Cartoonist’s eye for Greece

To possess skillful drawing skills is only half of the story involved in being a political cartoonist. What is perhaps more important is to be able to produce a cogent argument on politics or social reality, quickly and persuasively. The late political cartoonist Bill Papas seemed to be gifted in both areas. He became involved in the press from an early age as an arts correspondent for the Cape Times newspaper in his birthplace, South Africa’s Cape Town, but became more broadly known as a political cartoonist of the left-wing British newspaper The Guardian during the politically active decade of the 1960s. The illustrations and caricatures that he produced for The Guardian covered such infamous events as the Profumo scandal and the Cuban missile crisis, and commented on public figures such as Harold Wilson and George Brown. Being the paper’s chief political cartoonist at the time, he also commented on issues such as the nuclear arms race, the Vietnam War and Britain’s relationship with the European Economic Community. While in London he also worked for Punch magazine. Bill Papas was also a chronicler of everyday life and an astute observer of a country’s culture and tradition. This aspect comes through an exhibition on his work currently held at the Hellenic American Union. The exhibition includes drawings and cartoons that Papas produced during the last decade of his life (he died in an airplane crash in 2000) together with the artist’s visual chronicling of Greece from the ’70s. The son of Greek parents, Papas was raised in South Africa and made a career abroad but decided to settle to Greece in 1970. Based in the area of Ermioni in the Peloponnese, he lived in this country for the next 13 years during the course of which he traveled around the Mediterranean and across the Greek countryside. When, in the early ’80s, he tried returning to his homeland, he was forbidden entry because of his cartoons against Apartheid. Together with his wife, he left for Portland, Oregon in the US, where he turned to painting and actually established his own gallery. The exhibition at the Hellenic American Union focuses mostly on his work as a chronicler of Greek daily life. Sketches showing a crowded interior of an Athenian old-style cafe or people in the countryside are indicative of the kinds of subjects that caught Papas’s interest. These works may not carry the political edge of the works that Bill Papas produced as a cartoonist of The Guardian but show both a broad insight and diversity of style. Bill Papas, at the Hellenic American Union (22 Massalias, Kolonaki, tel 210.368.0900) through tomorrow from 12 – 9 p.m.