Andreas Voussouras, Pendulum (for L.C.), wood, paper and marble, 100×70×4 cm, 2020

Andreas Voussouras, Pendulum (for L.C.),
wood, paper and marble,
100×70×4 cm,
2020

time was made to flow
love to end
life, so it can go to hell
and I, to cross Infinity
with a fantastic stride of a mathematical calculation,
only those who thirst for everything
can catch up to me,
all that we experienced
dissipates,
it is being destroyed inside the rotten esophagus of time
and only occasionally,
at night perhaps,
a sad old ruminant regurgitates it, a toothless
memory,
all those things we missed out on
belong to us –

Tassos Leivaditis
25th Rhapsody of the Odyssey

Achilleas Pistonis, I was unlucky today, I will return tomorrow, oil on canvas, 140X200, 2020

Achilleas Pistonis,
I was unlucky today, I will return tomorrow,
oil on canvas, 140X200, 2020

Art is nothing more than the dark collective of human melancholia; no easy consolation. I am truly blessed to be able, for the fourth consecutive year, to curate the annual summer exhibition presented by the Cultural Foundation of Tinos Island. In previous times the ‘Artists Association’ oversaw the organisation of the exhibition. However, this year, the highly regarded “Friends of Tinos” took the initiative, a team, which has been working tirelessly for years towards promoting the cultural treasures of the island. Thusly, together with gallerist Maria Almpani, a habitué of Tinos, we have curated a visual puzzle that aspires to highlight the most important aspects of contemporary artistic production, since it is impossible to showcase it in its entirety. More specifically, we have selected 21+1 emblematic artists, some old familiar names exhibited next to some younger ones, resulting in a spectacle that is comprehensible, analogous to the space in which it is hosted –in my opinion the most significant cultural space in the Cyclades, right next to Chalepas’ permanent collection– and equally balanced between darkness and light.

Andreas Voussouras, Untitled, acrylics and collage, digital printing and paraffin on wood, 153X106 cm, 2020

Andreas Voussouras, Untitled,
acrylics and collage, digital printing and paraffin on wood,
153X106 cm,
2020

I must emphasize from the outset that a group exhibition inevitably constitutes a compromis. And, if we wish to be honest, this is true even for large, ambitious museum exhibitions. In this particular case, we have chosen to include the artists we believe are most representative of our multidimensional and largely contradictory era. One thing we insisted upon was including all styles and tendencies, exhausting the spectrum as much as possible. Furthermore, we were adamant that the works would be the most interesting and representative of each artist. It is up to the viewer to decide whether we’ve succeeded. It goes without saying that mentioning the difficulties and complexities of such a project does not diminish our responsibility. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Aris Katsilakis, Untitled, baked clay and wood, 70 × 65 × 30 cm, 2020

Aris Katsilakis, Untitled,
baked clay and wood,
70 × 65 × 30 cm,
2020

A note regarding the title: this exhibition is an attempt on our part to highlight the positive aspects of these dark times. Currently, an ominous darkness –both real and symbolic– conceals itself in the most innocent gestures, a caress or a kiss, a handshake or a hug, ready to attack with sickness and death at any moment. Let us remember that light always follows the dark and that darkness itself, apart from despair, which accompanied the many months of isolation, can also bear creative ideas. Difficulties, even pain, are often the beginning of something new. Art is no exception.

George Kazazis, Untitled, oil on canvas, 100 × 150 cm, 2019

George Kazazis, Untitled,
oil on canvas,
100 × 150 cm,
2019

I often say that the period of forced isolation was, for the majority of artists –especially visual artists and writers– a very familiar condition. They often live and work this way, isolated in their studios or offices, alone with their thoughts, their fears and visions, with their difficulties and their successes, and the technical, aesthetic or ideological issues that arise from their work. Because that is what art is; a way for us to secretly whisper our personal truth into eternity’s ear. Who knows whether she listens!

George Kazazis, Untitled, oil on canvas, 120x160 cm, 2020

George Kazazis, Untitled,
oil on canvas,
120x160 cm,
2020

Post-war Greek art stems from two distinct and quite opposite traditions. First, that of Bouzianis, which mourns for the human body and form, and second, that of Tsarouchis, which glorifies and deifies it. Somewhere between these two, we find artists like Diamantopoulos and Spyropoulos. And a little bit further away, we find Papaloukas, a follower of Parthenis, Maleas, Nikolaos Lytras and Oikonomou. I place artists like Triantaphyllides, Mimi Vitsoris, Maragopoulou, Lagana, (the early art of) Fasianos, Maipas, Stavros Ioannou, Mytaras, Patraskidis, Theofylaktopoulos, Polymenokis, Polymeris, Mortarakos Mantzavinos etc. in the first tradition. As for the second school, it is impossible to count accurately. Kyriakos Katzourakis, Pavlos Samios, Antonaropoulos, Rorris and Daskalakis are only a few. As for Sacaillan, he is a timeless boundary between the historical narrative about the human figure and the deconstruction of the face and its long history. Without overlooking anyone’s personal language or achievements (where they exist). I must point out that museums of contemporary art stand out for their problematic relationship with expressionism. I remind you that painters like John Christopher, Nonda, Prassinos, (the largely unknown) Giannis Maltezos, the exuberant Minas, but also the expressionist period of Caniaris, Kessanlis, Dekousilakos, Sachini etc. have been systematically ignored. Right at that point where expressionism met abstract writing and gestures met the psyche. Conclusion: history is a text that must be constantly rewritten.

Gogo Ieromonachou, The White-haired woman, Oil on canvas, 180 × 150 cm, 2019

Gogo Ieromonachou, The White-haired woman,
Oil on canvas,
180 × 150 cm,
2019

…For it is the darkness which bears the light, and not the other way around. Under this broad and symbolic title, as I have already explained, diverse artists –historical figures and emerging creators– co-exist in such a way that the final composition of the exhibition emerges entirely through the contradictions of its parts. At this point, I would like to share with you my central belief: this larger than life bastion called ‘painting’ –largely resembling Eréndira’s Heartless Grandmother in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s famous short story– the primordial womb that birthed every new form of imagery, from photography to video art, remains the dominant means of artistic expression in our country, despite the persistent attempts of theorists who often tend to confuse reality with obsession. Thusly, our emphasis is on painting, whether this explores representation or moves along the borders of abstraction, of poetic submission and concealed messages. The psychological representation of a reality that a priori cannot be represented, of Nature that ‘loves to hide’. Always, even on the surface of the most naïve image, exists a hidden riddle, which is revealed only to those with knowledge and experience. Those who are willing to devote time and truly look at a work of art, emotionally surrender to it. The artwork always responds. The profit gained from such an interaction is vast, both for the viewer and the creation itself, which perpetually lives new lives every time a new set of eyes looks upon it.

Juliano Kaglis, Gyzis and his students in Munich, Oil on canvas, 120x160 cm, 2020

Juliano Kaglis,
Gyzis and his students in Munich,
Oil on canvas,
120x160 cm,
2020

Thus, among the contemplative minimalism of Mortarakos and the baroque expressionism of Kyriakos Katzourakis as well as the phantasmagoria of images by Adamakis, Misouras and Manousakis, there is a thin, red thread that connects imperceptibly but essentially the two different narratives. I dare claim the same thing about the dramatic portraits of Gogo Ieromonachou and Vassilis Soulis, in relation to the sensitive use of materials and the feminist perspective of Spiridoula Politi or the anarchic humor of Kostas Lavdas. I could also expand on the dialogue between Vassilis Selimas and Mantalina Psoma on the one side, and Andreas Voussouras with Aris Katsilakis on the other, especially because the objects depicted in the paintings of Selimas and Psoma acquire material substance –flesh and bones– through the sculptures of Voussouras and Katsilakis. I could also talk about the “musical” division between abstraction and representation that we encounter in the works of both Katerina Mertzani and Panagiotis Daniilopoulos (Thrafia). Accordingly, Giuliano Caglis and Achilleas Pistonis, in their multi-layered compositions, conceal a second narrative, beyond the obvious initial one. I am also very interested in the political element that is found, either directly or indirectly, in the work of Konstantinos Patsios as well as in the paintings of George Kazazis, who insists on a more aesthetic –yet still rather caustic- perspective. Finally, I was adamant about having a lively dialogue among painting, sculpture and installation. Nektarios Kontovrakis, for example, with his twofold approach, can represent both painting and sculpture. Similarly, Nikos Kalafatis, with his appealing naïveté, achieves a great balance between surface and space. I could provide many more examples but I prefer to let you discover them for yourselves. At this point, you might ask me: aren’t all these combinations a little too arbitrary? To which I reply: in art, there is no greater law than the law of arbitrariness. As long as it is creative, of course, and leads us from a disorganized chaos to an organized one.

Katerina Mertzani, FALSE MEMORY 1, 110x100 cm, acrylic on canvas

Katerina Mertzani, FALSE MEMORY 1,
110x100 cm,
acrylic on canvas

Katerina Mertzani, FALSE MEMORY 2, 110x100 cm, acrylic on canvas

Katerina Mertzani, FALSE MEMORY 2,
110x100 cm,
acrylic on canvas

Finally, I must emphasize that this exhibition of twenty-two (21+1) artists is dedicated to the memory of Vlassis Caniaris (1928-2011), an artist who has left an indelible mark on the Greek avant-garde, who loved Tinos and spent most of his summers there, and whose passing prompted the Cultural Foundation of Tinos to dedicate a landmark retrospective exhibition in his memory (2016), curated by my colleague Christoforos Marinos. As most people may know, Vlassis and I did not only have a brotherly bond, but also a teacher-student relationship. However, the roles would often interchange, for Vlassis was wise, and knew how to listen when the need arose. We are all in his debt. I know I definitely am. Therefore, let the culmination of this exhibition be the dialogue that emerges between the work of a great artist, who might be physically gone but his presence is everlasting, and the work of younger creators who are inspired by the same sensitivity, the same political vigilance and ultimately, the same ambition to say difficult and painful things in a simple, direct manner.

Konstantinos Patsios, Entropie des nuages, mixed media on canvas, 150x150 cm, 2020

Konstantinos Patsios, Entropie des nuages,
mixed media on canvas,
150x150 cm,
2020

PS 1. Irrelevant: The clouds of the west were created to glorify the immortality of Tiepolo. Likewise, the stormy seas exist to defend Turner’s reputation. Most likely, God sculpted the world from clay and gave it colour, like an artist. It almost seems like God first created the artists and then rested. The artists undertook everything else.

Kostas Lavdas, Behold, I send you, egg tempera and gold leaf on wood, 40×55 cm

Kostas Lavdas, Behold, I send you,
egg tempera and gold leaf on wood,
40×55 cm

Note: Beware of painting that cancels the act of looking. Often, it is artists themselves who, out of insecurity or arrogance, cancel their colleagues’ work with their caustic comments. As Nietzsche would say, this is a very human thing, and perhaps even necessary. There is no progress without conflict. I think of art as a huge, clay sculpture that needs both fire and mud to be realised.

Kostas Lavdas, The Fourth Seal, egg tempera, crayons, markers, pastels and acrylics on wood, 140 × 160 cm, 2017

Kostas Lavdas, The Fourth Seal,
egg tempera, crayons, markers, pastels and acrylics on wood,
140 × 160 cm,
2017

PS 2. Finally, I wish to extend a warm than you to everyone from Athens and Tinos who contributed to the realisation of this exhibition. I must also thank the president of the Cultural Foundation of Tinos Island (CFTI) Mr. Evangelos Gkizis, the members of the Board, the director Mr. Markos Vidalis and the technical director Mr. George Fotopoulos for their continual support, as well as every member of the Foundation. Maria Almpani, with whom I collaborate often, and hope to continue to do so in the future. And of course the artists, all twenty-one of them, who entrusted me with their work. Finally, Alexis Caniaris, a dear friend and –in my eyes– the physical continuation of Vlassis. ‘All those things we missed out on belong to us –’

Kyriakos Katzourakis, Guernica, acrylic on canvas, 90X120 cm, 2018

Kyriakos Katzourakis, Guernica,
acrylic on canvas,
90X120 cm,
2018

Questions…

Who is painting for? I often catch myself wondering about that. Who is poetry for? Inside this wave of fascination with animation, cinema or television, how many enthusiasts can painting retain? What about literature that was not written to become an instant bestseller? How many readers is it entitled? How many chances does language that transcends communication stand against the straightforward, apprehensible discourse? For whom are the paintings that are being painted today? How many people are still fascinated not by the answers but by the questions posed by images? What about all the hard work that goes into publishing books? Audiences, despite the vast contemporary art market and the universal thriving of the visual arts, despite literature’s popularity, decrease in numbers. People are moving away from art, they are concerned less and less by it, turning their backs on beauty out of despair.

Kyriakos Katzourakis, Shame, oil on wood, 107X81 cm, 2017

Kyriakos Katzourakis, Shame,
oil on wood,
107X81 cm,
2017

They are replaced by consumers more interested in utility or decoration rather than aesthetics. True creators, that is, the sensitive and the troubled, those who are aware of the futility of our time suffocate but, as Beckett would say, they carry on. They are the ones who feel their responsibility to (and fear of) beauty burns their insides upon realising that they essentially have no reason to exist. They are no longer fulfilling their purpose, which is to guide society, to interfere. Nevertheless, they carry on, in the hope that their work (books, poems, paintings) will find acceptance in tomorrow's viewers. That is how they hope to win the game against History. In my view, there is no greater mistake than to count on future acceptance. It is like looking for ‘accomplices’ who haven’t yet been born. Pessimism? No, not necessarily. Better call it ‘realism of despair’. For beauty, that keeps getting away. For love, that inspires songs and lyrics and images and dreams.

Kyriakos Mortarakos, Untitled, oil on canvas, 100X120 cm, 2011

Kyriakos Mortarakos, Untitled,
oil on canvas,
100X120 cm,
2011

Rothko whispers to Papaloukas…

I think I first fell in love with painting when, as a young boy, I observed in awe the shapes created in the sky when the wind moved the clouds left and right. All I know about painting, I learned from those infinite images in the sky. For me, the sky has always been a screen, a stretched canvas. On it, everything is perpetually written and erased. For as along as we look carefully or gaze at it transfixed, we exist. And when we are no longer able to see, that is when the art of our lives will cease. Yesterday afternoon, on the stretched canvas of the sky, right between the islands of Tinos and Syros, to the end of the horizon, the magical painting shone like a deity again… It wasn’t the storms or the clouds loaded with rain or even the striking lightning bolts and the whipping wind but rather angels and spirits of a glorious and terrifying God that descended from dizzying heights and filled my melancholy with magnificent paintings.

Mantalina Psoma, Apartment II, oil on canvas, 150X180cm, 2016

Mantalina Psoma, Apartment II,
oil on canvas,
150X180cm,
2016

It was Stamos himself who summoned Rothko to introduce him to Papaloukas, just off the shores of Antiparos, right next to Paros, which was invisible due to a storm, very close to the cape of Agios Romanos. And that was the moment when the wind and the puffy clouds swept away all the ugliness of people, their miserable deeds, the ridiculousness of their nouveau riche homes, their hollow vanity that cannot comprehend the beauty of space, or the glorious beauty of the Cyclades… that underestimates the disturbing silence of volcanoes.

Mantalina Psoma, Bedroom, oil on canvas, 150X180cm, 2019

Mantalina Psoma, Bedroom,
oil on canvas,
150X180cm,
2019

Rothko, known for his dramatic style, after carefully studying Papaloukas’ attentive blues, proceeded to splash a little bit of mauve on the canvas and the image was miraculously transformed! The grays instantly became warmer whereas the ochre in the background softened the composition. Stamos, satisfied with the result, departed lazily towards the west, in the direction of the mountains of Epirus to gaze upon Lefkada, bathed in glorious sunset red, while Papaloukas headed north, to his familiar haunts, to Athos… It was then that Rothko, astonished by the sudden luminosity, remained suspended between Syros and Tzia, waiting for another miracle to happen… Like a citrus tree, for instance, springing from the sea.

Manos Stefanidis Professor, NKUA

Translated from the Greek by Yota Dimitriou

Michalis Manousakis, At the waning of the moon, acrylics and charcoal on wood, 184 × 110 cm, 2019

Michalis Manousakis, At the waning of the moon,
acrylics and charcoal on wood,
184 × 110 cm,
2019

Nektarios Kontovrakis, Male Figure, copper, 110x35x20cm, 2020

Nektarios Kontovrakis, Male Figure,
copper,
110x35x20cm,
2020

Nektarios Kontovrakis, Portrait of a Man, acrylics on canvas, 62x62cm, 2007

Nektarios Kontovrakis, Portrait of a Man,
acrylics on canvas,
62x62cm,
2007

Nikos Kalafatis, Memories, wall-mounted with Video, 38x42 cm, 2017

Nikos Kalafatis, Memories,
wall-mounted with Video,
38x42 cm,
2017

Nikos Kalafatis, The Leaf, iron and colour with built-in lighting, 1,75x30 cm

Nikos Kalafatis, The Leaf,
iron and colour with built-in lighting,
1,75x30 cm

Spiridoula Politi, Untitled, from series Made by Loula in Gr, acrylics, ink and pastels on canvas, 70x100 cm, 2015

Spiridoula Politi, Untitled,
from series Made by Loula in Gr,
acrylics, ink and pastels on canvas,
70x100 cm,
2015

Spiridoula Politi, Untitled, from the series Made by Loula in Gr, acrylics, ink and pastels on canvas, 70x100 cm, 2015

Spiridoula Politi, Untitled,
from the series Made by Loula in Gr,
acrylics, ink and pastels on canvas,
70x100 cm,
2015

Tassos Missouras, Untitled, acrylic and oil on canvas, 70x50 cm each, 2020

Tassos Missouras, Untitled,
acrylic and oil on canvas,
70x50 cm each,
2020

Thrafia (Panagiotis Daniilopoulos), Fairies (Nebulae), wax and pigments on canvas, 40x50 cm, 2020

Thrafia (Panagiotis Daniilopoulos),
Fairies (Nebulae),
wax and pigments on canvas,
40x50 cm,
2020

Thrafia (Panagiotis Daniilopoulos), Tremor (Nebulae), wax and pigments on canvas, 40x50 cm, 2020

Thrafia (Panagiotis Daniilopoulos),
Tremor (Nebulae),
wax and pigments on canvas,
40x50 cm,
2020

Vassilis Selimas, Hypnos (Sleep), acrylics on paper, 80x60cm, 2016-17

Vassilis Selimas, Hypnos (Sleep),
acrylics on paper,
80x60cm,
2016-17

Vassilis Soulis, Untitled, oil on canvas, 120x100 cm, 2020

Vassilis Soulis, Untitled,
oil on canvas,
120x100 cm,
2020

Vassilis Soulis, Untitled, oil on canvas, 2020

Vassilis Soulis, Untitled,
oil on canvas,
2020

Vlassis Caniaris, Sketch, oil on canvas, 1960

Vlassis Caniaris, Sketch,
oil on canvas,
1960

Vlassis Caniaris, Sketch, oil on canvas, 1961

Vlassis Caniaris, Sketch,
oil on canvas,
1961

Vlassis Caniaris, Figure, from the series The artist and his model, 1979

Vlassis Caniaris,
Figure, from the series The artist and his model,
1979

Vlassis Caniaris, The Orator, ink on paper, 1974

Vlassis Caniaris, The Orator,
ink on paper,
1974

Yiannis Adamakis, Interior Ι, acrylics on canvas, 80X100 cm, 2020

Yiannis Adamakis, Interior Ι,
acrylics on canvas,
80X100 cm,
2020

Yiannis Adamakis, Interior IΙ, acrylics on canvas, 80X100 cm, 2020

Yiannis Adamakis, Interior IΙ,
acrylics on canvas,
80X100 cm,
2020