Achilles Droungas retrospective

It is Achilles Droungas’s clarity of composition which strikes you as you stroll around the National Gallery’s halls. His works, in which the classical meets the contemporary, are defined by minute, almost photographic details. A large-scale retrospective which opened at the National Gallery last week showcases 140 of his works, all on loan from some 60 private collections, museums and banks. If you had to define the artist’s oeuvre with a single word, that, without any doubt, would be «consistency.» Consistency in terms of his stylistic decisions, the clarity of color and light, the objects he adores and the way he brings it all into his works. As put by the National Gallery’s director, Marina Lambraki-Plaka, «Achilles Droungas’s art is very much related to his life.» The artist himself opts to avoid labeling his art as photorealistic, postmodern or even avant-garde. «I leave myself free to enjoy the color and the shapes,» he says. «Through my works I try to take the viewers into my world.» And so a mobile phone and an African sarong coexist with more classical elements, marble sculptures, ancient signs, as well as leopards, peacocks and snakes. This cohabitation seems carefully planned and executed by the artist himself. According to Plaka, Droungas’s works always include an intellectual element, through their irony and sarcasm, for instance, but never in the form of negative commentary. Before experimenting with oil paintings, which subsequently became his signature work, Droungas had made his creative first steps with engravings in Britain in the 1970s. The current retrospective showcases 26 of these engravings, all hung on the mezzanine level leading to the show’s many exhibition areas. Here, visitors come across another Droungas, one who is less persistent when it comes to detail and more open to the kind of experimentation that eventually led him to his future works. Nevertheless, humor and irony are never missing from the works of the young Droungas either – highlights include «You’re a TV Star Now» (1972) and «Museum Visit» (1977). The exhibition’s curator is Maria Katsanaki, while the set design was undertaken by veteran Yiannis Metzikoff. The Achilles Droungas exhibition will be on display at the National Gallery/Alexandros Soutzos Museum (50 Vassileos Constantinou, tel 210.723.5937) through August 31.

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