Press Release  June 25, 2020  Clancy Rice

Costas Picadas' Art of Healing

courtesy of the artist

Costas Picadas, Biophilia 05, 2020.

In times of great uncertainty, artists are lighting the path towards salvation. One of those is Costas Picadas, creating bridges between art and science to heal and remind us what we are made of. He will be displaying his work in the Contemporary Digital Arts Fair's virtual art fair from June 25th to 28th.

COVID-19 has driven everyone indoors, forcing us to reimagine our social dynamics. For many, some of the richest experiences pre-COVID were shared, like meeting a friend for a meal and a conversation. For an artist, it was exhibiting to others their dialogue with the universe -- unfortunately, restrictions birthed from our current pandemic have made this nearly impossible.

Costas Picadas is someone who has no problem adapting to the change. Studying in France in the '80s, he began as a painter but quickly evolved to incorporate sculpting and photography in his skill set as well. Sculptures in the Refraction and Gravitation periods deal in positive space and seem to create an element of timelessness; animal sculptures and machine rotor parts are partially engulfed by a dense white block, freezing them in time and space.

Timelessness is a consistent theme throughout the artist’s work, a quality that may prove unavoidable when primarily working in the medium of photography. Some works like Multiverse try to transcend still photography or at least engage in a dialogue with motion, by using long exposure to stretch and twist light into tendrillar structures. It was after a trip to Peru when Costas’ photography would evolve into a living, breathing entity.

courtesy of the artist

Costas Picadas, Biophilia 01, 2020.

“A few years ago I visited Macchu Picchu and the first thing that struck me was the fact I couldn’t breathe,” Picadas said. “In the low oxygen environment, I realized how fundamental breath was for a living being.”

He calls his latest work “Breathing Images,” photographs that have been manipulated to convey expansion and contraction. Some of his ‘Breathing Images’ loop in eight-second intervals while others in 19-second intervals, following Dr. Weil’s 4-7-8 breathing technique that is based on ancient yogic tradition.

“All the spiritual leaders talk about attaining mindfulness through the practice of breathing” Picadas said. In giving his photography breath, the artist helps us see the spark of light present within all matter.

“If you go far in inspecting the anatomy of anything you will eventually encounter the particles, the atoms, electrons, neutrons,” Picadas said. “Everything has an energy, and in that sense, life.”

courtesy of the artist

Costas Picadas, Biophilia 02, 2020.

In his latest ‘Breathing Image’ set, Biophilia, he takes stills of nature and superimposes human microbiology over them to emphasize their structural similarities. Costas’ is a mind which is fascinated by the similarities between human and other biological structures. He asserts that we are repeated simulations of the same phenomenon, adhering to mathematical formulae like Phi or the Golden Ratio. We are the universe experiencing itself through various forms.

His art strives to be the intermediary between art and science; according to him, both disciplines are our most important tools in navigating reality yet are divergent in their language. Like another proponent of visual healing, Louie Schwartzberg, Costas creates with the intent to heal physical ailments. In Biophilia, brightly colored cells filled with fluorescent proteins dance over a backdrop natural structures to the tune of echoing mantras.

The eclectic mixture of stimuli is tamed and brought into focus under the practice of the breath; an instructional voice permeates a neon cloud and guides the listener through each purposeful breath. The power of breath is something that is being realized en masse as the virus creates deficits in many. Through the vehicle of Youtube, Wim Hof, like Picadas, is bringing attention to the benefits that come from controlled breathing such as supporting immune function and stress relief.

courtesy of the artist

Costas Picadas, Biophilia 03, 2020.

On the benefits of controlled breathing, an excerpt from Hof’s website reads:

“The amount of oxygen that we inhale through our breathing, influences the amount of energy that is released into our body cells. On a molecular level, this progresses via various chemical and physiological processes. Breathing is the easiest and most instrumental part of the autonomic nervous system to control and navigate. In fact, the way you breathe strongly affects the chemical and physiological activities in your body.”

Costas takes it a step further than Hof, laying breathing instruction over biophilic imagery.

Among others, Schwartzberg and his Visual Healing have shown the world that, in clinical situations, biophilic imagery has reduced patient anxiety, increased pain tolerance, and even reduced the duration of hospital stays. Combining the practice of the breath with his own healing photography, the artist has the intention of healing the world.

The intention does not go unnoticed. Last year, Costas’ immersive Mitosis exhibition at Lytehouse Studios garnered the attention of immunologists. Through an introduction by art curator Cecilia Dupire, he was invited to Mount Sinai’s immunology retreat where he aroused interest and gained insight from medical experts. On the retreat he was bestowed with scientific data and cutting edge imagery of human cells and viruses -- content he utilizes in his latest work. Similarly, he is in dialogue with the Max Planck Institute in Berlin.

courtesy of the artist

Costas Picadas, Meiosis Installations, 2020.

The great irony is that the respiratory virus at the center of this pandemic is not only plaguing human lungs but also the ‘Breathing Images.’ Like so many other artists, Costas’ work cannot be displayed because of the restrictions on large gatherings.

But an artist’s main goal is to use expression as the means to cure what ails us. The novel coronavirus has not impinged on Costas’ efforts but emboldened them with purpose. Not only is he working at ways of healing the human anatomy but the planet as well.

The freeze of humans’ deeply habituated routines has been a great inspiration for him and something he anticipates we’ll look back on as a turning point in our relationship with the planet.

courtesy of the artist

Costas Picadas, Expansion Installations, 2020.

Each of us, on a small scale, is contributing to the destruction of the planet just by engaging in what we consider normal behavior; driving gas-guzzlers and sipping coffee from plastic every morning on our way to work. But we’re now seeing the benefits of taking a break from this behavior -- on a whole, carbon emissions have been reduced by 17 percent since we began this global quarantine. The waterways in Venice are clean, the skies in Beijing have turned blue again and in general, the Earth is healing.

courtesy of the artist

Costas Picadas, Expansion Installations, 2020.

For people like Costas, these things have made our destruction of the planet apparent. This time is provoking a shift in our behavior to better care for our planet. In juxtaposing our form with that of Earth’s, Costas is contributing to this shift, inspiring reverence for the living organism we inhabit.

His interests and passions are not only visible in his work but also the organizations he devotes his time to. From May 18-31, Costas had been working with the Roadmaps Festival as their artist in residence as they give talks about the future of climate change policy and our emergence from this global pandemic.

During the event on the 18th, Ali Velshi, NBC News Coordinator, described the artist’s work as the perfect “scene setter” for the discussion of climate change. I agree with Velshi, its framing is perfect. For the person who interacts with Costas’ work, they not only focus on their own organism as they are guided through intentional breaths but realize their connection to the planetary organism, a connection many argue was severed long ago.

Costas now has another opportunity to spread his healing art as widely as he can. From June 25th to the 28th, Costas will be taking part in CADAF's virtual art fair. CADAF or Contemporary Digital Arts Fair has an initiative to support and prop up digital art and other new media projects; a worthwhile endeavor as their existence will only become more ubiquitous in the future. Art is evolving past its physical limitations, transcending the exclusivity of exhibition hall walls and extending its reaches to the far ends of the earth. At some point, art became something for the wealthy to collect as an investment. Art serves a greater purpose though, to unify and communicate important insight. The dissolution of barriers in art comes at no better time than now, when Costas is trying to heal the world with his.

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