CULTURE

Strong colors and vast spaces in an artist’s retrospective

The fiery red color that covers a 3-meter-high painting – one of the latest works by the artist Costas Paniaras – makes an apt epilogue to an exhibition bursting with strong, primary colors. In that same four-panel painting, an elegantly shaped blue band runs across the composition, creating a chromatic contrast that further enhances each color’s effect. At the opposite end of the exhibition, a similar painting, this time covered in blue, features a neon-like green, elongated form that stretches from one side to the next. Bold chromatic juxtapositions and luminous, strong colors are among the predominant features in the artist’s retrospective exhibition at the Benaki Museum. More than color, what probably stays with the viewer is a feeling for space and a sense of vastness. Paniaras is a painter of boundless spaces and expansive chromatic fields. Best known for his abstract seascapes (self-seascapes is what he prefers to call them), he uses sweeping brushstrokes and powerful colors (each in its full range of hues) to capture the «macrocosm.» Abstract shapes suggest the horizon emerging faraway in the sea – an island perhaps, or that point where the sea meets the sky. Paniaras allows his viewer a full, encompassing view, thus making him indirectly aware of his position in the broader scheme of things. At the same time, the closeup images of waves eradicates the sense of distance and creates an enveloping effect. The exhibition covers 50 years of work yet it is relatively small, compact and homogeneous. Blues and reds mixed with dabs of shimmering silver or gold hues prevail throughout Paniaras’s work, including his paintings and the «painted-over sculptures» from the 1980s, of which «Saint Sebastian» is one of the best-known. A series of relief, pleated forms on a canvas stand in between painting and sculpture. The works that Paniaras made in the 1960s differ in style. Painted in earthy tones and most of them in relief, they are abstract shapes that resemble microorganisms. At the beginning of his career back then, Paniaras was living in Paris (he came back to Greece 20 years after he left) and was one of the artists featured at the Iolas gallery. His travels in Asia and India in the late 1960s are said to have had had a profound effect on the colors that he subsequently used in his work. Mark Rothko, whose work he had seen in New York, is another influence. In Greece, his work has become associated with a generation of painters who rose to prominence here during the 1980s. His style, however, does not enjoy the popularity it once did. The Benaki exhibition is an occasion to appraise the artist’s work amid changing tastes. «Paniaras, 50 Years of Painting,» at the Benaki Museum’s Pireos annex (138 Pireos & Andronikou, 210.345.3338) to March 18.