Leontios Toumpouris | SOM  24.01.20 – 28.02.20

Engaging with various disciplines – painting, language and alchemy – Leontios Toumpouris has been researching the limits of surface, qualities of invention, and narrative affiliations. His installations are particular in assembling elements which produce enduring and endearing encounters with volatile matter. They provide another lens through which to view the pieces as they translate into flat sculptures, layered methods of displaying form, and exercises of deferring recognition, physical and morphological. Toumpouris has also paid close attention to relationships constructed and emanating between audience and space, texture and physicality, exhibition making and workshop configurations, almost ritualistically pursuing place as an opportunity to exhibit dialogue.

In this new body of work, the artist resumes processes of language making, methods of gesture, and distorted body action as a ground of investigation offered to viewers open to deflection or inflection. Working site-responsively, the space initiated in SOM negotiates linearity and so our gaze swiftly swerves within the flow diffused. Fluid modes of becoming and arranging embody an openhanded gesture.

We meander through details of melted metal treated by plasma cutting, exposing the handling of the inside and out through imagining that refined moment of protecting the steel from being cut through with superheated ionized gas. The artist’s corporeal gestures laser-imprinted on slivers of scorched leather hold together, dangling from the metal structure. Solid substance softly textured. From the small-scale wall-based painterly pieces emerge the movements delicately marked in the bisque-fired clay, manifesting their porosity, their vulnerability.

Since 2016, Toumpouris’ bodily engravings on clay and leather have transformed. His intimate relationship to these materials reveals their mercurial makeup and the engendering of polymorphous possibilities which surface in the environment. From compressing colour on leather, cropping or layering clay, to changing the shape of a form or of words; hence SOM, an acronym for studies on mutability, which breathes synergy, a wording unsaid.

The installation lends itself to constructing a mode of vocabulary, movement, and emotionality in ways which suggest that arrangements of agency and intelligibility can be reassigned. In other words, the position of “expert” becomes shuffled content, and making contact with the work is subject to the viewer’s conditions and their affection towards ambiguity. A pervious approach to materialness as mutable, craves a slightly erratic audience.

Toumpouris’ last exhibition Relations reversed has been discussed in terms of its calligraphic metal structures, as perhaps a writing in themselves, the engraved leathers alluding to an illegible language. SOM, I would add, works on a parallel level of a form of asemic writing, in that it’s polysemantic or free from meaning, possibly unfolding over time. It allows the viewer to choose their own approach. Proposing a collapsing of consensual comprehensibility, SOM moves as a study into a dissolution of material distinctiveness and the suspension of unequivocal meaning making.

Maria Petrides, independent writer