Born at Petrikata (Cephalonia) in 1940, Memas Kalogiratos took initially (1957) lessons in Patras with Giorgos Papadimitriou and subsequently he studied sculpture at the School of Fine Arts with Thanassis Apartis (graduated in 1966). He presented his work for the first time in 1965. A series of other solo and group exhibitions in many Greek cities followed. Parallel to sculpture, where his work is better known, he was engaged in painting as well as the theatre. In 1990 he founded the “Cephalonian Society of Artistic Quest”. Expressionist, his work has mainly an anthropocentric character. Since 1982 he has moved to Mazarakata (Cephalonia), where he lives and works.
A Master of Immortality
We have become accustomed to seeing man turn the pure natural environment into cities of cement. Our experience in Mazarakata of Cephalonia last August reminded us that there is another side to man, that of a creator. One of the greatest Greek sculptors and painters, Memas Kalogiratos, has lived and worked in the village below the island’s Venetian castle for the past 30 years, and he agreed to show us around his small – but full of art – universe.
Entering the yard of his house, the first thing you see are rubber casts for statues and unfinished human bodies spurting out of felled tree trunks. The show is stolen by copies of all of the artist’s statues, which adorn central squares in the island’s towns, as well as in Athens. Imposing at the centre of the grounds stands the artist’s home, which he has built with his own hands and decorated by repurposing old furniture and filling it with his artworks. Another universe unfolds all around. A universe where art seems to sprout from the soil, along with the plants of the artist’s rich garden. And in the back… the museum (four rooms with his best work since he was a student at the Athens School of Fine Arts), which Mr Kalogiratos is preparing to donate to the Greek state. This is where the treasure can be found…
The stone walls, decorated with his paintings depicting, in their majority, warlords on ships, frame his sculptures of all kinds, that play the starring role in this space. His shapes? Vigorous, lanky and long, as if the body served as a channel for the soul to reach the sky. The content? Fierce, combative, full of life and the fight for something better. His heroes? Young women, pregnant women and deities of the sea. Mostly, however, men of all ages, ancient warriors or fighters of the national resistance and sailors, eminent personalities or unknowns, simple people of the toil. His style, unique. His beings, albeit strange to begin with, once the eye gets used to them, seductive, like creatures from another world. Lyre-players, dancers and, here and there, desperate figures that seek their future looking up: those are the works that are sure to draw the visitor’s eye with their quality (a mastery of form and content) and the entertainment they offer. Of course, the key feature of the distinguished sculptor’s works is their intellectuality. In other words, the visitor cannot help but be swept into political, erotic, historical, social, philosophical reflections, which can only serve man’s psychospiritual betterment.
The artist has not said a lot to us. He is a man of few words. Every now and again, he’d explain what his works depict, allowing us, discreetly, to be swept away by them. He briefly explained the secrets of casting, and he promised us he’d continue to create. The world of sculpture, into which Mr Kalogiratos introduced us, is magical. As is the idea of turning his home studio into a museum. From an experience such as this, you understand that if immortality had another name, it would surely be “Art”.