Photos: Panagiotis Mina
14/06 – 12/07/2019
Poster designed by Nikos Stephou
As a maker, Leontios Toumpouris gathers earthly elements, such as clay and pigment or iron and leather, and combines them with alchemy as his reference. As a speculative linguist, he is building a lexicon of material, shape and form, a language not confined to a page. As an editor, he is developing techniques to generate, harness and interpret the responses of those who encounter his work.
The objects he produces are fine calligraphic metal structures, perhaps a kind of writing in themselves; or ceramic forms made of layered clay, kneaded by hand, sliced in half, and opened to the viewer as if to be inspected for truth or omen, with Toumpouris acting as a haruspex*; or leather straps incised with marks that allude to a language which remains illegible. Toumpouris’ lexicon is offered up publicly. It uses the past to signpost the future, reminds the contemporary viewer of lost knowledge and forgotten possibilities, it emerges from roots that – once re-located and re-interpreted – will burrow deeper, and re-enchant our vocabulary and open up its potential.
Toumpouris utilizes the exhibition space to share and listen for responses, so he can learn and guide his process onwards. The encounters provide a layer of gloss on the work: materially, like a glaze on ceramic; or more esoterically, like a commentary on a manuscript.
‘Glossed’ ceramics can be traced to the earliest of human times, when clay was dug, refined, moulded, and preserved by heat and glaze; while in written form, ‘glosses’ are found in manuscripts and books produced before the invention of printing press. Manuscripts in these times were akin to artworks today, unique artefacts, produced by recognised calligraphers and illustrators to be revered and protected. A respected scholar would add a ‘gloss’ of text and images to the margins and between the lines of an original text, a commentary to steer interpretation or aid understanding. If the manuscript was copied, it’s likely the gloss would be copied too, and even added to.
Toumpouris is rekindling the accumulative process of learning, recognising that the act of making solves practical problems, such as how to forge metal and fire clay, but also that these acts can tap into other knowledge that has slipped out of use. As the audience, we are invited to provide commentaries and glosses, because Toumpouris recognises that his solitary production needs the animation of other voices, for the benefit not just of the artist, but for all of us.
*Haruspex: In Ancient Rome, a person trained to inspect the entrails of sacrificed animals for signs relating to the future.
Independent curator and Programme Co-ordinator at Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop