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Forms of Life
Is it a romantic notion to assume that art has healing powers, that it could make the world a better
place, or the individual a healthier person? These questions come up as I look at the work of Costas
Picadas. The artist grew up in a family of doctors in Greece, but he decided to take a different path,
attending art school in Paris before moving to his current home base of New York. Picadas mixes an
interest in medical science with a personal, experiential study of nature. These elements blend together
in his artworks, including in the recent Biomes series, which presents projections of slow-moving images,
as well as prints and drawings, all showing natural and abstract motifs.
The projections feel at times like looking through a microscope into the body of a human being or the
tissue of a plant. A world of patterns, of tubes and circular forms, appears. All are connected in an
ingenuous structure, and in a slow, ongoing movement. Then, mixed with such close ups, a landscape
image may emerge, a view we recall from spending time outside: the leaves of a tree shimmering in the
sunlight, or a flower opening and closing again. It appears as a stretch of time condensed into ten or
twenty seconds. Bringing all of these different perspectives together into one work, with images
blending into each other, the artist gives insights into the complex architecture of the world as it
surrounds us but is also inside of us. We zoom in on what we cannot see with our bare eyes, and in the
work, this is connected to the world as we know it from looking outside.
“I overlay the natural imagery I take from forests with cell imagery from labs, as a way of drawing
comparisons between those life forms,” the artist noted. He is fascinated by nature’s potential for
regeneration. This also applies to the human body, in the way that cells renew themselves. “I think art
can aid the process of regrowth and repair by reminding us of innate natural abilities,” he added.
Relating this to the question of the healing power of art, the artist offers a visual reflection on the
subject, as if he has written an essay about it in images, not in words. The works are not just aimed at
understanding structures, but also at showing connections in and with nature. The real source for
healing is located in nature, the work seems to suggest, and yet through artworks, this source can be
reflected and brought to the surface. It is significant that in Picadas’s approach, we look not just at
humans, but at diverse forms of life. We are simply one among many others.
The artist’s oeuvre comprises different formats and media. While in earlier years his focus was on
photography, in recent years the moving-image installations have grown in importance. They might be
seen in a gallery on a monitor, or as big projections on the side of a building, or even as a surround
installation that covers all of the walls of a space, creating an insular environment. His work aims for an
immersive experience in which the goal is not just to analyze an image as an interpretation of the world,
but to become part of it, to synchronize with the rhythms as they appear in the works. These pieces are
inspired by natural life, by breathing in and out, by the cycle of light during the day, and the change of
seasons during the year. Change as it comes to us in these works is change as observed in nature, and as
happens all the time both in- and outside of ourselves.
Jurriaan Benschop