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Sailing Tetsis’ seas July 17, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Exhibitions Greece.

The artist’s monumental oils and watercolours take centre stage at Andros’ Museum of Contemporary Art through to September.

Having spotlighted the art of Picasso, Moore, Braque, Miro and others in the past few years, the Museum of Contemporary Art on the island of Andros returns this summer to the local artistic output with an exhibition of Panagiotis Tetsis, a genuine exponent of the post-impressionistic seascape tradition. Sixty monumental works – oils and watercolours that measure up to three metres long – make up the artist’s ode to the sea. Among these are Tetsis’ most recent turbulent winter seas which coincide with the mature period of his work.

Born in 1925 on the island of Hydra, where he spent his childhood and early teenage years, Tetsis moved to Piraeus in 1937 but would return to his birthplace every summer. The lifelong relationship between the artist and his subject-matter (also central to the art of Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghika and Spyros Vassiliou) would be founded on these early years and was later on transferred to the canvas. But in turning memory into experience the artist is not merely nostalgic, points out the museum’s director, Kyriakos Koutsomallis. “His paintings rather reflect a resistance to decay and to the corrosive impact of time.”

“If I take a long voyage at sea, I get bored,” Tetsis says, “and I don’t agree with Cavafy that headed for Ithaca we ought to hope that the voyage lasts as long as possible.” And he adds: “I paint a large number of my seas from memory. I don’t need to paint them from life. And even if I do, I change them later in my studio, even changing them totally.” In this spirit the dazzling, at times oppressive, Greek light that can distort form by causing its contours to dissolve is counterbalanced in Tetsis’ compositions so as to preserve the form’s three-dimensional presence.

Though the artist depicts marine themes that are familiar to him – mostly set against the backdrop of Hydra and Sifnos – his rendering does not imitate nature by being realistic or identifiable, or cleave to the picturesque or folkloric. Tetsis’ seas have an abstract quality about them in the same way that the sea itself is not a clear blue but goes through often imperceptible transformations. These vary from subtle and dramatic variations of colour to the outbursts of its swiftly changing moods: serene and epic in its solitude, or raging wild and menacing. Applying generous brushstrokes on his surface, Tetsis avoids the trap of repetition by rejuvenating his chromatic palette. He captures the swift changes observed in nature.

Balancing discipline and emotion, Tetsis regards himself as a painter driven by the senses. His singularity, according to Koutsomallis, consists in his combination of “elegiac colour tones, compositional clarity and precision, thematic variety, a monumental character and freely, openly sketched contours”.

Panagiotis Tetsis’ Sea is on at the Basil and Elise Goulandris Museum of Contemporary Art in Andros’ Hora (tel 22820 22444) through to September 24.

Parallel events include screenings on the artist’s life and work and a series of educational programmes in August for children aged 6-13.

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