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A little corner of paradise in the outskirts of Limassol October 9, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Exhibitions Cyprus.
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In the small village of Fasoula, eight kilometres north of Limassol, lies one of the most unique and idyllic art galleries in Cyprus.

Built into the rocky hillside of a small mountain is sculptor Philippos Yiapanis’ Art Studio. But it is no ordinary gallery.

As you enter the garden through large white gates, there are marble sculptures on either side of the drive. When it gets dark, floodlights beam up at the sculptures, which in turn shed light on the rest of the garden.

Dotted around the beautiful landscape are Yiapanis’ sculptures, all positioned with precision and meaning. The sculptor has a story to tell for each and every creation. Adding to the serenity of the surroundings is a lake in the middle of the garden, complete with a fountain, fish and a frog called Louis.

But just when you start thinking it couldn’t get any better, you move past the pond and come across a small amphitheatre built within the garden, which is used solely for charity events; he call it “Small Salamis”. It is named after the historical Amphitheatre of Salamis in occupied Famagusta, Yiapanis’ town of origin and source of inspiration.

“Being from Famagusta and owning our own garden, I wanted to recreate my own,” he explains. “And when I decided to occupy myself solely with sculpturing, I thought I could create the garden and an area to exhibit my work. So I built the garden in the rear end of the studio, and in the front area I created this park to exhibit my work.”

Moving on to the studio, you experience the true talent of the Cypriot artist, who is evidently inspired by the female and phallic form. His work also features fish and birds. “Fish and birds have no boundaries and no borders. They’re free. Why can’t people be free?”

Made of bronze and marble, Yiapanis’ work is truly amazing. He is one of the 110 sculptors whose piece was chosen to represent the ‘Olympic Spirit’ in Beijing’s 2008 Games; an outstanding achievement, one would say. Well it is, unless you ask the Cyprus Olympic Committee, who rejected the sculptor’s same pieces two weeks before. Before the Cyprus Olympic Centre was recently initiated, the Committee announced a competition for creations inspiring the Olympic spirit.

“I presented three pieces, but they called me after a six weeks and told me they had been rejected.” He wasn’t deterred. “It turned out for the best in the end anyway, so I’m not bitter or upset,” the sculptor says matter-of-factly.

Two weeks later, Yiapanis saw a competition on the internet being run by the Olympic Committee of Beijing 2008, the Sculptures Art Committee and Jin Tai Art Museum with the subject: “The Olympic Spirit”.

“So I thought, seeing I already had work that was related to the Olympic spirit, I sent photographs of two sculptures, from all angles.”

A month later he received an email informing him that his sculpture had been among the 110 chosen, ‘excellent pieces’, out of 3,000 participations from 96 countries.

What’s more, the Beijing Committee asked him to hand over the rights, because the sculpture was going to be rebuilt on a gigantic scale, and placed in the square where the 2008 Olympic Stadium will be. Three replicas have also been made, which are going to be exhibited in galleries around the world.

Cyprus will hopefully be behind him during the Games, when the three best sculptures from the 110 excellent pieces will be awarded with gold, silver and bronze medals. So how did it all begin for Yiapanis?

“I studied shipbuilding, then I worked with computers. At 35, I decided that life was too short and you should do the thing that you love and you want. So I stopped everything and devoted myself to sculpturing professionally.”

The park took him nine years to build. Each sculpture he creates bares a collector’s number, which Yiapanis says never exceeds four replicas of the same sculpture. As he explained, for a sculpture to be considered a collector’s item, there can be no more than 12 replicas of it. In America that number is reduced to eight.

But Yiapanis says he never makes more than six copies of each piece. “I make three or four copies mostly; sometimes I only make one.”

And to make sure he is never tempted, he says he destroys the mould he uses for each piece after he is done. “It can be tempting to create another copy of a sculpture that is in demand. But I don’t work like that. My principles aren’t such.”

Placed strategically in front of ‘Small Salamis’, is a sculpture of the fertility symbol. When the amphitheatre is being used during August nights, the moon shines through the sculpture’s crevice and onto the amphitheatre.

As Yiapanis explained, the Ancient Greeks in Dionisia used it as a fertility symbol during the wine festival, because it is phallic. They believed it should be situated near temples and the sun light should come through the symbol onto the temple.

Women who were having trouble conceiving would light a candle and place it in the opening. Or they believed that if someone was ill and could fit through the opening, then he or she could be healed.

“It is positioned in such a way that when we have our August event (‘To Avgoustiatiko Fengari), the moonlight shines through the gap and onto the amphitheatre. We studied it very carefully.”

Yiapanis has a special exhibition running until October 11. Visit www.yiapanis-sculptor.com

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