* Δημοσιεύτηκε στην εφημερίδα ATHENS NEWS στις 14 Νοεμβρίου, με αφορμή την τελευταία έκθεση του Γιάννη Σταύρου στην Αθήνα:
An artist’s last itineraries
Armed with colour - his refuge from disheartening reality - painter YannisStavrou crystallises the beauty of days bygone
|The dark backdrop enhances Stavrou’s subject-matter, rendered in earthy hues|
DESERTED buildings, rusting boats and solitary trees - remnants of the days of yore silently awaiting their death - rejoice in an instant of lustre in artist Yannis Stavrou’s paintings. Warm, earthy brushstrokes spring out of a black backdrop in an illusionary escape from the frustrations of daily life. Aside from a few shows between friends in the artist’s atelier, Last Itineraries - Stavrou’s latest exhibition - marks the 60-year-old artist’s comeback to Athens’ gallery scene after an absence of seven years.
Stavrou, who studied sculpture at the Athens Fine Arts School before painting won him over, points to a state of Babel on a national, political, social and cultural level. “I don’t identify with any of the modernday routines. Whatever I’ve loved, they spit at. Whatever I’ve spat at, they love. I find it hard to compromise and go on living out of habit,” the Thessaloniki-born, Athens-based artist told the Athens News.
In his trademark - but not untroubled - brainstorming manner, Stavrou expresses his despair over the ‘democratic’ levelling of talent in the name of equality, citizens’ incessant littering of public places, the time carelessly wasted on entertainment alone and the daily demise of aesthetic values.
“I’m no longer drawn to anything modern. I prefer to petrify things, to preserve their old air. I’m against facelifting. An old person, for instance, is beautiful as long as you have the eyes to appreciate that beauty,” he points out.
Throughout his oeuvre, Stavrou has been preoccupied with safeguarding glimpses of the urban landscape, which is threatened with extinction due to the dramatic changes inflicted on the city’s image from the 1970s onwards. “These images are cast in my memory and painting gives me the ability to revisit them, even if this is an illusion,” says Stavrou.
His sculpture-like iron ships waiting to embark on their next journey and the rusted cranes and deserted warehouses of his industrial landscapes bear echoes of Athens, Thessaloniki and Hydra - some landmark stops in Stavrou’s artistic itineraries.
Whether he is painting an almond tree in his yard, an old winery in Mesogeia or the Ladadika warehouses in Thessaloniki (references to locale in the works’ titles are not of key importance), theme is no longer a priority in itself. Rather than focusing on a house or a boat as such, Stavrou is more concerned about the colour of a roof tile or the hull of a ship. As Stavrou’s paintings move from sheer representation to a more impressionistic approach, colour - the artist’s refuge - determines and takes precedence over form. “Colour is to painting what melody is to music,” he says.
|Generous layers of colour make for a luscious brushwork|
Generous layers of warm, earthy colours - red, brown and black - make for a glistening, luscious palette as opposed to the matte effect of his paintings up till now. The richly-textured oils have a flavourful quality to them.
“They remind me of rich dishes that one craves but cannot indulge in due to old age,” says Stavrou. Despite its usual ominous undertones, the black colour holds a supportive role. “It gives my subject-matter a relief quality and enhances it by isolating all the surrounding dirt,” he says, pointing to his influence by Johannes Vermeer’s art and Flemish painting in general.
The economic crisis has not affected Stavrou’s work. “I’ve sold more works lately than I ever have,” he says.
“Consumerism has made its presence felt in the art market too, which is not necessarily a bad thing. These days many artists can make a living out of their art,” says Stavrou. However, the prosperity in collectors’ circles differs from a real love for art, he believes.
“Before the 1970s, it wasn’t unusual for poor students to cut back on their sandwich in order to acquire a work of art,” he says. And though he recognises many talented artists among the Fine Arts School’s graduates, he warns against their being disheartened as a result of being shunned from art galleries that in their majority make their choices based on trends and financial criteria.
* Yannis Stavrou’s Last Itineraries is on at the Arktos Gallery (5 Irodotou St, Kolonaki, tel 210-729-9610) through to November 30. Open: Monday, Wednesday and Saturday 10.30am-2.30pm; Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 10.30am-9pm
ATHENS NEWS , 14/11/2008, page: A23
Article code: C13313A231