinetic qualities, the enacted performative process transcends beyond simply the making and lives on in these ‘static’ objects. The resulting impression leaves them seemingly on the cusp of having the potential to transform once more; becoming intentionally more apparent in the choreographed movements made real by the implementation of engineered mechanisms that interact with the steel panels. Glitching in the light, we are forced into a trance that is both nauseating and disorientating. These activations delve into the possibilities of movement and introduce the element of time to reflect on the importance of the machine and technology in the modern world; advocating for the nature of vision. 


Alluding to a study of perspective in painting, Antoniou appropriates the medium to slide further towards the simulation of imaginary words - aiming to invade the spheres of daily experience and make comment on social culture and the way we encounter the world. A myth-making of sorts to build this mythopoeia of a metallic world where space and time are warped, yet still remain tangible. Mirroring objects you find in the public domain; tube station benches, construction sites, lift, rails, panels, drinking fountains, here, daily life is punctuated with portals. The encounters with these glitching familiar objects situate us in this new universe the artist has imagined; utilising the reflective panels to mirror distorted impressions of reality. Visions of life ignited in the cold metropolis of the steel that’s everywhere but has the ability to be invisible, neutral and unsuspecting at the same time. Infiltrating the works, the structures that hold the metallic panels play into this familiarity of forms; questions surrounding our relation to them and how we should interact with or view them come to the forefront. Following notions of the baroque, the artwork’s installation allows a blending of forms into the architecture to blur the boundaries of where the work seems to begin and where it ends. The integration of the structural apparatus amalgamates further the real world with the imagined as we become enveloped deeper into this ambiguous state. Somewhere between functional, familiar and surreal with an apparent ability to alter the atmosphere. This metamorphic offering gives rise to the idea that cosmological powers could be at play. 


Music melds with the light and the atmosphere of becoming intensifies via the auditory motions being engaged. Ruminating through the space and engulfing the environment, the loop obscures our sense of perspective further. Recordings of the machinery used to make the work as the primary source material drift in out of our focus; the whirring encouraging us to sync with the rhythms in our periphery. This collaboration with sound emphasises the spacial consciousness of the body of work & makes vivid Antoniou’s fascination with revealing possible alternate layers of reality. Pursuing the coexistence of the virtual and the real to play with the paradoxes of our perceptions and blur our distinctions between our haptics and our optics. Antoniou engages this idea through visualisations of  unidentifiable forces and matter reacting in a scaleless environment. Enlightening the notion of the adaptability of the brain to completely normalise intaking information from a luminous screen with the same validity as the physical world around us. Intervening with remnants of reality the sound dictates the controlling of time, rhythm, pace; a parameter as a guiding ritual through this metaphysical space choreographed by Antoniou.