Leaflet from the exhibition “Chryssothemis” – 1988
The right combination of form and content, the essence of each and every art is, I believe, the culmination of contemporary\painting. Personally, the first thing I notice is content. With this I don’t just mean the subject matter but the essence i.e. that\which lies beneath the surface. The form comes out simultaneously on its own, instinctively at first, with a lot of hard, copious\work later on. Conquering my materials slowly. The thing that bugs me in modern painting is the denial of real painting, the abstract… I am not dogmatically opposed to abstraction. But I respect the artist who gets there, after a long and tiring journey. And then they simplify, take off, keep only what is absolutely necessary.
I paint landscapes. City landscapes. I am not so interested in the “classical” as I am in the landscape in which we live in. The houses, the apartment buildings, the factories, the stations, the shipyards. Landscapes gasping for breath, which choked in cement, or houses that are perishing. A main and symbolic part in my works are the TV antennas, the columns, the wires. They are domineering our living spaces but more than that, they are in our minds and they multiply in me the sense of loneliness of today’s humans.
My colors reflect, I think, the atmosphere of our landscapes. The grey of the apartment buildings and of the cement. The dull and hypotonic environment. Wherever we look, the “color”, the aesthetic is lost. Here and there a spot/splash of warm color breaks the general neutrality just like a moment of happiness brings beauty to the routine of city life.
Humans may not be directly present in this contemporary work. Yet, he is there behind or in the houses and the factories. He is there in general in my landscapes, either as a victim or as the culprit.
The Grand Masters of painting, Greeks and Foreigns and more importantly the Cubists have influenced me significantly. I realize though that I am still in the beginning and I have a long road ahead of me.
Catalog from the exhibition “Agathi” – 1999
First stops in landscapes – “city” landscapes
Houses, stations, old factories – streets of Athens.
The loneliness of the apartment building.
Suffocating landscapes of a city slowly fading away
αll marked by the Human Absence.
Next stop was in objects
– again marked by the human absence
– still lives, external spaces familiar to all.
Until now, the focus is on the Human Presence.
A figure of our times,
a disintegrated presence,
a shattered soul in search of plenty, yet finding few.
Humans looking for their “faces”
lonely figures lost in their egos.
A whole world lost in dead-end relationships.
Men and women whose eyes don’t even meet.
Angry people in “angry” cities.
The human hardship at the end of the century.
P.S. And don’t call me pessimistic
N. OI. Athens, March ‘99
Catalog from the exhibition “Selini” – 2000
In the dawn of the 21st century,
we are wandering wretched
and unable to co-exist.
We always dream but
how can we fulfill those dreams
how can we “travel”
how can we feel free in an era
where all sorts of powers
are besieging and policing us?
Even relationships, the closest ones even
are getting tougher and tougher.
Yet, the dreams insist and the will
of resistance exists
in spite of our contradictions
in spite of our loneliness,
the will for resistance exists.
Leaflet from the exhibition “Art Garden Gallery” – BRISTOL – 2001
At the dawning of the 21st century, I keep remembering nostalgically the one before it.
An intense century with abrupt changes in all levels of human activity and especially creative as far as art is concerned.
We are still living in its overtone…
Art movements rapidly followed one another.
Fermentations, juxtapositions but above all CREATION. In the world of painting, Picasso reigns almost until the 1970’s.
Unfortunately, the trend did not continue into the following decades. Things got muddled. What we are now experiencing, is almost an equalization of the image through the ruling of the media culture.
Chaos and confusion.
Art, in general, is searching for its identity. New forms of technology make their way into Art and keep confusing painting with patent.
29 years ago, I came to Bristol. I stayed here for about two years studying Art at Filton College. The period spent in Bristol, was one of the happiest in my life so far.
Studies, getting to know the English way of life – a life very different than the one I had known in Greece.
Positive impressions from Bristol – the town itself , the college professors, the knowledge I gained through them…
I can still remember the kind words and exhortations of Pat Farrell, Mervyn Payne and Colin Burgess.
Bristol is where some of the finest pieces in that period of my art were created (four of those paintings bearing large dimension removed in F.C. until 1992 when they were returned to Greece.)
29 years later, I return, full of the life experiences of all those years. And it is indeed, a great pleasure for me to be able to show my work in Bristol. Some of the paintings shown in this catalogue and in the exhibition itself were made exclusively for this presentation. They are a blend of works of yesterday with a perception of today. A combination of landscapes from Bristol along with Greek island landscapes. Mythological creatures in modern settings.
I would like to profoundly thank Des Baker whose help was invaluable in setting up this exhibition in the city I so loved, as well as the Art Garden Gallery for its hospitality.
N.OI. July 2001
Participation in the book “ONLY FOR MEN” – 2002
In memoriam : Sifis Oikonomidis
A photograph or a picture in general can awaken feelings and senses buried deep inside. It can make you think, remember, reminisce, freeze, make you angry, make you feel all warm inside, it can make you feel.
When Thanasis Niarchos asked me to write this text, he talked to me about his idea of the photographs of the football players. He showed me a complex of three A.E.K. players and when I agreed to write the piece although I am a painter, a profession not directly associated with writing, the first thing that came to mind was that it was highly probable that I was in the stadium that very day and that I might have witnessed this scene as it happened. Goes without saying I am a very strong and loyal supporter of A.E.K. It is a passion. And of course, it goes way back.
My father was a refugee from Constantinople. He arrived in Piraeus in 1927 and was very close to A.E.K. (Athletic Union of Constantinople), which had just been formed a few years back (1924) from the very beginning. What this team meant to these people who were thrown out of their country is I think too mundane to analyze. The team was their hope, their whole life during the pre-war years.
He took me to the stadium ever since I was a little boy. I must have been around five years old when I first stepped in New Philadelphia. Which is why when he died, I gave him an emblem of the team with the two headed eagle “to take with him”. And to think that I was born in Neo Faliro, next to what was then the Karaιsκaki stadium, home of the “hateful” team of Olympiakos!
My earliest memories of football, up until my teenage years when going to the matches became a conscious choice, was the sweet waiting of the Sunday afternoons. School all week long and from Saturday afternoon, the wait began…. It was like a ritual, along with morning mass and the roast on the family table which marked that day. The Sunday ritual.
And it was quite a pilgrimage with the buses back then, swamped like sardines within. But this didn’t bother me in the least. And then we go to the “temple”. That was when the “show” began.
Big crowds loud voices, no swearing like there is today, women and children. Not many colors, the grey suits of the 50’s prevailed. Without organized supporters, just fans. It was a feast. And if we won, the feast just got better.
All this romantic and up until my teenage years, in the mid 60’s. After that, a hooliganism of sorts. The hardcore supporters in “gate 21”, at the rear end of the New Philadelphia stadium. Always standing up. Shouting, screaming. It was around that time that the first merchandise appeared – scarves, hats all with the characteristic colors of the team – yellow and black. By that time, I went independently of my father, with friends, hours before the game began outside and around the stadium. Almost the whole Sunday was devoted to the team, from morning till nighttime. Conversations, disputes, screaming. And insomnia at night if we happened to lose, both from the sadness of losing and of fear of bullying at school the next day from the “greens” and the “reds”.
I remember having travel through Greece from the nearby towns of Megara and Patrai to Thessaloniki (Toumba, Harilaou) and Serres, Drama and elsewhere. And the icing on the cake : it was either 1969 or 1970 when A.E.K. won the championship. After the last game was completed, we jumped in the field and celebrated with the players, our idols, mythical figures of the time, Mimis Papaioannou, Karafeskos, Pomonis and the others. Then we walked for New Philadelphia to Omonoia square and jumped in the fountain. I may have pieces of the net we cut hidden somewhere.
Today’s soccer is rough, as is our society. How could it be any different? Professional players, teams and big sums of money. Everything evolves around the money. Fans are hardcore. All kinds of sexual innuendos in the team slogans. Long gone is the emotion and the shirt for which the players, and us, the fans, shed blood and sweat. Stelios Manolas is the last of the romantics.
However, I feel that us, A.E.K. fans, have still retained some of the emotion, hence the outrageous reactions for D.Bajevic. Perhaps it’s the memories of the refugees, the sense of being let down, who knows?
One would ask what is it that in a rough, antagonistic society, filled with cynical professionalism makes football so popular. I believe it is the king of all sports because it is unpredictable, strong, manly, and intense to watch. I am ecstatic when I see little kids playing soccer in squares and open spaces, wherever they still exist. Equally excited to watch the World Championship on TV. It is very different watching the game from inside the stadium where you see the body to body battles, where you can hear the thud of the ball, where you can feel the breathing and yelling of the players during the game.
And, as an end, as Manos Eleftheriou would say, in this per war monologue of memories, I would like to briefly comment on the photograph itself. It is the moment where the pleasure of winning is felt, the pleasure after scoring the goal, the end of the phase, the manly, strong hugging. The picture we see after each goal is scored. The moment in which the entire stadium population standing up and hugging each other tightly. Strangers until then, people become one, hug one another, express and combine their joy.
Watch the eyes of Vasilis Tsartas – the intensity, the look. It reminds me of a proud lioness watching over her cubs, looking beyond them to see if there are any enemies in the back. His nostrils show the inner intensity of the whole game. The vains in his hands, the muscles. The heads buried in the arms of Ruiz and Demis looking for caring, protection. And he gives it to them just with this look.
Recently, I witnessed a similar scene where the entire team and the goalkeeper ran to the middle of the field and fell over one another. They all became one body. A of bodies. (I always wondered how the last one down lives and breathes…)
(book “ONLY FOR MEN” football and men, Th. Niarchos, “Kastaniotis editions” ,2002.)
This text is referring to a certain photograph that is not shown here.
Prologue of the book ‘YELLOW AND BLACK” – 2010
A.E.K. in my paintings
The idea of creating paintings with the A.E.K. team as their theme began several years ago. Since 1990, I “put” A.E.K. either by its characteristic yellow color or by using some of the team’s symbols in works with totally different themes and styles. The first totally “A.E.K. themed” painting was in 1993 in the team’s “golden years” with D.Bajevic as their coach. Then the time passed, I worked on other projects and exhibitions but I was simultaneously gathering ideas and material working on drafts for future A.E.K. works. In 2007 the ideas and the drafts “came to life” and became works in oil, yet still in their early stages of production.
In 2009 and 2010 I felt that the team was going to do better after all its problems and “adventures” and so I felt the need to show all these works in an exhibition.
The art gallery Peri-Technon offered to host this exhibition in December 2010.
The main idea was to include players, mainly from the last 30 years or so, depicting their triumphs after scoring a goal in instances of real or imaginary games. They would be surrounded by the supporters of the team in the rows of the New Philadelphia stadium. Symbols of A.E.K. were everywhere, with emphasis on the two headed eagle, adapted of course, in my personal style.
I don’t know whether I succeeded but I did try. Only time will tell. What I do know, is that I had a lot of fun doing it. The whole process was a pleasurable creation.
I want to thank from the bottom of my heart George Markopoulos, my dear friend, the poet, the A.E.K. supporter who helped so much, Lida for her insistence to go ahead with this exhibition and for her patience, Kyriakos Chinas for his love and deep interest.
Additionally, I would like to thank Sotiris Kakissis for his invaluable help, Olga, Yiannis, Rallou, Lefteris Karteris for their contributions to the making of this exhibition and the book and of course everyone who despite their day to day life and difficulties helped in creating this book. A.E.K. F.C. for their support.
My friend Vasilis Kastoris, George, Elias,Stavros, Nikos, my stadium partners.
And of course, this is dedicated in memory of my father, Sifis N. Oikonomidis who “took” me to A.E.K. as a child, taught me what A.E.K. stood for and made me love her so much.
N. OI. NOV. 2010
A text that was written for the event in the exhibition “Chryssothemis” – 2010
People at their Limits
…Underneath the full moon
Men and women co-sail and intertwine…
Somewhere else, in a summer setting,
Two women waiting for the same man,
Who is resting, sleeping or already dead…
People at their limits…
People in dead ends – in their immobility.
People alone and lonely, who are searching and are being searched.
Everyday people, neighbors, tired.
Stressed and repressed, angry, enraged and seldomly
So I observe people, starting with myself, my friends, my family, those around me, the whole world , and I try through my work to narrate some of their stories, to document their lives through painting, as I see it.
This is my version.
And I really like it when someone recognizes a piece of themselves in my work or describes his own story, in total contrast to what I have thought…This is, after all, the allure of art!!
At the same time, I “meet” with poetry and “use” it, assisting my works with their titles and verses, sometimes supporting them, sometimes mocking them or deconstructing them. I get the feeling that this is helpful to some people while others are dragged off or are irritated by it.
I, however, like this “game”. Because I find pieces in the poets that I feel are taken from my works.
I would like to thank Vaso Oikonomopoulou and Yiannis Emiris for their pursuit in my work, Chryssothemis gallery i.e. Lida Panayiotopoulou for this event, but first and foremost, all of you here today. It was a really big honor for me.
Thank you very much.
N. OI. 22 April 2010
He was born in 1953, in Piraeus, Greece.
He studied Drawing and Painting in G. Vojadgis studio in Athens and in England (Bristol : Filton Tech. College and London : Slade School of Fine Arts). He has presented his work in 20 solo and many group exhibitions in Greece, Cyprus, England and Belgium. He has published 3 books:
1) YELLOW and BLACK
2) VERSES on the EASEL
3) The TALKING TABLES