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ur blog is an artistic, cultural guide to the Greek landscapes. At the same time it offers an introduction to the history of Greek fine arts, Greek artists, mainly Greek painters, as well as to the recent artistic movements

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Τρίτη, 12 Ιανουαρίου 2010

Yannis Stavrou's Statement: Artists, their work & our age

An artist's irritable disposition is, more or less, common knowledge, even though most find it difficult to account for it. At the core of an artist's identity lies nothing else but his refined sense of "aesthetic beauty". This quality enables him to withdraw great ecstatic pleasure. The artist's aim - though not always a successful one - is to share this pleasure with his work recipient.
Parallel to this sense of what is "beautiful" is the exact opposite, that is perceiving the disproportionate and the ugly.
For an artist, there is no distinction between what is beautiful and what is right. Artists never see something ugly or evil where there is none, but they very often do so in places where a non-artist sees nothing disturbing. Consequently, artistic irritability is not associated with "inner sensitivity", as many would think, but equals a deeper than average insight with regard to all things fake or ugly. This insight is but another expression of the acute sense of what is right and balanced.

It can be safely said that a man who is not irritable is not an artist. You can figure by now that artists are the most solitary and isolated human beings in modern times. A few exceptions serve to confirm the rule. I'd better specify, that when I talk about artists in general I usually have painters in mind as I know them better.

In times when time and profit are overestimated and the universal utilitarian ideology threatens to become a national mania, there is not much room left for inquiring minds and products of artistic value. The truth is that artists and their work have become objects of hatred in the last two centuries. I still haven't be able to detect those dark minds that in the name of research (a work proper of a science), have doomed and twisted the potentials of a real artist to produce a work of artistic merit. Even non-experts are familiar with the growth of every single nonsense, failure, or secret envy to the expense of intelligence, capability and the ultimate act of sacrifice required by artistic creation. Entire volumes and libraries made their appearance in order to justify, promote, propose and finally impose items manufactured exclusively for 20th century's uncultured nouveaux riches. The value of a piece of art is set solely by its price.

Public relations with their superficial manifestations tend to violate and slyly substitute priorities and the old system of values as well as distort history by replacing the authentic with a fake replica. Genuine artistic creation - this wondrous quality requiring talent, hard work, self denial, truth and love - has been gradually reduced to nought. Unfortunately, you may come across an alternative version of these matters, praising generally well-known nonsense. Read them the other way round and you'll be right. Follow your instincts and common sense and express yourselves freely. Such phenomena can not be oversimplified. In this particular period we live in, it is high time that we reconsidered our troubles.

Not only artistic issues suffer under the burden of modern times. Man himself is a victim literally punished. Every Greek citizen pays the price of all kinds of "progress" and in his turn he makes the rest suffer too. Allow me to say with certainty that, in the name of a more widely represented democracy, modern man is bold and cheeky in setting free and showing of his inner self. What could be more horrifying than this?

And even more awesome is the passivity which paralyzes every natural reaction. We all stand speechless, allowing with an "illuminating understanding" successive violations. We all have a share of responsibility. We all, more or less, got carried away by a culture of suspicious origin, loading us with quilt for acts that were not our doing. We respond with infinite respect to all things evil. We recognize illegitimate rights and give up our own to save the monster.
In the name of "social policy" and "human rights", the all-corrupt face of impudence, insolence and selfish sufficiency grows stronger. It's strictly a democracy of rights and no obligations whatsoever. All that technology, democracy and "evolution"! So many "benefits" for nothing!

Yannis Stavrou, 2000

Art Criticism by M. Stefanidis: On Yannis Stavrou's Paintings...

Yannis Stavrou, Red Ship, oil on paper

Glass eyes, Resurrected Gazes. On Yannis Stavrou's Paintings - Art criticism by Manos Steafanidis

"There is a glass eye that dreams of me"
Giorgos Themelis

In what terms can we discuss painting today? First of all, we have to choose between the world of shapes - the sovereignty of art - and the world of reflections. By reflections I mean the kingdom of shadows which feign existence due to the short-lived and accidental power provided by the medium itself. I’m obviously referring to the glass eye of television, juxtaposing it to the still - but not motionless - images of painting. As time goes by, I have come to realize that an irreconcilable battle has been raging in me. There are those works of art I have loved, which come from the past and rightly aspire to inhabit our future. And there is television’s overweening sorcery which pretends to authority without, however, exorcising vulgarity. This is why I said before that we have to choose. I meant to say that, in modern times, painting is above all an act of resistance of the gaze. This is a silent, and yet valid, protest against the overflow of unthinkable and thoughtless images which keep nibbling on our time and conscience. These images reach us following orders from above; I have no doubt anymore. In order to weigh us down politically and ideologically, a host of latter-day Metternichs of sold-out images have first to trivialize our aesthetics.
The question is how - and against what - can a painted canvas resist? Is this act of resistance possible, when the depicted theme is, for instance, a ship sailing away in dark waters or a city bathed in morning light, authorized to expiate it and censure it for its nocturnal life? First of all, each painting constitutes a form of visual expression which requires above all the viewer’s gaze, his mind, devotion and, if possible, his heart. This secret moment of communion, which could last from a minute to an eternity, comprises in it the elements of a holy drama. In this religious rite the presence of a divine power is not obvious but the ensuing miracle is. This is why I referred earlier to a resurrection of the gaze. Nowadays the art of painting is often used as an alibi for education or power. In certain other instances, it is recruited to serve the costly purposes of interior decoration. And why not? Has anyone ever been harmed by the squandering of beauty? Besides this, painting which respects itself knows how to carry those who trust it along paths of self-awareness to islets of maturity. It has the power, like any other art form, to make its fellow traveler a much better person and to return his time regained. And this is quite an achievement. The wisdom acquired derives from intuition and as such entails a feeling of delight which has no rival. This very pleasure of the gaze invigorates our entire being.
This is how I approach the painting of my friend Yannis Stavrou. He is the nostalgic advocate of a different Thessaloniki, the orderly tracker of those small treasures that lie hidden in the pockets of daily routine. I see his paintings as a challenge for an inner voyage, an opportunity for a resurrection of the gaze - a prolongation of real life. His compositions are structured around two opposite poles: tenderness and a sturdy rhythm; a sense for detail and understanding of the whole; a kind of sentimental escape to mirthful images, as Kosmas Politis would put it, and a preoccupation with form, represented in an unadorned and solid fashion. His paintings keep alive the memory of those places he fell in love with in the past or create novel seas for new journeys. Here plasticity is achieved via abstractive processes, and elsewhere a tiny light - one catalytic brushstroke - unveils a well-hidden secret. His heavy blues are electrified with orange iridescences and his reds never leave his blacks or dark greens unaccompanied. This is how it goes: what is sweet should always come out of what is bitter, and vice versa. Stavrou’s art is guided by his perseverance in striving for a self-sufficient visual language and by his grasp, empirical and therefore true, of modern Greek painting - from Papaloukas to Tsarouchis and from Spyropoulos to Tetsis - until he finds his own style, Clive Bell’s* ‘significant form’ or Cassirer* and Panofsky’s* ‘symbolic form.’ In other words a character of its own which will mark his work regardless of the period it was created. Let me not baffle you with any further technicalities. The robustness of Yannis Stavrou’s painting lies in that it can be enjoyed without the aid of theoretical crutches and critical witticisms. Such improprieties would be unfitting...
Manos Stefanidis, Art historian, Professor of the Athens University

Art Criticism by M. Biris: Yannis Stavrou is a painter who touches upon the city's metaphysical tissue...

Yannis Stavrou, Acropolis 1970, oil on canvas

"...Yannis Stavrou is a painter who touches upon the city's metaphysical tissue. An offspring himself of the lucky generation, which witnessed the historical heart-rending moments of Greek urban centers, and more closely so in his city of Thessaloniki, he takes us by the hand, striding with confident strokes back to our legendary childhood evoked by his images; deep down into the bottomless hollow of Thermaikos harbour, where the massive metal shapes of ships are hovering all aloof, emerging through the midst of cracking-dawn's fog; up through the steep alleys traversing our neighborhood and past the fading reflections of its households.

The street-lamps' flickering light is cast upon windowpanes mixing with the first-born crescents of the rising sun. Our last stop finds us in the heart of the city center's morning awakening. And there, in the midst of the evocative setting of inter-war flats discerned by an artificial air of cosmopolitan facade, we spot the fine silhouette of a tram sliding through semi-darkness.

Yannis Stavrou's serene images render a lifetime's essence - an essence of matter and spirit. In his own universe, he is moulding a harmonious relationship between the "urban landscape" and infinity. In infinity's unlimited domain he dares to boldly project the nature of his feelings through the use of light. No doubt, he is aware that light expresses best a city's soul...His violet hues embellished with golden tinges render the uncompromising, "multi-ethnic" dimension of the beautiful city of Thessaloniki..."

Dr Manos G. Biris
, Professor of the Architecture History in the Polytechnic School of Athens