Energized Art

Contemporary Greek artists draw on sporting achievements and the Olympic spirit.


Tiny sculptures depicting athletes in motion, set in separate transparent frames, create a virtual tableau vivant that captures the reality of the Games, though not without some implied criticism of the forces at work behind the scenes: performance-enhancing drugs, along with sportswear giants and other consumer-product multinationals in the guise of sponsors. (Above, Plexiglas, painted aluminum, steel sheets, 130X70 cm)


This piece, by one of Greece’s most highly acclaimed artists and a driving force behind the so-called Thirties Generation and 20th-century art in general, presents an intriguing combination of ancient, Byzantine and folk art, with modern European trends. The spirit of folk culture and a sense of authenticity are key elements in the artist’s work; here, we see his cyclist dressed in the traditional foustanella skirt, in a painting justifiably considered one of the finest example of modern Greek art. (Left, Oil on canvas, 62X42 cm. Yannis Tsarouchis Foundation)

BASKETBALL 1961-2003

One of the greatest artists and teachers of modern Greek painting, Panayiotis Tetsis – who died earlier this year – always stood out for his use of color and his unique perspective. His work covers a broad spectrum of themes, from portraits and scenes of everyday life to landscapes and large-scale compositions. This is one of his earlier works and was intended for his workshop. After 40 years, he returned to the piece and repainted it. (Right, Oil on canvas, 206X162 cm)


The work of this contemporary sculptor makes implicit references to ancient Greek art and history. Here, he presents a composition that speaks of institutions in antiquity. The shot and javelin represent two Olympic events, while the shields symbolize the Olympic Truce, during which warring factions would lay down their weapons. (Left, Iron, 230X70 cm)


This contemporary sculptor uses mirrors, metals, mortars, enamels, ceramics, acrylic glass and even lights in her works, often further enhancing them with color. Here, her use of colored mirror tiles on aluminum give the swimmer’s torso a sense of movement and intensity, as though she is in the act of swimming or has just emerged from the water. (Right, Cast aluminum and mosaic, 250X60 cm)


This piece was first painted and then transferred onto photo-sensitive paper as a photographic print, a method that imparts a sense of spirituality, mystery and the metaphysical. Here, inspired by the world of martial arts, the artist avoids depicting the moment of impact, choosing instead to capture the athlete’s torso and legs in mid-movement. The athlete appears to hang suspended in the air. (Left, Emulsion on canvas, 101.5X126.5 cm)


In this work depicting a weightlifter surrounded by spectators, the sport is transformed into a game, infused with a sense of playfulness and humor. Phaedon Patrikalakis renders the subject in his signature style, which incorporates the simplicity of children’s art, the ancient craft of idol-making, the movement of traditional Greek shadow theater and elements of folk art. (Right, Oil pastel on canvas, 100X70 cm)


* Most of these works of art were comissioned by Pergamos-Adam Publications and art critic Peggy Kounenaki, for the coffee-table book Olympic Spirit and Contemporary Greek Art, published on the occasion of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, under the auspice of the Greek Ministry of Culture.

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