ART / feature

Fassianos’s fusion of ancient and modern

GREECE lost one its most important painters on January 16: Alekos Fassianos, was an artist who managed to infuse modernism’s interests in naif art (plus elements of fauvism and cubism) with aspects of his own cultural heritage, drawing inspiration from ancient Greek and Βyzantine art in order to create his own unique style.  With his expression and emotion he paid hommage, and at the same time tapped into that ancient past’s contemporary relevance, and its eternal truths. With his ascetic appearance, sometimes resembling that of a monk, especially in his final years, Fassianos was a dedicated artist whose work had travelled the world and had touched the lives of many, from all walks of life.  He passed away at the age of 87.

Work by Fassianos from the exhibition of 2019 at the Theocharakis Foundation

Preferring a more two-dimensional, abstracted depiction of the human form, Fassianos’s figures occupied a world where youthfulness and romance were celebrated. He loved to depict cyclists, youths smoking, couples in love. He drew inspiration from scenes of everyday life, but transported them to a mythical world via his painting process. The carefree idyllic Greek summer was often part of this world.  

Born in Athens (1935), Fassianos studied at the Athens Conservatory and at the Athens School of Fine Arts. He moved to Paris, where he studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Art. He stayed in Paris for 35 years, where he was able to get in touch with the latest trends in art, however he never abandoned his interest in his own Greek culture, but instead found a way to explore both Greekness and Modernism in his artistic oeuvre, yet managing to go beyond their boundaries and moving towards a more contemporary art form.

Work by Fassianos at the Theocharakis Foundation’s exhibition of 2019

Fassianos also explored lithography, to which he enjoyed adding unique elements, embellishing the lithographs with gold leaf and drawn details. He also created illustrations for books, especially for poetry, and applied his art to the theatre, as stage-designer and costume-designer.

Fassianos had over 70 solo exhibitions. In 1999 he was awarded by the Athens Academy, and in 2010, the French Government awarded him with the Legion d’Honneur (Officier des Lettres et des Arts). His work has featured in many important international exhibitions and biennales.

Although his last major retrospective was in 2004 in Athens at the National Gallery, more recently the B&M Theocharakis Foundation in 2019, had organized a beautiful presentation of his works, in an exhibition which explored his relationship with the poet Vangelis Chronis. Fassianos had said to the curator of the exhibition Takis Mavrotas back then: “A painter is great, when he can express what he wants, via colour and design, while a poet uses words. For years now they had asked me to write my autobiography. I wrote that I liked to wander the Athenian streets during the years ’60-’63. They didn’t like that however, and they deleted it. For me, that was the biggest lesson. Although much has changed since then, I still walk around, and I remember that one day there was a crash and everyone spilled out onto the road, the windows and balconies. That’s when I saw a youth who looked like Hermes, high up on a balcony. You always find inspiration in the city.”

Work by Fassianos at the Theocharakis Foundation’s exhibition of 2019

Perhaps, above all, it was Fassianos’s ability to see the ancient in the modern  and vice versa, that gave his art a most important position among that of the Greek artists of the ‘30s generation. Fassianos felt that times might change, but people, not so much… and so his seeking out of certain archetypal characters in everyday life was a means of connecting the past with the present, via his poetic painting.

  • For more on Fassianos, you can visit his site
  • ‘Art Scene Athens’ is written and run by artist/journalist Stella Sevastopoulos, who has been covering the Greek art scene since she moved from London to Athens in 1994. For examples of her artwork, you may visit her online portfolio.
Work by Fassianos at the Theocharakis Foundation’s exhibition of 2019

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