CULTURE

Memories of summer captured in exquisite book of paintings

Now that summer is drawing to a close, the sea is losing its friends who seek its cool embrace and the warm caresses of the sun on the golden sand. Now our experiences and memories are like a heap of pebbles in the palm of our hand. The pebbles are multicolored, black and white, shiny, smooth, with secret writing and veins of color. Who hasn’t spent memorable hours gazing at pebbles, keeping a few as a tangible proof that they were on the beach that summer? The book of paintings that Argyroula Valari Saounatsou brought to the office on a flying trip to Athens from Rethymnon, where she lives and paints, was a pleasant surprise. The book, «Pebbles-Kieselsteine,» is not for sale, but is distributed by the Grecotel hotel chain. The text is in Greek, English and German, and includes poems by writers such as Cavafy and Karyotakis, whose sensitivities suit the spectacle of pebbles that a wave has scattered on the sand before making its way back to the sea. What is left when a pebble’s journey is over? The touch of a hand, usually a child’s hand, which chooses to keep it as a souvenir and an amulet of the summer that has gone by. Saounatsou studied architecture in England. In 1977 she exhibited her paintings, mainly landscapes, at Ora Gallery in Athens among the work of other young artists. She took a long break to raise her family, and now it is the time of «Pebbles.» One work in the series won the first prize in a Cretan competition held by Iraklion Municipality in 2003. In an explanatory text, Nikis Goulandris, president of the Museum of Natural History in Kifissia, describes the process by which pebbles are formed, and she notes that this is the world the artist has chosen as her subject, «adding a new dimension of creation through her paintings. She has grouped her work according to their shape and color, using as a backdrop the most familiar environment, sand and light, which gives texture to their shadows. Through this first introduction to the Greek shores, the artist offers us the stone’s beauty in its highest form.»