Public festival full of colours and feelings

Nicholas Mastropavlos:

The heart of Naxos is an inner world that can hide an entire different world. That’s why in the Korfi t’ Aroniou , mystery entangles with precise language into an imaginary dance. Where imagination and reality meet, legend has the first word followed by the painter’s brush. Apostolos Chantzaras, a passionate  painter, captured the message and peered at Naxos’s crypt, at the pulsating soul of the countries of the Archipelago. He felt that something strange was happening and that we become privy to a mystery without even realizing it. It is at this phase of his painting that he discerned the celebration in favour of the gods, the heroes and the saints, written on the chromosomes of the Aegean Sea.

He discerned the public festival, the outburst of peoples’ souls; people who grow up in happiness and pain, in sorrow and nostalgia, like the divine sensation of mixed feelings that are followed by drinking raki. There is no point in wasting time to explain the inexplicable, since the more one tries, the more complex it becomes. One doesn’t look at the action awkwardly like the foreign visitors who can’t help wondering “what do they mean by this?” One grasps the end of the dance line, no matter where he is, at the public festivals of Holy Mary in Filoti of Naxos, at Olympos of Karpathos, at Portaitissa of Astypalaia, at Holy Mary of Death of Leipsous, and grasps the rim of history. They say that when Dionysus was born here, all of the island’s pixies started dancing frantically. If this is the case- and why shouldn’t it be- then this means that Naxos is the homeland of celebration and public festival. Therefore, it is wonderful that Apostolos Chantzaras is exhibiting his paintings which are entitled “Public Festivals” in Naxos; because all the pixies, the satyrs, the centaurs, the herdsmen, the pipers, the muses, the nymphs, the fairies- even Dionysus companion, the goat-footed Panas- are still dancing opposite one another in a nostalgia for the years of innocence. The painter marks downtheir dance with vivid colours, creating an analogy with the intensity of the feelings that diffuse the-probably- speechless pixies. In any case, this is what the public festival is all about; a collective buzz, a solitary outburst of the soul, an explosion of colours and feelings with a certain meaning. So we carry the goat and the lyre or the violin, and we start ascending towards the church’s courtyard. Later on, we will transform the goat’s pelt into a bagpipe. This is how the ritual of the public festival begins; a modern  sacrifice, a ceremony that initiates us to the sacrament of the community. It feels good to be in our vital space. “To encounter each other” means that I’ m drinking now, but you are requested to join me later. We raise our cupformerly the common glass cup that moved towards and away from the lips- for the sake
of the company of friends because we belong somewhere; we are a team that drinks and participates. “Empty our cup and we won’t do you a favour”, they sing in Karpathos- a place where this declaration of participation in the community takes a unique ritual character. The lyre, the bagpipe and the applause of a group of friends play the “Cup from Monemvasia” and the devotees of the celebration prompt each and every one of us to raise our cups towards the sky for life, to put it down for death, and at the end to empty
its contents…

Afterwards, the dancers stand up and get in the middle of the crowd like figures that have just become detached from the curves of an ancient black-figured or red-figured amphora. The way the dancers raise their hands moving to an ancient pyrrhic, is the same way in which they chip the marble in order to create –in honour of Apollo, the god of music- gigantic kouros laying down on dry grass or the slim Aphrodite of Milos. They live, therefore, within symbols and letters of Minoan writings, similar to the ones they engrave with asbestos into cement or into the rocks when the public festivals are held. The engraving- from the drawings in the caves to the stones with the graphs that have been found in Naxos- constitutes man’s primeval need. Therefore, Apostolos Chantzaras’s paintings initiate from the “coarse” engraving and move towards dancing, which is another primeval way of expression. His figures dance and move- where to? When one holds the end of the thread inside his raised hands, one can easily roll and unroll time’s ball of thread without getting lost. As long as- the composer says- “God keep us and our partners healthy to meet up and celebrate…”

Nicholas Mastropavlos

* from the catalogue of the exhibition at the Fish & Olive gallery