All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind. – Karl Marx
Work by Alexander Massouras
In the moment that a diver descends from the threshold of the diving tower, their physical form becomes a free falling object suspended in an unpredictable open space. The tension between the diver’s muscular physique and the fight against the void to achieve a flawless dive transpire in a matter of seconds but later become fixtures of awe in the collective consciousness. In the Divers series Alexander Massouras examines the memento mori, the near moment before a diver lands in the untouched deep end below. There is an inherent anxiety in the works, as they seem to communicate a mind racing a mile minute wondering ‘what if I don’t complete the dive properly?’ ‘What do I do now?’ The painter revels in the open interpretation that a dive inspires and express that “one of the satisfying things about them is how much they leave to the viewer. For some they are optimistic leaps of faith, for others they are nihilistic images of falling. Normally I have a bit more control over how my images read, so I enjoy relinquishing that and letting them be either.” Depicting divers in flat planes of black or white spaces rendered in oil or graphite, the subject is removed from the context of the dive and becomes a human form surrendering to the laws of gravity. Massouras describes the importance of these empty planes as the “space around the figure is a key part of the compositions, so those two variations are just different attempts to put the diver in a void.”
One a Half Somersaults with Pike reflects the inspiration drawn from vintage swimming and diving instructions books from the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, which feature black and white photographs of perfect dives. “Pike” appears in a full red bathing costume and caught mid air at a 90 degree angle with his outstretched arms balancing his extended limbs. The pose captures a glimpse of a perfect somersault while celebrating the musculature and focus of the diver. While Massouras’ work denies a formal narrative, the Divers resonates as a metaphor for those of who dare to leap from the platform and touch the void that lies out ahead.
Featured Image: Etching courtesy of the artist and Julian Page Fine Art
Painting images courtesy of the artist and Skylight Projects