Spyros Papaloukas’s holy take

When the depiction of Saint Dimitrios appears to have been influenced by Modigliani and the cypress trees of the Megisti Lavra monastery are reminiscent of Matisse’s early landscapes, one discovers the traces of a highly personal artistic exploration that seeks to marry the old and the new, what is genuinely Greek with new traditions. This is not the first time an exhibition of works by Spyros Papaloukas (1892-1957) is being hosted at the building at the corner of Vassilissis Sofias Avenue and Merlin Street. The B&M Theocharakis Foundation is, after all, the owner of a large-scale and very important collection of works by the Greek artist, following a donation by his daughter, Mina Papalouka. Through the exhibition «Spyros Papaloukas: Religious Paintings, Drawings and Models,» the foundation presents a particular side of the Greek artist and a chance to observe how Papaloukas chose to combine the two most important experiences of his creative path: his years spent in Paris (1917-1921) and his pilgrimage to Mount Athos (1923-1924). The show focuses on Palaloukas’s religious works, with more than 100 sketches and oil paintings displayed on three floors. The exhibition’s design undoubtedly aims to bring viewers closer to each work for a more personal viewing experience. The general atmosphere is not unlike that of a church or temple, with dim lighting and dark grey walls. In some cases, the lack of lighting is a disadvantage for the display of the works, which beyond their religious subject-matter, undoubtedly evidence much more, in particular a new sensibility toward developments in art in Western Europe at the beginning of the last century. To some, the multifaceted nature of the above-mentioned sensibility may be interpreted as immature experimentation in various artistic movements, displaying a lack of depth. Such a view, however, seems equally immature, since it disregards the artist’s exploration in terms of the religious element. This is because, more than anything else, the exhibition narrates an encounter between the old tradition and contemporary approaches. In Papaloukas’s works, Byzantine art appears to be coming to terms with the revolutionary elements of early 20th century modern art, such as Fauvism’s intense colors and Cubism’s geometry. All of a sudden, Greece’s authentic painting tradition appears to be in revolt – without being altered. The subject-matter and respect are constant elements here, even when the accompanying aesthetic reveals a clear Parisian influence. B&M Theocharakis Foundation for the Visual Arts & Music, 1 Merlin & Vassilissis Sofias, tel 210.361.1206. To March 7.

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