Art moves to Cycladic Islands

The standard boat route that begins from Piraeus and goes through the Cycladic islands of Andros, Syros, Tinos and Myconos takes tourists not just to some of the most popular summer resorts of the country but also to the most interesting art exhibitions of the season. Andros, where the annual exhibitions held at the Museum of Contemporary Art of the Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation have turned the island into a cultural center, is also home to the Petros and Marika Kydoniefs Foundation, another institution whose annual exhibitions draw a dedicated art crowd. «In Arte Veritas,» the title of this year’s exhibition, explores «realism» in contemporary painting through the work of six Greek artists: Alexis Veroukas, Stefanos Daskalakis, Irini Iliopoulou, Edouardos Sakayan, Anna-Maria Tsakali and Maria Filopoulou. All of the same generation, they emerged in the late 1980s and early 1990s and became part of a group that art critics coined the «new Greek figurative painters.» Friendship, common training under Leonardo Cremonini at Paris’s Beaux-Arts, and a preference for representational painting tied most of these painters together. Gradually, they became a vital part of the Greek art scene and, although snubbed by the more trendy galleries, they are commercially very successful and their work is found in the most respected museum collections. A problem with the artists initially known as new figurative painters is that they are still victimized by this original labeling and simplistically thrown into one category. Although a commitment to painting and figuration is common to all, each artist works in a distinctive style. This is something that clearly shows in the Andros exhibition. An apt comment made by the curator of the exhibition, Athena Schina, in her essay in the exhibition’s catalog, is that all six artists use figuration not in a descriptive but a suggestive manner. Indeed, looking at most of the works – the interiors of Stefanos Daskalakis, the swimmers of Maria Filopoulou or the depictions of flowers by Anna-Maria Tsakali – one has the feeling that the paintings are not about what they depict but about an inner, psychological state of mind. They are about sentiments, emotions and projection of our thoughts on our surroundings. In a way, they challenge reality and show that appearance and the visible world are entirely subjective. Yiannis Moralis on Syros On the island of Syros, a large retrospective of Yiannis Moralis is a chance to look into the work of one of the most eminent Greek artists. Organized by the art collector Yiannis Ioannidis on the occasion of the Ermoupoleia (an annual cultural event organized by the Municipality of Syros) and curated by art historian Bia Papadopoulou, this important exhibition focuses on how the artist turned from figuration to abstraction in the late 1950s, which is also when he represented Greece at the Venice Biennale together with Yiannis Tsarouchis and the the sculptor Antonis Sochos. Moralis belonged to a generation of artists concerned with establishing a Greek cultural identity through art. Some of them, including Nikos Hadzikyriakos-Ghika, considered geometry to be fundamental to the principles of Greek art since antiquity. The geometrical, abstract large shapes in the work of Yiannis Moralis echo this belief and are one of the most vigorous examples of the search for the «Greekness» that shaped the art of this generation. Beginning with a painting that Moralis made in his student years, continuing with his definite turn to abstraction in the 1970s, and following through to his work through 1997 (his more recent works are not included), the exhibition follows the course of one of the most «classic» artists of 20th century Greek art but also captures an important moment for Greek modernism. Tribute to Halepas Syros is the capital of the Cyclades. It served as the commercial port for the surrounding islands, and its prosperous past shows in the island’s neoclassical architecture. Yet, it does not rival the reputation of Tinos as the birthplace of some of the most important artists of the late 19th century (including Nikiforos Lytras, Nikolaos Gyzis and Dimitris Philippotis) and as an island that developed a rich tradition in Greek sculpture. Tinos is the birthplace of Yiannoulis Halepas, the legendary sculptor whose artistic genius is often linked to his long-term mental illness. It is to the memory of Halepas that art historian Iris Criticou chose 20 contemporary artists and asked each one to produce a work inspired by this great sculptor’s art and persona. The works which are exhibited at the «House of Exhibitions» in the village of Falatados on Tinos range from portraits or sculptures depicting the artist, to works inspired by some of the sculptor’s most famous works, such as the «Reclining Figure,» a figure in the classical style commissioned for the tomb of Sophia Afentaki. For the artists participating in the exhibition, reinterpreting the work of such an important artist must have posed a challenge. For the audience, it is an occasion to remember the past and appraise its effect on the present. «In Arte Veritas,» Petros and Marika Kydoniefs foundation, Hora, Andros (22820.24598), through 25/9. Yiannis Moralis retrospective, Cyclades Gallery, Ermoupoli, Syros, 6/8-15/9. «A Visit to Halepas,» «House of Exhibitions,» Falatados, Tinos, through 11/9.

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