CULTURE

The landscapes of memoryInspired by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Yiannis Adamakis’s new series of works is on display

Inside the clinically white hall of the Zoumboulakis Gallery, artist Yiannis Adamakis’s paintings, most of them quite large, are warm entities. I am trying to understand what it is that makes them so attractive. One could hardly claim that Adamakis’s art is inaccessible or incomprehensible, because there is a soft sweetness about it that moves one deeply. Yet as I stand in front of the artist’s new series of works, which he has connected with writer and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupery and his flights, I recognize that this is not an «easy» painting. If I close my eyes, I see the blue sky where de Saint-Exupery’s biplanes fly, along with children’s imaginations, above landscapes full of toys, family portraits, 1960s Volkswagen cars, birds and angels reminiscent of Byzantine iconography, all of them in a swirl that has a strange sense of order. Even words, like bits of memory, appear in Adamakis’s dense paintings – without, however overloading them. There are paintings with elements which seem, at first glance, unconnected, that lead to more wide-ranging compositions. But in reality, there is a sense of harmony in all the exhibition’s paintings, even when aesthetics and thematic unity are not always clear. I observe the bride and groom in a large painting titled «O gamos» (The Wedding). They are dressed according to 1920s fashion and the painting is reminiscent of a family portrait, the kind that one keeps in albums, drawers or shoe boxes for decades. Another work features hands on a keyboard, while yet another portrays hands holding a camera. As I stare at them, I realize that instead of deviating, they actually converge with the more complex and brighter works. Passage of time The artist makes a powerful commentary about the passage of time and about man’s bewilderment at what passes before his eyes, which in fact is his own life. One of the works, «I apogiosi» (Takeoff), is entirely based on a musical parade such as that of a 1950s school or a military celebration, with the summery white suits. Nevertheless, the painting does not evoke a feeling of nostalgia. Even in the more autobiographical work «Mal du depart,» which portrays a scene from gym class at school, one gets the feeling that Adamakis is being self-ridiculing, not in order to keep a distance from himself and his past, but so as to bring out the bits that make up one’s personal memory, which then becomes collective memory. The «Terre des hommes» exhibition runs at the Zoumboulakis Gallery (20 Kolonaki Square, tel 210.360.8278) from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays to Fridays, as well as 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays, until October 24.