Takis, Greek artist who pioneered the power of magnetism in art, dies at 93

Takis, Greek artist who pioneered the power of magnetism in art, dies at 93
Leading lights  -   Artists

The Greek sculptor Panayiotis Vassilakis, commonly known as Takis, has passed away at the age 93. “A prolific and visionary mind, whose ingenuity, passion and imagination was endless, Takis explored many artistic and scientific horizons, as well as music and theatre and redefined the boundaries in art,” the artist’s foundation wrote in a statement announcing his death. It celebrated Takis as a “true pioneer, innovator and legend”.

Born in 1925 Athens, Greece, Takis devoted most of his life to researching magnetism. He became known and widely celebrated for his kinetic art that uses magnetism, light and sound. London’s Tate Modern, which currently has a monographic exhibition for his works, described him as “one of the most original artistic voices in Europe from the 1960’s”. His work earned him praise from some of the leading artists and thinkers at the time like Marcel Duchamp, William S. Burroughs and the American Beat poets.

Takis was largely self-taught. He moved to Paris in the 1950’s, which was when he started exploring magnetism and magnetic field energy. He was fascinated by the technological inventions at the time and constructed his first “Signals” sculptures from 1954 to 1958. The sculpture comprised of narrow and bended poles topped with found objects or lights, gently swaying in a breeze or in response to their environments. They were said to have been inspired by Takis’ experience while waiting for a train at the Calais station and watching the flashing lights in what he referred to as a “jungle of iron”. One of his sculptures was installed in a basin near Paris at La Défense last summer.

Takis then moved on to make telemagnetic sculptures in the late 50’s and through the 60’s followed by pieces that explored radar technology and magnetism, sometimes involving the viewer to create sounds of the cosmos. Takis had earned somewhat of a daredevil reputation in the 60’s when he suspended the poet Sinclair Beiles electromagnetically in the air to recite poetry, much to the shock but fascination of an audience.

His work eventually led him to a fellowship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the late 60’s. There, he continued to make electromagnetic sculptures but he also pursued studies in hydrodynamic energy and ended up creating hydromagnetic sculptures. After delving into the intersections of art, technology and science, he registered several patents for his work.

Takis continued to pioneer new works like when he made paintings with abstract elements hovering on their surfaces, earning him the first prize of the Biennale de Paris in 1985. This lead to a retrospective at Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume in 1993 and a show at the Palais de Tokyo in 2015.

Takis, Magnetic Wall 9 (Red), 1961, Acrylic paint on canvas, magnets, copper wire, foam, paint, plastic, steel, synthetic cloth.

The Tate Modern is currently running a solo exhibition of Takis’ work until October 27.