A verse from Giorgos Seferis’s poem “Thrush” – “…the statues are no longer fragments. We are” – perfectly captures the essence of “Broken History,” a new collection of works by artist Pavlos Samios that recently went on show at the Greek capital’s Byzantine and Christian Museum.
“It stirred me and gave me a real emotional charge. It was the spark that kindled the flame and showed me the way for this exhibition,” says the artist in reference to that verse by the Nobel laureate. “The entire past, history welled up inside of me and brought the bitter realization of where we were and where we have ended up. We are the broken statues today and everything else is broken too: history, the past, the present and the future.”
“Broken History” comprises 66 large-scale works, some more than 3 meters tall. “I would say that the show casts symbols of ancient Greek civilization in the starring role, as opposed to my older work,” says Samios, who teaches traditional and Byzantine fresco painting at the Athens School of Fine Arts.
This sharp observation of the state of modernity today and postmodernism in art and society is the most striking aspect of the exhibition and emerges clearly from the works on display.
“At a time when historical memory is being sorely tested, Pavlos Samios is neither complacent nor quiet. He is instead writing a new story with his art, giving it a symbolic title: ‘Broken History.’ For this narrative, he has chosen a dialogue of emblematic works of ancient Greek art with Byzantine and post-Byzantine Christian depictions,” says the director of the Byzantine and Christian Museum, Katerina Dellaporta. “Classical idols, ancient kouroi, kore and sphinxes, classical sculptures from the Parthenon and statues such as the Winged Victory of Samothrace and the Aphrodite of Milos are rendered in a bold new manner in ‘installations’ that combine painting, sculpture and graffiti.”
By mixing genres, Samios offers a new approach to Greek history and ancient myths, elements that play an integral role in the artist’s oeuvre. By using cardboard boxes he collected from the street as his canvas, he endows his work with an emotional and ideological dimension and builds a bridge between past and present.
“I turned to contemporary Greek reality and its colorful, aniconic graffiti, using spray paint to finish my works so as to convey the feeling of the streets of Athens in my compositions. The ancient spirit thus meets day-to-day life in a process of perpetual exchange and recharging,” says the artist in the catalogue.
Despite the observations concerning the relationship between past and present, the overall mood of the exhibition is not pessimistic. In fact, it sends a positive message, which is best encapsulated in the third and final part of the show, “Stone Smiles,” in which the charming young ladies of the Acropolis, the kores, continue to smile upon us from pieces of marble the artist found on Mount Penteli.
“Broken History” runs through June 15 at the Byzantine and Christian Museum (22 Vassilissis Sofias, tel 213.213.9517, www.byzantinemuseum.gr).