phyle n. clan, tribe, people \ ˈfī-(ˌ)lē \
[from Greek φύω (phyō), to produce, germinate, grow.
Derived from ancient Greek φύεσθαι, to descend, to originate]
Leontios Toumpouris’ solo exhibition comprises a series of wall-based works in ceramic and leather, moulding and manipulating these materials to physically and linguistically hint at new bodies coming into our world. These bodies – an unknowable, primordial tribe – have been collectively generated and transformed through research into ancient processes and mystical ideologies, offering up new possibilities for these age-old materials and amplifying previously unheard voices within raw matter.
In his work, Toumpouris delicately treads a fine line between tangible fact and speculative fiction. He confidently blends precise investigations into the physical properties of certain materials with more fluid explorations of cryptic, mythical histories of alchemy and other impossible quests to comprehend the unknown.
The forms generated for this exhibition are not consummate, finite objects. What is being offered up here instead is less a complete body of work and more an ongoing work of bodies: a tribe coming forth, growing and gestating in different ways across the space.
Phyle is a generative gathering of different types of matter at different stages of being. These bodies are at once becoming and unbecoming before our eyes, seemingly assembling and fragmenting in tandem, in a permanent state of flux.
The archetypical elemental phenomena of earth, water, fire and air are necessarily put to use in the production of these ceramic forms, but the artist’s hand elicits a lighter touch than perhaps anticipated – willing the material to speak for itself in some ways and allowing for slippages in terms of physical but also conceptual structures within the work. Said slippages hark back to an age when chemical engineering and experimentation overlapped with allegorical conjurings and divine imaginings to create alchemical texts and manuscripts intended to be translated or understood by only a select few.
Toumpouris takes these ideas of coded, indecipherable scripts and transposes them into this work, searing cursive lines gleaned from shapes within the stretched clay across strips of leather. This is a language that moves imperceptibly across the room, spoken by this new clan to one another. It is a language of matter that moves beyond human comprehension: we as viewers are able only to catch a glimpse of this movement on these intertwining threads; the voice in question is not for our ears to hear.
We are witness here to intimate moments of creation, but these are moments formed in non-linear space, suspended in time between a prelapsarian past and an as yet undetermined future.
Text by Eoin Dara