It remains a challenge for both of us, since artistic expression requires a strong ego but you need to surpass the boundaries of the self to produce a fair collaboration


Towards a new vision

Text: Chryssa Nanou | Photographs: Kalos&Klio Archive

An artistic duo boasting a notable trajectory and international acclaim, Kalos&Klio have been working in tandem for more than 15 years. Starting off in Thessaloniki, where they still live and create, Christos Kalos and Klio Tantalidis have been examining, processing, and boldly attempting to interpret a world free from borders and from discrimination.

“Creativity, the tendency to express oneself visually using the vehicle of imagination, emerged very early in our lives. We could say that art probably chose us; we didn’t choose it,” they explain. It all began with a love for art and studies in the USA, the Netherlands, the UK, and Greece – studies in painting, printmaking, photography, new media… “No matter where we’ve lived, museums and galleries have always been part of our daily life – as well as journeys across the world, looking to come into contact with folk art and expression. The internet is, to us, a digital space, a virtual Amazon rain forest to never stop exploring. The stimuli are inexhaustible and diverse, as we are interested in all facets of human civilization… It is what we have dubbed ‘the democracy of vision,’ beyond distinctions between highbrow and lowbrow, beyond what is ours and others’, beyond old and new.”

They crossed paths in 2004. “Once we noticed that we shared an outlook to the world and a need to transmute our urban experiences to an artistic result, we spent four years refining and coordinating. Our collaboration began in earnest in 2007. We have been a duo ever since. It remains a challenge for both of us, since artistic expression requires a strong ego but you need to surpass the boundaries of the self to produce a fair collaboration, to make art that truly belongs to both of you. It is a complex, time-consuming process that requires determination and, primarily, shared vision.”

Asked how important it is for an artist to have a “signature” – for the public to look at a piece and be able to recognize it as a Kalos&Klio – they explain, “It is certainly important for an artist to craft a visual idiom through their work. There is always the danger of acting complacent because of what you have already achieved. Becoming established and feeling safe can undermine meaningful creation to a major extent. What we care about is producing a personal universe, proposing a manner of looking at the world; we do not stress over becoming morphologically recognizable. Ideally, a trajectory in the arts will be characterized by an organic cohesion where different projects have in common certain elements of style – but our aim remains to explore different questions and propose a new vision by creating our personal artistic language.”

In the work of Kalos&Klio, the local never stops conversing with the global. “The language of art is universal, but it is easy for an artist to get caught up in self-referentiality and in the complacency of a local visual idiom. Our world is now broader, and the local is scattered within the global. The material and the virtual have, in part, coalesced. Within this framework of a hybrid world that is now more discernible than ever, our aim is to interweave human culture, creating new cultural synapses and pursuing a new means of understanding and a proposal that concerns those who have now become citizens of the world. If that is achieved, then artistic creation can pronounce a language that can be perceived on a global scale.”

They are used to working with very diverse materials – which describes their work in more ways than one: “The materials that we choose to realize our work with are both the vehicle and part of its meaning and its content, on a symbolic and metaphorical level. For example, in a previous series we called “Violent Silk“, we used silk, a material that is loaded in symbolism, rich in historical references, and irrevocably linked to culture, luxury and power, to discuss violations of human rights in the world. In our work titled “On the Tapis | Weaves of Democracy“, which is being shown at Kalfayan Galleries and deals with the concept of democracy as a global idea, we ask questions regarding phenomena that dispute it, undermine it, but also redefine it. For this series, we chose wool and cotton yarn as one of the most ancient symbols of storytelling in every civilization, and also selected the traditional method of the loom as the means of creation. As we read in Plato’s Statesman, on a political level, weaving is analogous to the art of true moderation – to tracing the point halfway between hyperbole and absence. It is a timeless thought politically and socially, especially for the 21st century and our digital era, when our immaterial, online pixels are directly linked, as ascendant/descendant, to the materiality of the loom’s warps and wefts.”

Multiform and multidimensional, the artistic path of Kalos&Klio reflects their constant need to explore and experiment. “Finding yourself as an artist can spell the end of meaningful creation, as Max Ernst so succinctly put it. Experimentation is the essence of visual practice – as well as exploring new fields, while of course holding onto certain axes and questions that comprise the structure and cohesion of the artist’s complete contribution. ‘Not all who wander are lost,’ as J.R.R. Tolkien writes.”

As for the connection between personal, social and political in their art, they note that “artwork is fundamentally an amalgam of personal experience, the creator’s psyche, and the experience of their received sociopolitical stimuli. We are products of our era. Nobody can escape that, but we have a responsibility as artists to adopt a critical stance in the face of this influential framework. Our fears, obsessions, attractions and repulsions – as well as our personal way of looking at the world that surrounds us – remain subjective as circumstances, and produce this diversity of artistic idioms. The golden mean between the world and our world remains that fertile space where we want to stand in order to produce artwork that lacks self-referentiality but also remains safe from distortion by these external stimuli.”

Klio Tantalidi studied Digital Media (MFA, full scholarship) at the University of Chicago (USA), Printmaking (MA) at Governors State University, Chicago (USA), and Plastic Arts (BFA, graduated summa cum laude) at the University of Groningen (Netherlands).
Christos Kalos studied Photography at I.I.E.K. E.S.P. in Thessaloniki (Greece) and Painting (BFA) at Boston College (UK).

Selected exhibitions:

  • Art Athina, KALFAYAN GALLERIES, group exhibition, 2017
  • Art Basel Hong Kong, KALFAYAN GALLERIES, group  exhibition, 2017
  • Archeological Museum of Thessaloniki, Violent Silk – Mourning Veils as Objects of Memory (solo exhibition curated by Panagis Koutsokostas), Action Field Kodra, 2015

    The Lumen Prize group exhibition, Onassis Cultural Center, Athens, 2014
    The Lumen Prize group exhibition, Arcade Cardiff Gallery (Wales), New York Institute of Technology, Gallery 61 (New York City), Chelsea College of Art & Design’s Triangle Space (London), the Space Gallery (Hong Kong), 2013
    SYMVIOSIS? XV Biennale de la Mediterranée, Thessaloniki, 2011

The Lumen Prize competition award, shortlisted for Pandora’s Box, 2013
Artsland 1st showcase juried winner (New Media category): Pandora’s Box, 2013
International Art Expo, 2012. Liquid Identities computer graphic competition. Showcase juried winner: Pandora’s Box, 2013.