Lament for a sacrifice

Menis Koumandareas:

I imagine that the original conception of Apostolos Chantzaras’s work is the Myth of the Labyrinth with the Minotaur and Theseus. The way the artist expresses himself using intense colours, coarse outlines and a certain freedom in his drawing, refers to the ancient myth with primitive freedom in a way that no one could say his painting is descriptive.  The Minotaur, on one hand, has the form of a bull, a fact that refers to the bull-leaping, as well as to the Spanish bulls of the arena whom the artists of modernism cherished around the twenties. Theseus, on the other hand, is not enveloped in any halo whatsoever, nor does he possess the sensuality that attracted Ariadne for sure. On the contrary, he looks like a folk figure of the Shadow Theatre, like a frightened child against the roars of the beast. The way he detains the Minotaur has nothing to do with the exit from the Labyrinth; instead, he seems to us like a practical yet skilful surgeon who dares to take the beast’s heart out of its body. Maybe this is the reason the spectator hopes that after the bypass, the beast’s heart will come back to its place and the beast will be tamed. This doesn’t deprive the scenes the painter depicts of ferocity. Somewhere in the background, a faint echo of Goya is lurking. And above all, the whole operation, the battle with the beast seems to follow a ritual whose main theme is the sacrifice.

If we believe in Euripides’s Iphigenia, as well as in Abraham’s Sacrifice, the bull or the beast, hopes it can be saved the last minute. In the meantime, it seems as if the smoke from the sacrifice is ascending to the sky as a festivity as well as atonement. The coarse lines of Chantzaras’s drawing are subdued by the background of each painting, where the plain colours are interrupted by small garnishes, which never become decorative (one of the artist’s strongest aptitudes, as we see in his ceramics). Instead, they work like little stars that enlighten the painting’s skies.

This is how we hope one day the painter will enlighten the sky of Greek painting with an even stronger glow.


Menis Koumandareas


Athens, Winter ‘14