En­gonopou­los’s thoughts, art ex­posed

Goulan­dris Mu­seum of Mod­ern Art on is­land of An­dros shows dif­fer­ent in­flu­ences that shaped artist’s work

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY MARGARITA POURNARA

When Nikos En­gonopou­los (1907-85) first pre­sented a col­lec­tion of po­ems in the late 1930s, he was ac­cused of be­ing in­sane. The ini­tial re­ac­tions to his work as a painter were not much more flat­ter­ing ei­ther. Yet the artist did not wa­ver un­der such crit­i­cism, pur­su­ing his cre­ative bent with­out need for praise.

An ex­hi­bi­tion that just opened at the Goulan­dris Foun­da­tion Mu­seum of Mod­ern Art on the Aegean is­land of An­dros is am­ple proof that En­gonopou­los’s crit­ics were surely mis­taken. The show presents 110 works – many of which are from pri­vate col­lec­tions and have not previ- ously been seen by the gen­eral public – and a se­lec­tion of po­ems in an homage to a fas­ci­nat­ing life and ca­reer ti­tled “With the Col­ors of the Word and the Word of Col­ors.”

The ex­hi­bi­tion be­gins with the in­tro­duc­tions: a self-por­trait of En­gonopou­los as a young man and a chronol­ogy of the mile­stones in the life and work of the painter, poet and pro­fes­sor at the Athens Polytech­nic, a man with roots in Asia Mi­nor and an ed­u­ca­tion from one of the best schools in Paris.

An­other sec­tion of the ex­hi­bi­tion shows us how En­gonopou­los was in­flu­enced by his pro­fes­sors at the Athens School of Fine Arts, Con­stanti­nos Parthe­nis and Pho­tis Kon­toglou, who taught him the tech-

Brothers: Hyp­nos and Death,’ 1963, oil on can­vas (left). Right: ‘Divine Cou­ple,’ 1938, In­dia ink and wa­ter­color on pa­per. As En­gonopou­los’s fig­ures are de­void of fa­cial char­ac­ter­is­tics, body lan­guage and po­si­tion­ing take on a vi­tal role. niques of egg tem­pera and the se­crets of icon paint­ing, a skill that the artist later adopted in his hy­per­re­al­ist com­po­si­tions. Like his fel­low stu­dent Yan­nis Tsarouchis, En­gonopou­los stud­ied be­side great artists but de­vel­oped in­de­pen­dently of them and never missed an op­por­tu­nity to march to the beat of his own drum.

The path he chose to fol­low is ev­i­dent in the sec­tions that con­cern the fe­male fig­ure as a muse and that on cou­ples. As En­gonopou­los’s fig­ures are de­void of fa­cial char­ac­ter­is­tics, body lan­guage and po­si­tion­ing ac­quire a vi­tal role. The same ap­plies to the ob­jects which sur­round th­ese face­less fig­ures, ob­jects that are just as sym­bolic as the back- grounds – no paint­ing is with­out a cloud, or a frag­ment of sea on the hori­zon, a part of an an­cient tem­ple.

Greek his­tory and mythol­ogy, in com­bi­na­tion of course with his ex­tremely solid ed­u­ca­tional back­ground, con­sti­tuted an end­less source of in­spi­ra­tion for the artist, as view­ers of the ex­hi­bi­tion will ob­serve. Gods and demigods, he­roes in the Greek War of In­de­pen­dence and saints all served En­gonopou­los as role mod­els and form the core of yet an­other sec­tion of the show ded­i­cated to his ide­al­ism and love of coun­try. En­gonopou­los was al­ways proud to be Greek and this is re­flected both in his paint­ings and his po­etry.

An­other fas­ci­nat­ing as­pect of this ex­hi­bi­tion is how it sheds light on the artist’s re­la­tion­ship to ar­chi­tec­ture through the amaz­ing de­pic­tions of build­ings he pro­duced thanks to time spent work­ing with the ar­chi­tect Dim­itris Pikio­nis. En­gonopou­los was also ac­tive in the the­ater, de­sign­ing sets and cos­tumes for Li­nos Karzis’s pro­duc­tions at the Herod At­ti­cus The­ater, among oth­ers.

The An­dros show, which runs through Oc­to­ber 1, is cu­rated by Maria Kout­so­ma­lli. It is ac­com­pa­nied by a 290-page Greek-English cat­a­log that con­tains re­pro­duc­tions of the 110 works, pub­lished by Mikri Ark­tos and with texts writ­ten by An­dreas Ge­or­diadis and Vivi Garoly­ma­tou.

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