Scenes of calm and mystery

The distinguished Italian artist Leonardo Cremonini is sometimes referred to as a «humanist painter» or a painter of the Mediterranean south. The figurative paintings and summertime or beach scenes presented at the retrospective exhibition of his work which opened last Tuesday at the Athinais Cultural Center serve to confirm this description. Curated by Takis Mavrotas, the exhibition puts on view 40 monumental paintings (many of them 3 meters long) that span the period 1965-2005. Cremonini captures the languor of summertime and the relaxed feeling of vacationing yet he also instills his paintings with an eerie and somewhat mysterious quality, not unlike the manner of a Giorgio de Chirico painting. «There is always that existential aspect in his work. Cremonini paints figures who are absorbed with obsessions,» Mavrotas told Athens Plus. In many paintings, the scenes or figures are not depicted in their entirety but seem to expand beyond the painting’s frame. This enhances the sense of mystery. Blending calmness with intensity and ambivalence, the paintings of Cremonini are also about depicting the properties of natural light and the beauty of color. «Most of the artist’s paintings are daylight scenes. Yet even in the few night scenes, color is always prevalent and strong,» Mavrotas said. Cremonini’s admiration for Pierre Bonnard or Edouard Vuillard and the French Nabis in general explains the artist’s fascination with color. Mavrotas mentions this in his essay in the exhibition’s catalog (also included here are texts by Umberto Eco, Marina Lambraki-Plaka, who is director of the National Gallery, and Adriano Baccilieri), along with the artist’s admiration for ancient Greek art, the 60s movement of New Figuration and other stages in the history of art that Cremonini lists as sources of inspiration. Although Cremonini paints in a figurative, representational style he also uses elements of geometric abstraction. As Eco notes, his work contains «order versus jouissance.» Cremonini who also taught at the School of Fine Arts in Paris, is at the same time a painter who has influenced many of the best-known Greek figurative painters who are now in their mid-40s or early 50s. These include Edouard Sacaillan, Irini Iliopoulou, Maria Filopoulou, Yiorgos Rorris, Anna-Maria Tsakali, Stefanos Daskalakis and Alexis Veroukas. Also being held in parallel with the exhibition at the Athinais Cultural Center is a separate display of the artist’s drawings and watercolors from 1946 to 1996 at the Italian Institute of Culture in Athens. «Leonardo Cremonini, Painting, 1965-2005,» at the Athinais Cultural Center (34-36 Kastorias, Votanikos, tel 210.348.000). Drawings and watercolors at the Italian Institute of Culture in Athens (47 Patission, tel 210.524.2646). Both run to March 24.

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