ART / athens / exhibitions / review

A multi-faceted Athenian vista of art

Artist/journalist Stella Sevastopoulos reviews the exhibition ‘Leptogeos’, and speaks to the artists and curator. ‘Leptogeos’ runs till December 4 at the European Centre/Contemporary Space in the heart of Athens, near Monastiraki and Syntagma:

ATHENS IS constantly evolving… From the glory of its ancient days, to the cement jungle of its more recent past, to the growing multicultural and pluralistic age of today, where the multi-faceted character of this metropolis is not only developing, but also being acknowledged and valued. Inspired by the words of Thucydides, the exhibition ‘Leptogeos’ in the heart of Athens pays tribute to the many faces of this ‘hustle and bustle’ metropolis via the works of 75 artists. The exhibition sheds light on the many different aspects of this city: from its ancient roots to its quaint village-like neighbourhoods lost in time. From its cement apartments and busy main roads to its dark nights and grungy corners. And the gamut of mediums employed is vast: from mosaics to video art, contemporary constructions to classical oil painting.

Yiannis Aitinidis’s painting of Alexandras Avenue

‘Leptogeos’ has been curated by art historian Evangelia Kairaki. She conveys her personal thoughts about the exhibition, now that it is up and running: “My Athens. The place where I was born and raised. An experiential place for me. Every corner brings to mind a memory and a revelation. I have been studying Athens from an early age and have loved this place even more via its history. This is the reason why, the love for my city, for its beauties but also for its ugliness, made me think of creating this exhibition, as a tribute. The title was found easily, seeing as already from my university years, Thucydides’ description had been engraved in my mind, and I believe his words characterize this city perfectly, seeing as I have roamed its terrain and have observed the nature of its environment, wherever it can still be found.”

Ismini Bonatsou, ‘Athens’

On the works and the exhibition’s organisation, Kairaki had the following to say:  “I chose the works with certain criteria of quality in mind, and I thank the artists who honoured me. This exhibition belongs to them, because the works speak for themselves, they don’t need any other support. ‘Leptogeos’ therefore: An exhibition created out of love, supported by all of its contributors, and which gave the best and strongest result to the public who is the final recipient. I tried to organize the space in terms of historical periods, so that the exhibition would be of museological interest. It helped that this space has three floors, lovely lighting and the support of those in charge. I thank all the participants for giving me the opportunity to present something which I had in mind for a while, and for which I was searching to find the right circumstances for its realisation.”

The exhibition continues till Sunday, December 4, and on Saturday, December 3, artist Nikos Kanoglou will be giving a performance at the European Centre (at 5pm), which will involve the presentation of four unpublished lectical compositions by the artist, followed by a tour of the exhibition by the curator and artists.

Artist Nikos Kanoglou with his work. The artist will be giving a performance on Saturday, December 3, 5pm

Some words from the artists

Below, some words from a few of the artists, describing their work in the exhibition, and what inspired it:

Angelos Skourtis: “Athens, a city that, upon hearing its name, immediately brings to mind antiquity… Today’s Athenians collide and confront their past. My triptych presents a young Athenian woman holding an ancient helmet in her hands… (Like Hamlet holding a skull). She is comparing herself with the past of this city. In the centre, there’s a clock which counts time backwards… Everything is yesterday… This city still lives and dreams about its old self… In the third part of this work, the young Athenian woman wears the helmet… She too wants to become a new Athena and to acquire a brilliant future.”

Angelos Skourtis’s work explores Athenian past and future

Κostas Lales: “Athens is a city which every now and then has endured many changes. The image of Athens today is that which is seen through the eyes of today’s citizen. The union, interaction, correlation and the abstract image are the 4 main elements that unite the attitude of all residents to the environment. ‘Forest’s DNA’, the work with which I participate in the exhibition ‘Leptogeos’ refers to the generations and to the nature of Greece. A Greece that for centuries has been reshaping people and living in the creation of today, without forgetting that this place is also part of our planet. The ceramic sculptures are united with the trunk of truth. A trunk that holds on it, the form and matter of people.”

View of the ground floor of the exhibition, with Kostas Lales’s work in the foreground

Nicos Chiotinis: “Unique in every way, the Cycladic neighborhood of the Anafiotika, was built by workers and craftsmen from the island of Anafi, when they arrived in Athens after the Liberation. In Anafiotika, the ‘island’ of Athens, you will see white houses, narrow alleys, blue windows, paved alleys, bougainvillea, vines and … many cats that all together compose a painting under the Sacred Rock that endures in a city drowned in cement. A source of inspiration.”

Nicos Chiotinis’s ‘Anafiotika’

Nikos Kanoglou on ‘Memorial composition / Those that incarnate their destiny’: “On the way to their common destiny, lost in the hustle and bustle of the great urban centers they themselves build and inhabit, people try to protect the childlike selves they hide at their core, against the dangers, sufferings and tragedies of life, as they were once protected as beasts by their guardians. They build walls and shoulder imaginary armor, seeking to stand out from the surronding filth in the hope of escaping the altar, sometimes forgetting that at the end of this road, another tomb awaits them with certainty. Those, then, who embody their destiny, are ultimately ourselves, each of us taking on the stage of our own reality sometimes the leading role of the protector and sometimes that of the threatening scumbag, depending on the point of reference that each observer has.”

Nikos Kanoglou’s monumental work combines the tomb with the stage

Elena Arsenidou, on the work ‘Nightlife in Athens: Before Midnight & After Midnight’:“I was born in Athens. I am a child of the center of Athens. As much as Athens irritated me in the mornings with the traffic and the unpleasant cement of the apartment buildings, it fascinated me so much in the evenings!!! When not everything was visible… When the lights were turned on… When the morning people had returned to their homes and the evening people were pouring into the center. That is why I chose to show this diptych, which comprises digitally processed photos on metal, that have been inspired by the night scene of Athens.”

Elena Arsenidou explores the night in Athens

Kostas Garifallos on his work ‘From the Old to the Oldest’: “This  watercolour is a window in time on a distressed city in which history has left its mark everywhere. Yellow permeates the work, as do forms which remind you of the Cyclades. Up high, the arrogant, timeless, global symbol of civilization and all of this bathed in that unique light which sculpts this Attican-Cycladic mass. That given light is the whole point of it all.”

Kostas Garifallos explores the Cycladic side of Athens

Kalliopi Kouklinou: “This particular work is dedicated to the younger generation of women who fight for various issues through their hip hop music. It’s an urban anti-fascist movement, which supports women’s rights. I support these girls, I go to their concerts and I like their dynamism and I hope it’s a movement that will continue. The hip hop culture is global, but there is a strong hip hop culture here in Athens and Thessaloniki too.”

Kalliopi Kouklinou’s hip hop Athens

Stella Sevastopoulos: “These two works from the series ‘Archetypal Abstraction’, draw inspiration from the ancient design motifs inspired by nature that we find around Athens. From the leaves of the acanthus plant that decorate Corinthian columns, to other leaf and flower motifs found engraved on marble, molded out of clay, or even engraved on metal or gold. By incorporating forms inspired by these designs into my abstract painting process (which combines printing and painting techniques) I explore their significance in our day and age. On the one hand these forms symbolise remnants of the past, now faded and imperfect, yet on the other hand, their new abstract compositional environment gives them the opportunity to be re-examined. New associations and meanings are thus created (e.g. connections with other cultures, or with primal symbols from the collective unconscious).” 

Stella Sevastopoulos’s focus on archetypal forms

Eleni Papanikolaou on ‘Timeless urban landscape’: This work is a small-scale drawing with ink and acrylic painting, it depicts the roofs of buildings in the center of Athens and typically from Euripidou street, with the visual intervention of reflections – as mirrors – of the columns of the Parthenon. In this way I show the concept of timelessness, imbuing it with a melancholic, nostalgic feeling!!!….”

Eleni Papanikolaou’s Athens of shadows and reflections

Christos Papadakis: “The work ‘Timelines’ belongs to a series on the theme of the olive tree (‘Elia’). A tree that thrived in Attica and was worshiped for its fruit. For this work, I used sepia ink on prepared fabric – a difficult technique due to the fluidity of the material. The sculpturesque qualities of the olive trunk inspire you to respectfully try to convey its soul.”

Christos Papadakis’s focus on the sculpturesque qualities of the olive tree

George Houndalas: “First of all this work is about a real location  in Plaka, the corner of Poulopoulou and Aktaiou streets. This is where my grandma, my mother and her brothers were born. The work is also inspired by a Greek song or ‘cantada’, which tells us that God comes from Plaka. I have placed a God-like figure in the middle, but it could also be Dionysus or Bacchus. Epochs merge in this work, for example there’s a local street band from the ‘60s/’70s, but there’s also someone playing the ‘laterna’, and scenery from the ‘30s.  The ‘30s and ‘40s were a particularly difficult yet also fruitful time in Athens: people were suffering from starvation but culturally speaking, things were happening in literature, music etc.”

George Houndalas’s work is inspired by a Greek song which claims that God comes from Plaka

Participating artists: Janos Lipovics/Christina Pancess/Achilleas Aivazoglou/Giannis Aitinidis / Christos Alatsakis/Konstantina Alexopoulou/Antonis Antzoulidis/Yiannis Antonakeas/Maria Argyrakopoulou/Elena Arsenidou/Dimitra Vantzou/ Dimitris Vranas/Kostas Garifallos/ Antonis Yiakoumakis /Angeliki Gioni /Vasilis Goumas /Dimosthenes Davvetas /Sophia Damala / Alexandros Dimopoulos /Elena Dimopoulou / Yiannis Dimoulas /Manos Diamantis-Staggeser / Argyro Driva / Maria Zygomala / Vivian Zotali /Krystallia Ioannidou / Thetis Ioannou /Eleni-Stephania Kalapoda /Elena Kalapothakou  /Athina Kanellopoulou /Nikos Kanoglou  /Stella Katergiannaki / Christina Katergiannaki / Christina Kontogeorgiou / Calliope Kouklinou / Fillippos Koutrikas /Foteini Kytiani / Kostas Lales /Efi Laskari  /Eleanna Martinou  / Adam Mattheos / Efstratia Magairidi / Stavroula Mitsakou / Orpheas Batsios /Lina Bebi /Lambrini Boviatsou / Ismini Bonatsou /Kristi Boutsai /Despina Pantazi /Eleni Papagiannopoulou / Angeliki Papadaki / Christos Papadakis /Eleni Papanikolaou  /Roza Pappa-Vezyrtzi /Nota Paterimou /Aphrodite Patika / Thomas Patios / Dinos Petratos /Lia Petrou /Marina Rovithi /Spyros Romanos / Stella Sevastopoulos /Dimitra Sigala /Angelos Skourtis / Kostas Spyropoulos / Kyriaki Tzimou / Konstantinos Tolis / Martha Tsiara / Kostis Tsirintoulakis / Nikolas Tsiotas / Dimitra Fakarou /Katerina Hatzi / Vangelis Hatzis /Anna Maria Hatzistephanou / Nikos Chiotinis/ George Houndalas. Special participation of works by Michalis Nikolinakos (1920-1994).

  • The European Centre/Contemporary Space Athens, is on 74 Mitropoleos St, central Athens (closest Metro stations: Syntagma and Monastiraki).
  • Runs till December 4, 2022. Open: Wed-Sun 12-7pm.
  • Free entrance
  • ‘Art Scene Athens’ is written and run by artist/journalist Stella Sevastopoulos. You can check out her art here.
Kostis Tsirintoulakis’s mosaic owl reminds us of the ancient symbol of Athena
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