White seduction on isle of Santorini

Theoretically, Santorini sounds like the ideal place for a large-scale exhibition focusing on the multiple interpretations of white. Tourist cliches of small whitewashed houses perched on dramatic cliffs still dominate the island’s image. Santorini in August is quite a different story, however. That’s when the distortions of an arrogant and insatiable tourism industry leave their mark on the ill-prepared island. Santorini, therefore, is not as «white» as we like it to be and «A Paler Shade of White,» a group show currently at the L&E Bellonias Foundation in Fira, comes at a time when the island is exposed to various shades of its defining color. An ideal coincidence? It certainly looks that way, first of all, thanks to an idea long nurtured by curator Iris Kritikou, a thought which came along and found its place within the framework of «real» Santorini: her childhood memories of pale white going against the superficial white of summer Aegean cliches. Beyond this, Kritikou’s play on words regarding one of her favorite 1970s songs, «A Whiter Shade of Pale,» by Procol Harum and part of «The Big Chill» soundtrack, turned into «A Paler Shade of White.» With this tender song in mind, the journey taking you away from the dizziness of mid-August Fira to the Bellonias Foundation’s white «kingdom» takes on an almost mystical dimension. Gathering 57 works by several artists in the foundation’s main hall was no easy task, given that the space was never really intended for visual arts exhibitions and skillful maneuvering was required. About half of the works on display were created especially for the exhibition. The show features almost all available visual arts creative media and established names (ranging from Panayiotis Tetsis and Opi Zouni to Chronis Botsoglou and Giorgos Rorris) alongside powerful signatures of the new generation. Pluralism, away from academicism and postmodern experimentation, is one of the principal aims of Nikos Bellonias and Irini Bellonia, president and vice president of the foundation, respectively. «For an island carrying such an aura not to become a visual arts destination is unfair, considering that other, far less seductive islands have succeeded in doing so,» says Kritikou. A date for the summer of 2010 has already been set. L&E Bellonias Foundation, Fira, Santorini, tel 22860.24960. The exhibition runs to September 27.

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