Alexis Kyritsopoulos

Kyritsopoulos Alexis
© Giorgos Lazaridis

Born in Athens in 1943, he studied Law at the Athens Law School (1962-1965) but never graduated. He published drawings in newspapers and magazines until 1967. In summer of 1967 he moved to Paris. He attended the Printmaking Course at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts. In 1970 he attended the École des Recherches sur les Arts plastiques et l’ Environnement. Since 1975, when he moved back to Greece, he has been making illustrations for books, posters, book and LP covers, solo exhibitions, collaborating with singer Dionysis Savvopoulos at music programmes, he has been working on children shows, props and sets for three films. He has also been working with the universities of Thessaloniki and Ioannina on illustration projects for textbooks of the French language for Primary and Secondary Education. He has also published books with stories based on poems by famous Greek poets of the 1930s Generation (Seferis, Engonopoulos, Ritsos, Sarantaris). His book on Engonopoulos won the Greek State Award for Illustrated Children’s Book in 2014. He lives and works in Athens.

Works

On Art and His Art: Alexis Kyritsopoulos

The painter Alexis Kyritsopoulos refers to his influences from art in general, in which he seeks both a consolatory and transcendental function. He talks about the relationship between reality and art, and the role of art in transforming the everyday into the mythical, through love and beauty. Clarifying the difference between dream and illusion, he brings up his work Don Quixote Mirroring, which is part of the Sotiris Felios Collection. He also expresses the view that his fragmentary and simple style places his work in the fringes, and therefore sets it apart in a special way, in an art collection characterised by its intense painterliness.

Solo Exhibitions

2018

Skoufa Gallery Athens

2017

Love at the Bench Skoufa Gallery Athens

2016

Skoufa Gallery Athens

2015

The Park Skoufa Gallery Athens

2013

Processing the Accidental Skoufa Gallery Athens

2006

Skoufa Gallery Athens

Press

A Confession of Emotion

It is a fairy tale that Kyritsopoulos writes and rewrites, a fairy tale that, instead of taking us to magical lands, mythologises our world, drawing the unexpected from its obvious, with images and colours.

His means are insignificant: bits of cardboard, scraps of paper, sheets of tracing paper, unambitious drawings sketched with a shaking hand, with the certainty of a logic that refutes its name, watercolours. This is not a master of figures and compositions, but a painter of an era which, by proclaiming the practical beautiful, imprisons man within his own works instead of giving him wings, as he hopes; it crushes him. It is these remains of man that our friend struggles with, and it is natural that his myth does not possess the concrete solidity of the grand history, nor does it need it, since it touches upon the poetic imperfection of an intellectually limitless inner world.

Hence his predilection for the minimum, a predilection that visually abolishes distance and size, just like the use of diminutives abolishes distance and size in the modern Greek language. By calling psomi [bread] “psomaki”, krasi [wine] “krasaki” or spiti [house] “spitaki”, we are not bringing things possessively down to size, we are taking them out of their self-sufficiency and finding them a place inside of us. [translator’s note: the addition of the suffix –aki to a noun in modern Greek does not necessarily indicate smaller size (“little house”), but expresses tenderness towards the object.] The minimum, in its extreme version, becomes an element of reconciliation, of restoring everything to a universal affinity. It’s not important whether the karavaki, the “little boat” depicted is a sailing boat or a motor boat; what’s important is that the diminutive, reduced to its minimum, sails through our own soul. In that internal contact, that intercepts all demystification, our existence, united with everything, extends into infinity.

If the minimum opens him up to things, his things give themselves up to colour. Colour, here, is neither inciting nor cloying; it’s a confession of emotion, which confirms the indestructible ethos of the world. More than a pile of rocks and a volume of water, the mountain and the sea are colour and, as colour, it gushes out of nothing. In this miracle that transforms even letters into gentle landscapes, everything converts into feeling.

A painter, therefore, of emotion. He doesn’t paint with emotion, he paints the emotion. A plethora of emotion that spills out, claiming vital space in all directions – that’s the meaning of his images. Impervious to any kind of naturalism, he converts people and things into symbols, ministering, in his way, the spiritual tradition that European art arrogantly denied in both its representational and abstract versions. While contemporary painters resort to cold imitation and premeditated shapelessness, to retrieve cerebrally some substitute of emotion, he seeks emotion itself, liberating the object from the sharp shackles of functionality, with the uplifting action of a drawing, which subverts the prevailing logic and becomes, by definition, a harmless joke. A church with wings, an eye outside of the face, the deep blue of the sea and the earth a floating nutshell upon it, surrounded by the image it was supposed to frame, a ladder standing on the climber’s feet, the sky below the sea, the questions of men.

I say “the questions of men” because man, here, is a riddle. And because he remains a riddle, he is a source of constant uncertainty. Everything finds peace in the shape and in the colour, everything except man, who, when his body can’t contain him, becomes a shadow, and the painter, who places his hopes on dolphin-shaped clouds, suns that follow the voyages of ships or dancing landscapes – on a nostalgia without a dream. Nostalgia is the dominant emotion! Melancholy, tenderness, gladness; it’s what dresses in the expression of a child the thirst of the grown-up for catharsis.

But since the source of anxiety is man himself, catharsis exists beyond homecoming – nostos, on a higher sphere of emotion. Emotion is, by instinct, untamed and unequal. And it cannot remain untamed and unequal without casting its shadow upon individual and national destiny. The problem doesn’t belong to Kyritsopoulos. We, as a nation, squander our explosive emotion on pointless libations and then, in reaction, renounce it. Our current decline attests to the fact that it is not necessary for emotion to comply with logic, but to rise up by its own means. And the means is the word of faith. The painters of the West didn’t grasp this, and they depict the world through their art; the Greeks of the East change it through their faith.

A door opening up onto pink, a deep blue, wrapping up at night an indefinite house, a white light between the cypress tree and the deep red window: the trace of absent man and the mark of a painter, who is on the threshold between spontaneous emotion and faith.

Stelios Ramfos
February 1983
* Published in “Zygos” magazine, issue 57, 1983.