Change, loss and belonging

The word «nostos» occupies a distinctive place in the Greek collective unconscious. Encountered in Homer to denote Odysseus’ return home, it is a word about man’s connection to his roots, family and cultural heritage, the yearning for a place that remains unchanged. Nostos and «algos,» which means pain in Ancient Greek, have borne nostalgia, a feeling that prevailed in the lives of generations of Greek immigrants. Nostos is the return after a long absence to a place or to people the memory of which may no longer correspond to reality. Beautifully written about in Giorgos Seferis’s poem «The Return of the Exile,» nostos involves self-fulfillment but is also subject to risks and disillusionment. It is about change, loss and the powerful feeling of belonging. In «Nostos,» a large exhibition on the work of the distinguished Greek artist Yiannis Psychopedis which opens today at the Museum of Cycladic Art and is curated by Takis Mavrotas, one will strongly sense this feeling of a return, a journey back to Greece’s cultural heritage, antiquity, history and memory. It is neither a romanticized nor a «nationalistic» return, but a «return» that aims at self-knowledge. It is about cultivating a deeper understanding of Greece’s cultural heritage and obtaining a critical appraisal of the present, a «critical nostalgia» in the words of the artist. The 100 works on display date from the late 1970s to the present and include the most important projects by the artist, who is also a professor at the Athens School of Fine Arts. Visually, the works share a more or less similar language. Both his paintings and mixed technique works look like visual diaries, a collage of different images put together to produce contrasts and connections. References to ancient Greece prevail: There are images of the Parthenon and the ancient site of Delphi in the series «Columns and Pillars» or «Oracle.» There is an entire series inspired by Homer’s «Odyssey» and another on the ancient philosopher Parmenides. Psychopedis usually works on a particular theme for several years. Among the most well-known series is «The Letter that Never Arrived» which began in 1977 and continues into the present. Postcards that are painted over, letters (the written word recurs in the work of Psychopedis), envelopes, maps as well as motifs from the ancient Greek civilization are combined in visually and conceptually dense works which communicate the feeling of a journey that never reaches its destination. There is an autobiographical aspect to this work. Psychopedis had been living in Germany since 1970 (he remained there until 1987, then moved on to Brussels and settled in Greece in 1992) and it is perhaps his life as an expatriate Greek that set him on this mental journey back home, to his cultural heritage. In another series, known as «A Lesson in Greek History, Art, Society, Politics» (1964-2004), references to Greece’s ancient past are paired with images taken from demonstrations or crucial political events in the history of this country. The political content that is found in all of the artist’s work is particularly strong in these images. There is also an underlying sense of entrapment, urgency and the threat of destruction. The work of Psychopedis urges us to obtain a better understanding of who we are and what our history is. During the exhibition’s press conference, the artist spoke of last summer’s destructive fires. «A country that allows a disaster of this magnitude and could not protect Olympia from it should rethink its identity and its relationship with its cultural past,» he said. His work is a reminder of this responsibility. It is an incentive for thought on self-identity, history and the importance that an understanding of one’s cultural heritage has for a more fulfilling existence. Yiannis Psychopedis, «Nostos,» Museum of Cycladic Art (4 N. Douka, 210.722.8321) to April 30. The museum The exhibition on the work of Yiannis Psychopedis opened as planned, despite the recent death of Dolly Goulandris, founder of the museum. This would have been the wish of Goulandris, who wanted the museum to continue its work long after she passed away. Her niece and successor, Sandra Marinopoulou, formerly a member of the museum’s board, is now president of the N.P. Goulandris foundation. Marinopoulou has been working closely with Dolly Goulandris for the past four years and intends to follow the same path and vision as its founder. As she told Kathimerini English Edition, Goulandris did not leave any strict guidelines but was firm on one thing: keeping up the profile of the archaeological museum and hosting parallel, non-archaeological exhibitions as side events. Scheduled for the upcoming months is the opening of two of the museum’s permanent collections. Also planned is an exhibition on the Russian avant-garde, an event organized in collaboration with the State Museum of Contemporary Art in Thessaloniki.

Subscribe to our Newsletters

Enter your information below to receive our weekly newsletters with the latest insights, opinion pieces and current events straight to your inbox.

By signing up you are agreeing to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.