Saturday, 18 May 2019

Demosthenis Skoulakis - a retrospective: the early years

Demosthenes Skoulakis - A Retrospective: the Early Years,

at the Benaki Museum, Pireos Avenue, Athens.

Skoulakis never drew the attention of his better-known peers, but he was nevertheless one of the most important representatives of the generation of the 1970s, which was marked by the distancing of several Greek artists from abstraction and a return to reality. 

I have decided to show this retrospective in three different posts. The early years show an artist who is finding his way but also, the influence that surrealism had on his work.

Early Quests, (1957-1966):

Self-Portrait, 1963, (oil on canvas)

Self-Portrait, 1963, (oil on canvas)

The Studio

Paul Gauguin, 1957, (oil on canvas mounted on cardboard)

Hydra, 1961, (oil on canvas)

Hunger, 1963, (oil on canvas)

Houses in Kypriadou, 1960, (oil on canvas)

Butcher Shop in Thebes, 1965, (oil on canvas)

Political works:

'At the time of the dictatorship I was faced with a dilemma and had to choose between politics and painting. I chose politics. I did not have the need to express myself through painting. There was a dictatorship in Greece and you could not fight it with painting'. 

Aris Velouchiotis, The Other Side of History, 1973, (oil on canvas)

Greek Flag, 1967, (oil on canvas)

The Assassination of John F Kennedy, 1972, (oil on canvas)

Days of 1967, (oil on canvas)

National Lottery (One in Two is a Winner), 1967, (oil on canvas)

Protest, 1966, (oil on canvas)

Sotiris Petroulas, 1966, (oil on canvas)

Red - Green, 1968, (oil on canvas)

Nikos Beloyannis, 1967, (oil on canvas)

The Imaginary: Acceptance and Quest, (1979-1985):

'After the seven years of the dictatorship and on returning to Greece, I tried to regain 'lost time' by reconstructing my multiple artistic experiences into a personal kind of painting. This is the period when I paint angels, dressmakers' dummies, fish, spheres, cubes, clouds, dream objects. Finally, in March 1979, I paint a self-portrait with a cigarette, created from an identity card photograph. This was the first worthwhile work I painted after eight years of artistic silence which was decisive in my further development.

My return to painting is slow and painful. The difficulties I face are incredible. For months I paint and tear up what I have painted. This work is characterised by a strong contrast,, the relationship between the real and the non-existent, reality versus dreams'.

Portrait of Athina, 1979, (oil on canvas)

Self-portrait with Cigarette, 1979, (oil on canvas)

Unexpected Visitor, 1980, (oil on canvas)

Split Personality, 1982, (oil on canvas)

Absence, 1982, (oil on canvas)

Door to the Studio: On Duty No. 1, 1984, (oil on wood)

Door to the Studio: On Duty, no. 2, 1984, (oil on wood)

Wingless Nike, 1980, (oil on canvas)

Lost Nike, 1980, (oil on canvas)

Equilibrist II, 1981, (oil on canvas)

Homage to Rene Magritte, 1981, (oil on canvas)

November 17th, 1983, (oil on canvas)

Political cartoons:

'I never thought that for more than 25 years I would work as a professional cartoonist. I spotted this inclination early on, but did not place much importance on it. I used it in an amateur fashion as a toy. My first job was the cartoon illustration of Hellenic Mythology by Nikos Tsiforos in 1960. I signed the cartoons as 'Dimos' keeping 'Skoulakis' for painting. Three to four months later, when I was quite well known, I was suddenly remembered by the leadership of … the Party. (the Greek Communist Party). After accusing me of 'wasting my talent in the service of the bourgeoisie', they sent me to Avgi (CP newspaper)… In general,  my cartoons are divided into two categories, the 'free' and the political - without implying that there is no indirect political commentary in the 'free' ones'.

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