New York.- Vicki James Yiannias
Irene Vantaraki believes fervently in the aesthetic value of the works created by the Greek artists she represents. Sixty paintings by twenty-one of these artists are on view at the Consulate General of Greece through October 30. The exhibition follows the show of almost all the same selection of paintings in the “Colors of Greece “exhibition held at “The Muses Hamptons” in August–September.
Ambassador Georgios Iliopoulos, Consul General of Greece in New York opened the exhibition saying that he was proud of the exhibition. “The Consulate General always tries to offer something different to the Greek American community,” he said, and has had several exhibitions throughout the years. “This exhibition offers a picture of cultural production in Greece”. Ms.Vantaraki thanked Ambassador Iliopoulos for doing Greek artists the honor of being shown in New York. She emphasized that while Greece has a great artistic past, modern Greece has great things to show, as well.
Although described in the brochure of the show (online at vandiri.com) as representing “the Modern Form of Greek Art”, the paintings are obviously not cutting-edge. Rather they hark back to previous styles and eras. Almost all of the paintings are figurative; most are illustrative. And although most of the paintings are literal, the meaning of many of the works leaves much room for interpretation, as do the many paintings with surrealistic images or overtones.
The tone of the exhibition is serious and somber. Vandaraki reports the good news, however, that the current economic crisis has not met with a crisis in the arts in Greece, saying, “Masterpieces are being created in the arts in Greece at this time.”
Ms. Vandaraki shares her thoughts on Greek artists, and her own interpretation of art terms and criteria in choosing art.
IV: For me, the exhibition is very successful. Esthetically, in terms of color and light, Greek art has great depth. All of these works express strong emotions; these are the emotions that all Greeks experience communally in all sociopolitical developments. All of this has created modern art, which reflects light, hope, and whatever has represented the Greek people for hundreds of years.
I would also like to say something else very important, which is that the economic and political crisis in Greece has not met with a crisis in art. Masterpieces are being created in the arts in Greece at this time.
GN: When were the works in the show created?
IV: All the paintings are new, created specifically for America. All of these artists are capable of building international reputations. They aren’t lacking anything. Their works say a lot. I believe strongly that Greek art can be internationally influential. This is why I brought this exhibition here. And I will bring others.
GN: Do you work through a gallery in Greece?
IV: No, I just represent artists and organize things for them.
GN: How did you start out?
IV: I was writing communications for the artists. I started out writing copy for presentations by the artist Angelo, who is a very important artist in Greece, and then began studying his work. And so I entered into the soul of art this way.
GN: Do these artists also show in galleries?
IV: Some of them are newcomers in New York through this show. Some have shown here, and others have international careers. Some have never been in a show. I have all the ranges, from famous and accomplished artists who have had exhibitions, to new artists for whom this is the first exhibition. I believe in them.
Today students from St. Demetrios School visited the exhibition. It was their first
contact with contemporary Greek art. Some of them were very enthusiastic and asked questions, such as why did the artist paint that, etc…. it piqued their interest. It brought up the idea that the Greek heritage is so strong, and the modern one can be that strong.
GN: How do you choose which works to show?
IV: I look at a work with the clear idea of what emotions it arouses; mainly I look for the sensitivity of the artist.
GN: What artist painted the bouquet of flowers?
GN: This painting doesn’t show a contemporary approach.
IV: I’ll tell you what that artist’s thinking is: Looking at a bouquet of flowers and isolating at image of flowers, some thoughts arise. It could be that we look it over quickly without giving it much attention. But when nature–the greatest artist–presents an image and the artist puts it in a painting, very nice feelings come out of him. Art doesn’t want to present something very complicated. Art is simply feelings and what each work brings out of you. Let me say that to be contemporary, an artist must be “true”. Therefore, art that is true, is contemporary. We can’t say that realism isn’t modern art. The bouquet of flowers is contemporary; he painted it a month ago. I saw the bouquet that was in front of him. An artist could have painted the same bouquet 200 years ago, but you can’t say that the something timeless isn’t contemporary. Therefore, this particular artist writes: “My truth is contemporary.”
Ms. Vantaraki is doing well to bring Greek artists to the American public. Building a future in the U.S. for Greek artists who do not already have international reputations would build confidence in Greece’s art community and the competitive nature of the international art market could encourage innovation in their work.
The exhibition “Colors of Greece” is open to the public through October 30. Exhibition hours are Monday to Friday, 9:00 a.m.–2:30 p.m.