It was 3am in the late 80’s when Demetri Daphnis was awoken by a loud pounding on his bedroom door. It was his father, Nassos Daphnis, struck by a sudden inspiration and a deep-set frustration that his hands could not work as fast as his mind. When the son mentioned to the father that there was a solution to his problem in the form of the Atari ST computer where he would be able to manipulate lines and change colors in an instant, Nassos said “Show me now!” Somehow Demetri was able to put off until the morning the actual lesson, but after the introduction to the computer, Nassos was on his way to becoming a 71 year old technological advocate. Not many of his contemporaries were so full of foresight. His artistic process changed after this exposure, and Pixel Fields, a series of 22 (never before seen) paintings was born. On exhibition through October 25th at the Richard Taittinger Gallery, it is the exploration into the realm of digitalis that is the confluence of ages, expressed in the moment of contemporary existence. And fitting, that Daphnis’ first piece in series would be called Explosion, as that is exactly what happened after the introduction to the new notion of reality as mediated through computers. Beginning with a bang, or eruption of sorts, Daphnis traces through his own interpretation the forming of something from nothing, and everything that thus ensues. This is the innate quest of the human being — “to reconcile the waking consciousness with the tremendum et fascinans of this universe as it is.”(1) This is the work of the true artist — revealing the image of the age through the contemporary language as a beacon that leads to the light those who are in the dark — this is the work of Nassos Daphnis, and this is the journey of Pixel Fields.
In the mirror pool of existence, the ripples of two toned blue bellow towards you, opening with rings of white as tamed primordial chaos measuring the movement of expansion while the radiant red rays of vitality and the brilliant passion required to start any entification draw visual perspective both inwards and outwards at once. It is the Explosion of being that begins the journey of Pixel Fields.
After the Explosion that begets all to come, the white rings remain, but frame a different scene — that of the beginning of all. Genesis is the birth of matter, the birth of the fundament. Daphnis has used the disengagement of open sided quadrilaterals to conceptualize the growth process of any existent thing with the golden mean sequence. Partially filled with blue, the cosmic substance within as signifier of the conference of life, it is the breath of creation that enlivens each and every being. On a background of black, timeless existence is the home for this transformation surrounded by the transparent atmosphere enveloped in the red wonder and desire of creation.
Extending deeper in the realm of becoming, the mystique that is characteristic of spirit has now entered a prominent focal point. The quadrilaterals have been closed with red lines atop and blue lines on either side indicating the natural contrast and balance in all things. Still set on the same rotational axis of Genesis, Mystical Presence is the next step progression in Daphnis’ exploration of being.
Now things begin to move as the presence becomes complete and the dance of life begins. Underlying the new positioning of stability attained giving rise and room for the boom of being, the red bar that is to be held in Reverence. Daphnis is stacking meaning on meaning in these initial canvases and has captured the instantaneousness of creation, held and suspended it with his emotional conviction to the abstraction of matter through his color plane theory.
EVOLVING SPHERES - REVERBERATION*
Red has come to overtake black as the predominant background color and leaves the shadow to uphold the action of movement with the gentle weighing balance of blue, interweaving itself as an intangible nervous system, beckoning the spirit forth with vibrations of faith. The pure white rings bring about through this series the manifestational qualities of light; emitting air, space and clarity - both as highlight and threshold, focuser and perspective giver.
Once the Atari ST came under firm grasp of Nassos Daphnis, did his hand explode into the realm of new abilities to ratify that deep and enigmatic mind stuff of his inner daemon. The pixelation comes in full force as the scenario has shifted from straight and curved edges to diagonals that thrust the viewer into a new world of being. A new world of brilliance and light, sublimated only as a high standing form of spiritual matter. Color crafted three dimensionality in a trifold interval has jutting through it red stairs coming to upend the blues that have situated a palace of depth around them.
PALACE OF MINOS*
Into the gates of a mighty king, a honeyed pathway leads the eye to blue walls of passive material space, yet active spiritual space. The harkening dark sky atop the red spires make the contrast howl as if you yourself are about to enter the Labyrinth. If one is to look at the ruins of Knossos, the famous mural reflects the pattern and color scheme of the painting showing that the labyrinthine movement between life and art is one truly inescapable.
The works from 1989 show continued exuberance in the ability to work in a multitudinous fashion of environmental submersion. Maze like stairs and complexes of thought, using dark blue to make the greatest distinctions in the modulations of movement, the faces of each color plane are of their own existence creating a visceral interaction in composition with each other bringing to being the very forces that move all things in life. The joy in these works is evident by the color selection and the nature in which Daphnis put in form the placement of each color. Light and dark blues signify the light and shade of spirit — the heaviness and loftiness of which the dynamic is utterly inescapable in this life. Yellow and white act as partners to elicit the light giving properties that are the sun and the air, one a denser version of the other, each a gentle affirmation of moral conduct and heavenly light. Red as Ariadne’s thread was, to lead the way as highlight of purpose, these compositions all become the soil in which Nassos sows his ideas. Since Daphnis’ passing, we have only means to study how it was that he saw the world, and to put together pixel by pixel his interpretation of the immensity that is existence.
As is with any growth of movement, there is the phase of discovery, the phase of excitement of initial grasp and the phase of humble understanding which is the practice of a master. The third phase of Nassos Daphnis’ Pixel Fields, those created from 1990 - 1992, relate the temperance of youthful exhilaration into a steadied generative vibrancy that is the mastery of a truth seeking man. Staring into the similar shades of blues and yellows and reds the viewer sees now the introduction of subtler hues of difference. Darker red with the palate red give the fullness of life giving blood as you would see flowing from a cut on your finger. The roundness of the drop that forms is the same curvature Daphnis has exacted in the pairing of these reds, a thoughtful provocation of love and war, desire and temptation to entice the blues that calm and quell their current.
The use of light shades to bring forward and the dark shades to push back engage not only the eye but the spirit by creating a new realm of entry for which the heart can enter. It is of immaterial space, yet it becomes most material when one realizes that this space is truly all we have to occupy. That which lasts is that which effects the heart. The color palate of Nassos Daphnis in these later years is that of healing and self knowing. The colors of life and light and depth of space (space being that which gives the life and light room to be) become the very composition for meditational self recollection. The composition is harmonious and less busy than those of the second phase (1989) and that leads the colors to imbue a tonality of infinite distance. To travel into this space is the highest form of being one can hope to achieve in life, this journey that leads to ultimate self knowing. As the Delphic maxim goes, Know Thyself. In knowing oneself, one can truly experience existence the way it was meant to be known, as a whole, in a unified presence. The abstraction in which Daphnis saw the world is what he found in himself as a means to render the interpretive image of his age through his color plane theory that evolved as the times did (as his career spanned 50 years).
The meaning of the image of the age as conceptualized by Daphnis is the representative of its most fluent current state — the pixel. Technology has imbued itself in all forms of human created matter, drawing the pixelated profundity into being as a setting ground for the 21st century mythology. Thus, the pixel stands as the contemporary notion of reality that the one is formed of the many, and the many, though differentiated at close range, from an elevated perspective are in fact, the parts of the one.
Pixel Fields — Nassos Daphnis
*All photos courtesy of Richard Taittinger Gallery