A tale of two countries’ friendship

On the surface of the wooden sculpture in the shape of a boat, a series of Chinese ideograms morph into a tale symbolizing the open channel of friendship between China and Greece. At the National Art Museum of China in Beijing, an exhibition of works by Greek artist Vangelis Rinas has inaugurated a fresh wave of collaboration between the two countries, a series of exchanges on a diplomatic, educational and tourism level through the exhibition «Endless Sailing III.» It also marks the first time a Greek artist has exhibited his work at the country’s leading museum. The boat construction traveled from Greece to China along with another 35 large-scale works by Rinas, whose powerful symbolism seems to narrate a universal story. The artist himself sculpted the ideograms on the wooden construction: Set one next to the other, they narrate a tale by Chinese writer Yang Shaobo, a story written on the occasion of this particular Greek-Chinese collaboration. «He sometimes is the 80-year-old Homer’s Odysseus and sometimes the 8-year-old Little Prince of Antoine de Saint-Exupery,» says Yang Shaobo. «His work is a blend of two ambiances: sorrow and joy. This is what is called in Greek ‘charmolypi’ and in Chinese ‘Bei Xin Jiao Ji’ [sorrow and joy in complete coexistence]. These nymphs and muses find shelter in the arms of sorrow or joy, just like they nestle in the mother’s womb. This is the rebirth of the adult; it is the sorrow and the joy before the endless floating of life begins. China may not be the country of his body, but it unexpectedly seems to be the country of his soul. Every Chinese will be able to discover a part of the hidden sky of his soul through the works of an artist who comes from such a distant country, Greece.» Indeed, the artist’s work seems to extract materials from the depth of time, taking on the mud from the riverbeds of ancient streams before discharging it into a dreamlike landscape that borders on the utopian. The houses that the artist chooses to include in his works (one of them a miniature of the Stathatos Mansion in Athens) are reminiscent of the games in Ingmar Bergman’s «Fanny and Alexander.» The girlish figures may be introverted, yet they are inviting to all. Seen from a different perspective, the artist’s visual arts universe creates a neorealist and symbolic landscape in a new form of representationalism. As contemporary urban legends mix with emotions, they transform into images that unfold in the form of allegories. Born on Samos in 1966, Rinas grew up on Icaria. The exhibition at the National Art Museum of China came to an end yesterday and is now scheduled to go on display at the College of Fine Arts at Shanghai University from April 7 to April 16.

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