The wave, a reference to Hokusai


Drawing their inspiration from the famous woodblock print Under the wave off Kanagawa (1830-32) - also known as the Great Wave- by Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), video artists Stelios Dexis and Myrto Vounatsou re-examine in their two-channel video projection entitled The Wave (2012) the aesthetic and conceptual qualities of nature’s forces. The masterful juxtapositions between the parachuters flying in the air and the floating jellyfish in the depths of the sea, exposed occasionally by the waters’ movements, bring to mind the similarities of the pictorial treatment of both the waves and the distant tiny Mountain Fuji that is depicted in the original work’s background. This mirroring effect, that explores the conditions above and under the sea’s surface, beautifully parallels the scene shown on the adjacent video, where metallic obstacles -which intercept the tanks - are reflected on the stagnant waters in front of them.

The sense of imminent danger of destruction that threatens to crash down upon the viewer, as the wave seems constantly “ready” to flow forth, away from its confines and overflow his/her space, evident in the projection on the left, finds its final act in the surging of the water that annihilates the scenery on the projection on the right. Man and his constructions prove helpless when confronted with nature’s uncontrollable immense powers, a fact that is here visually enhanced by the sharp contrast between the man’s and the sea’s physical size. An interesting interplay between the notions of ‘naturalness’ and artificiality pervades the video’s conceptual vocabulary, especially evident in the paradox element of the parachuters’ eternal hovering over the sea and their side by side placing to their natural ‘counterparts’, the birds, which too remain always on the same spot despite their flying moves.     

The video installation produces a striking emotional impact on the viewer by using close-up, slow-motion and zooming techniques, the merging of the two parallel narratives into a dramatic one, the imposing sound effects of the stormy sea, familiar enough yet haunting, and the suspense created by the lurking uncanny atmosphere and wait for the final outcome.


                                                                            Vassiliki Vayenou

                                                                                art historian

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stelios dexis & myrto vounatsou