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“Basketball”, a Mediterranean modernist artwork.

Artist: Christoforos Savva

Title: “Basketball” (1959)

Characteristics: mixed media on cloth, 198 × 111 cm

Keywords: hybridity, anti-colonialist, diversity, spatial fluidity

 

            The work “basketball” by the Cypriot artist Christoforos Savva (1959) it is a mixed media work that depicts two men playing basketball. It is one of the first works of Savva to be made of unconventional techniques. It is a work which led him to work further with fabric, creating a kind of “textile art” that is considered his major contribution to Cypriot and Mediterranean modernism in general.

What is particularly interesting about the artwork, as with many artworks of Savva, is the interweaving (literally as well as figuratively) of the different – otherwise isolated – elements within the composition, into a wider synthesis.

            The work is characterized by a lack of a central element around which the composition unfolds. On the contrary, it is characterized by the construct of a web of interconnected elements that are interdependent; his choice to work with fabric maybe an allure to the interconnection of elements within the spider web.

            This aesthetic technique is regarded as an attempt of Christoforos Savva to mix different elements and different materials together, in order to create a hybrid composition that transcends the subject and makes it part of a whole, instead of treating it as a point of emphasis.

            As the art historian Antonis Danos1 suggests, this element could be regarded as a core aspect in what he regards as an “alternative” (Mediterranean) modernism, because it reflects the “corruption” of dichotomies, as well as the deconstruction of the impression of a distinction between a “center” and a “periphery”; between high art and low art, between the “European Modernism” and the “Peripheral Modernism”, and consequently the “high culture” and the “low culture” as well as all the political and social consequences of similar distinctions.

In a way, it is the difference between the Gridthat is structure, and the Web that is inter-connectivity.

            As such, we can see Christoforos Savvas’ artwork as also a political critique towards dichotomies and hierarchical thinking.

            Stylistically, within the work “basketball” (depicted below) we cannot easily perceive a central – dominant – subject within the composition, but rather we perceive many different interconnected subjects that interact as part of a wider “composition” characterized by movement and an open ended inter-connectivity.

This echoes the post-colonial critique on the way a dominant, “central” power that is the colonizer constructs the identity of a “subordinate” peripheral “other”, that is the colonized. Given the fact that Savva’s work coincides historically with the anti-colonial sentiment of Cyprus during the 1950s, we can see how through his artwork suggest an anti-hegemonic, anti-colonial, “un-hierarchical” society without a colonizer and a colonized, without a subject and an “object”, without center and periphery, and without high culture and low culture. Another element that suggest his anti-hegemonic motives, is the fact that he uses fabric, a material associated with “applied arts” (textile manufacture), as well as womanhood.

Therefore, Christoforos Savvas’ work, could be used for another definition of “modernism”, and modern culture. A modernism that is defined outside of the European “center”, and outside of a “central” grid or hegemonic discourse in general.

A modernism without hegemonic Narratives under which everything must be adjusted,  but instead a modernism that works as a “network” without centrality, characterized by interconnection and interaction, that is fluid and hybrid.

1 Elhariry, Yasser, and Edwige T. Talbayev. Critically Mediterranean : temporalities, aesthetics, and deployments of a sea in crisis. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018. Print.

2 Krauss, Rosalind. “Grids.” October, vol. 9, 1979, pp. 51–64. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/778321.

 

Savva

Christoforos Savva, Basketball, 1959, mixed media on cloth, 198 x 111 cm, private collection.

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