Aegean Colour

Louisa Karapidaki (from the catalogue of the exhibition “Aegean colour” at Skoufa Gallery):  

Aegean colour; an exhibition in three entities by Apostolos Chantzaras, with images of infinity and sublimity, with scenes of tranquility and tempest, like the Aegean Sea itself and like that described by a verse of the poet Elytis:


“The islands with the red undercoat and soot,

the islands with the vertebra of one Zeus,

the islands with the boat docks so deserted,

the islands with the potable blue volcanoes.” Odysseas Elytis

Depictions with the inebriating colours of nature which with the amazing iridescences under the bright sun, embrace breathtakingly the human bodies. Material and immaterial become one and are molded into familiar and unfamiliar forms as they wrestle with the colours; the striking blue, the soft azure, the wild dark colours which are transformed into black or fire red. And sometimes, everything subsides under the silver midday Aegean sun, or everything is sealed by the brightness of the gold; the gold of the ancient treasures, or of the byzantine tradition. Images and actions in the Aegean Sea, with everyday moments, depicted there on this landscape charged with memories and experiences, where there is no divide between the land and the sky, where both become one, because everything dissolves into the purple, into the blinding light, into infinity. Drawing impressions of the landscape where ancient civilizations praised, life, god, and human beings, and bequeathed to us generously a unique aesthetic―the one that takes root deep inside us, the one that follows and enchants us forever. Images that make me recollect something my friend Jacoline justly told me and Marinela during ―what we call― our “mythical” wandering there; she said: “Whoever casts a look at the Aegean Sea, cannot ever be separated from it.” ― quoting a minimal reference to my own experiences in the Aegean Sea , which haunt my effort to make my writings prove worthy of the artist’s painting.

July― August― September. Three months for three summers, three palimpsest and cherished routes, and nine significant points in Apostolos Chantzaras’ painting. Painful creations by the painter charged with a strong sentiment, with solid forms and spiritual syntheses with numerous techniques, which the artist handles like a good old master craftsman, without becoming engulfed in them. Instead he liberates himself with a facility fit for his narrative needs.

His first creations are austere with simple lines, characterized by the frugality of the Aegean nature; simple forms, precise and narrative, like the Cycladic figurines. A story is written in one line and a life in two lines. His painting tones are gentle, harmonic, with direct or indirect erotic insinuations, as intense as the deeply erotic landscape itself.

The artist slowly, year by year additionally establishes visual characteristic elements , which –like an identity in his painting surface– are repeated and often assert themselves on the composition, whereas other times they recede. However, they do play an important role in momentary happenings. The first trademarks or signs were familiar in everyday life― the ball, the shadow, the waves, the human being― up until the moment new subjects emerged in his painting. Inspirations from the folkloric or the byzantine tradition, from ancient Greece, bond with the influences from the world around him and the moment’s disposition. This is what makes the artist stand out; the absolute value which he gives to his ideas, while incorporating them in his work. Therefore, statues, robes, masks, dogs, gloves, byzantine beheadings, or utensil objects create a discourse with one another, and seem metaphysical inside the almost realistic performances.

His favourite themes, the fish, whose secrets he knows too well. Real looking fish or transformed fish, adversarial fish, like the good and the evil, menacing fish or innocent fish, which at times court with each other in lust, or at other times fight for their freedom. And at this point, the painter himself talks about the literary influence on him by Vicenzos Kornaros’ Erotokritos, or by the texts of Nikos Kazantzakis: ” …a flying gurnard had opened its wings, and had leaped out of the sea to breathe air. To live all its life in the water could not be contained in its enslaved nature; it yearned to exceed its destiny, to catch a breath of free air, to become a bird. Just for a flash of lightning, for as much as it could endure, but this was enough. This flash of lightning was eternity. This is the meaning of eternity. ” Report to Greco, Ch. XXVII

With time, the mode of the paintings changes; the movements become fast and violent, the bodies become expressive and the landscape becomes more subtractive. The tension overpowers and the transformations of the image become explicit. The artist is not indifferent to social turmoil and political problems which he tackles with sarcasm and direct statements or indirect innuendo. He passes from the aesthetics of innocence, on to the passion of expressiveness, of tension, and from the daily moments of pleasure, on to anger or to bewilderment.

Chantzaras’ artistic effusion is determined by vitality, beautifully formulated plasticity, and an artistic maturity which stems from his ease to modify his ideas and forms into landscapes, bodies, boat’ s parts, lifeless statues and erotic embraces. With great skill in drawing, he even converts the boat’s bollard― bitt, or reef, or “gomena” in the dialect of the Venetians ― into an ancient figurine, or a human being, transfiguring, therefore, the nature of things.

His art maintains its intense personal script; an identity with seductive powers in his spontaneity. His painting awakens our senses like an uplift of soul and specific or abstract recollections come to mind by looking at his paintings. His colours let the spectator hark sounds which take him from the miniscule to infinite worlds, like the deep seas, and with small visual deceptions, the small scale becomes gigantic in the immensity of things, like the colours of the Aegean Sea.

Louisa Karapidakis

Archaeologist – Art HistoriaN