Art spanning broad range of styles, eras

The paintings of Marios Prasinos that are on display in Ermoupoli on Syros provide a unique opportunity to get to know the work of a famous Greek painter who was born in Constantinople, lived in Paris, and experienced the upheavals of the 20th century at first hand. The island’s old customs warehouses, which now house the Cycladic Gallery, serve as the background; on display are approximately 80 works chosen from each of his various creative periods. Seen collectively, they reveal an artist who was open to the trends and spirit of his times, yet always carved out his own personal style. His most well-known paintings are those of his tree portraits. However, walking through the door of the gallery, one discovers a dazzling artistic richness, ranging from the abstract to the natural. In his lifetime, Prasinos experimented with cubism, surrealism, and expressionism, sometimes using a rainbow palette of colors, at other times the simple austerity of black and white. His themes, too, were varied. He painted cubist canvases of people in grief, self-portraits, birds with geometric shapes, abstract representations, animal herds, thorny plants, Alpine views, and compositions of the face of his grandfather or trees comprising only dots. The diversity of his inspiration derives from the eventfulness of his life. He was born in the middle of World War I, in 1916, in Constantinople. His half-Greek, half-Italian family weathered the storm, but left in 1922, along with many other foreigners, for Paris. Both he and his sister Giselle had an excellent education due to their father. An amateur painter and intellectual, he greatly encouraged his children’s artistic natures. Marios and Giselle came into contact with the surrealist salon of Paris, and met all the great personalities of the movement, from Andre Breton to Paul Eluard, as well as Joan Miro, and Alberto Giacometti. Later in his life, he became friends with Albert Camus, and the influential publisher Gaston Gallimard, with whom he worked as an illustrator. The three of them visited Greece together in 1958, where Prasinos became enthralled with the cypress tree’s leaves and dark body. In his long career, he was also a set designer for the theater, and wove large tapestries, some of which are on display on Syros. He died in 1985. The Prasinos retrospective – in the framework of the Ermoupouleia Festival, now celebrating its 17th year – is held under the aegis of the Ermoupoli Cultural Center. In trying to resurrect the great artistic tradition of the island of Syros, organizers have changed the style of their festival. Apart from the visual arts exhibitions (a retrospective of Chronis Botsoglou just ended), they have incorporated into their calendar many local amateur theatrical and musical performances, putting the beautiful Apollo Theater to excellent use. The Marios Prasinos retrospective will end on September 3. Cycladic Gallery, Ermoupoli, Syros, tel 22810.85118. The gallery is open daily, 6 p.m. to 10.30 p.m. Admission to the exhibition is free of charge.