November’s Art Trek

For those of you who live in Athens, as well as any visitors, a round up of what’s on in the art world from the blog Art Scene Athens

Art Scene Athens

AS WINTER SETS IN, and November’s chilly air is broken by the golden rays of the Greek sun (battled by dark thunderstorms), it’s time to hit the streets again (when weather permits), for another art trek. And there’s so much to see around Athens, yet again. Here are ‘10 (+2)’ of the highlights (see also ‘Autumn’s Athenian Art Trek’ for some more options still running):

2 (1)Art and poetry

The Theocharakis Foundation pays homage to Greek poet and Nobel laureate George Seferis via an outstanding exhibition entitled ‘When the light dances, I speak farely. George Seferis and his poetry via painting and photography’ (November 8-January 21). Curated by Takis Mavrotas, Director of the Art Programme at the Theochorakis Foundation, in collaboration with Panayiotis Roilos – Professor of Modern Greek Studies, and professor of comparative literature in the Departments of the Classics and of Comparative Literature, at Harvard University, who…

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Treasure in the sea

In 1900, Greek sponge divers came upon a shipwreck off the island of Antikythera. From a depth of 45 meters they retrieved numerous large artefacts, including bronze and marble statues, pottery, unique glassware, jewellery, coins and various other objects. Among them was a lump of corroded bronze and wood which went unnoticed for two years, while museum staff worked on piecing together the larger statues.

One such was the Antikythera Ephebe, dated 4th century B.C., who now stands in the archaeological museum of Athens.

 

 

After some time the above-mentioned ‘lump’ was examined, but investigation led nowhere until 1971, when British science historian and Yale University professor Derek J. de Solla Price and Greek nuclear physicist Charalampos Karakalos thought to use  X-ray and gamma-ray images.
They thus discovered the now famous Antikythera mechanism, an ancient Greek analogue computer and orrery used to predict astronomical positions and eclipses for calendar and astrological purposes. It could also track the four-year cycle of athletic games which was similar (though not identical) to an Olympiad, the cycle of the ancient Olympic Games.

It is a complex clockwork mechanism composed of at least 30 meshing bronze gears.

 

Antikythera Mechanism, Archaeological Museum of Athens.

 

Since then, underwater excavations have resumed on the wreck, a large 50-meter ship sailing from Asia Minor to Rome in 1BC. This year on 4 October, an international team excavating the site announced that during a 16-day dive season the previous month, they had found several major statue pieces, including two marble feet attached to a plinth, part of a bronze robe or toga, and a bronze male arm, with two fingers missing but otherwise beautifully preserved. A slim build and “turning hand” gesture suggest that the arm may have belonged to a philosopher, according to archaeologists.

Below is a fascinating film of the expedition, giving a glimpse into what it’s like to be a part of such discoveries. Teamwork, bolstered by technology and plain old elbow grease.

 

 

 

Shameless bragging

I’m happy to report that the kids’ music book for which I drew the illustrations two years ago (I wrote about it here), is finally out. There were a few problems along the way, involving a change of publisher, but I think the final result was worth the wait.

 

Front cover: A planet called Tik Tak

 

Sia Antonaka and Rubini Metzelopoulou have written a happy and rousing tale of musical shenanigans and there is a CD included, with music and songs.

First sketch

 

A finished drawing

 

End result. A page in the book

 

It was fun seeing how my simple drawings were transformed. Unfortunately, I had no part in the process, which disappointed me since I would have enjoyed it, but there it is.

 

I would really like to do this again in the future, should the occasion arise (hint, hint – any children’s writers out there).

 

 

The book is in Greek, so I cannot recommend it to non-speakers, but for Greeks, it is sold  via e-books.gr, as well as in bookstores, such as Tsakalos Stratis and Cambia Books. It will also be distributed to schools.

And should anyone want to contact the authors, their emails are:

siaantonaka1@hotmail.com

Roubinimentzelopoulou@hotmail.com

Edward Dodwell – watercolors of Greece

As a follow up to my post Old Athens, I thought I’d write a few words about Edward Dodwell (1767 – 1832), an Irish painter, traveller and archaeologist, who travelled widely in Greece, making exquisite paintings in the process.

 

 

Edward Dodwell was born in Dublin to an ancient and wealthy Irish family, and studied Classics and Archaeology at Trinity College, Cambridge. Being in possession of a large fortune and free from professional commitments, he dedicated himself to the study of Mediterranean cultures.

 

The dance of the dervishes at the Tower of the Winds in Athens, which was used as a tekije (dervish lodge). Sixteen ostrich eggs hang from the ceiling to avert the evil eye.

 

Dodwell travelled from 1801 to 1806 in Greece, which was then a part of the Ottoman Empire.

In 1801 he sailed to the Ionian Islands and the Troad with Atkins and the well-known traveller William Gell. In 1805 he visited continental Greece in the company of the painter Simone Pomardi, during which time they produced almost one thousand illustrations. These bring to life a vanished world that, since then, have enchanted European travelers and inspired their passionate pursuit of classical antiquity.

 

The village of Portaria on Mount Pelion

 

“Almost every rock, every promontory, every river, is haunted by the shadows of the mighty dead,”  Dodwell wrote, conveying with aesthetic sensitivity the discovery of each place, the journey of exploration of an unknown landscape; and managing to combine monuments, history, and contemporary life.

Dodwell’s paintings contain an immense wealth of information on Greek public and domestic life during the years before the War of Independence. He was often invited to stay in the houses of prominent Greeks.

 

Dinner at Crisso, near Delphi, in the house of the bishop of Salona.

 

Apart from archaeological issues, he wrote about the dances, music and games of the Greeks, as well as about local insects and birds.

His observations are varied – he notes, for example, the presence of a number of black slaves in the town of Patras and elsewhere, writes of Ali Pasha’s extortions, and lists the products peculiar to each region.

 

The bazaar of Athens. On the forefront, on the right, an emancipated African slave. On the doorway, the owner of the coffeehouse who is brigning a tray with coffee to the Ottoman governor Disdar Aga.

 

Dodwell was in Athens in March 1805, while Lord Elgin’s crews were pillaging the sculptures of the Acropolis monuments.

 

Removal of sculptures from the Parthenon by Lord Elgin’s men

 

Dodwell published A Classical and Topographical Tour through Greece (1819); Views in Greece, with thirty colored plates (1821); and Views and Descriptions of Cyclopian or Pelasgic Remains in Italy and Greece (1834). These books are still of value to archaeologists today.

 

 

He subsequently lived in Naples and Rome, and married a woman thirty years his junior. Unfortunately he caught an illness and died in 1832, while exploring the mountains of Italy. His large archaeological collection, of coins, 115 bronzes and 143 vases, kept for a time in his house in Rome, was later sold to the Munich Glyptothek.

Inktober

I have not managed to post a lot these last few months –  I’ve been super busy with various things, one of which has been finishing a large parrot diptych which was a wedding present for my niece (and goddaughter) – who got married a whole year ago! Shame on me…


Also I could not resist joining in the Inktober challenge, which consists in posting one ink drawing per day, for the whole month of October. There is a list of prompts available  for anyone who wants to use them, such as ‘swift’, ‘long’, ‘mysterious’, etc. I was so rushed, I couldn’t be bothered, but then I slightly regretted it – it was so fun seeing the wildly different interpretations people put on the same word. A couple of people even wrote a haiku or limerick to accompany their drawing each day. I wish I could share some of them here, but I have no clue whatsoever on how to link to Instagram.

 

A grumpy owl

 

The point about these challenges is that there are few rules, no obligation to keep up every day, and no prizes. People do it for the fun, just like a writing challenge, and the pleasure consists in the making, and in seeing what others have made, and commenting when one is so inclined. The #inktober2017 hashtag on IG allows you to find these drawings, if anyone is so inclined.  Many are wonderful – it is amazing what some people can do using nothing but a cheap ballpoint pen.

Below is my own, rather pathetic, attempt.

Sisters – ballpoint and watercolor

 

Some nights I only really managed a scribble.

Two scruffy dogs

 

I had planned to use the challenge to push myself in perfecting my technique with ink, which is not my strongest point. I was going to watch some YouTube courses, and practice with various mediums, such as wash, dip pens and ballpoint. Sadly, my lack of time meant that I usually ended up making a quick doodle before bedtime. However, I still had fun (mostly looking at other people’s stuff!)

One day I followed the prompt, which was ‘poison’.

 

Another, I was inspired by some  pomegranates I had picked.

Bad light, so not a good photo…

 

And one night when I had more time, I went back to my Greek roots.

The goddess Athena

 

I added some gold to pep this little fellow up.

 

Sheep always make you sleep better!

 

As does whale song.

 

Today is the last day, so I made a special effort. These bats were surprisingly difficult to draw upside down (I forced myself not to turn the paper around), and I tried to concentrate on tone and negative spaces. Amazing how bats remind you of vampires, as well as mummies, isn’t it? They were inspired by a wonderful photo by the award-winning wildlife photographer Pedro Jarque Krebs.

 

Ok, ok, I know they’re spooky, but it is Halloween, and I’ve  made a pumpkin already!

Ink and collage pumpkin

 

 

Garden Party

GARDEN PARTY is a weird and wonderful short film, which I discovered on SLIPPERY EDGE, a blog that, in their own words, is ‘focused on the exploration of beauty and creativity. As such our articles aim to showcase these qualities, and to do so we present you with a number of different contemporary professional artists, art students & creators from around the globe, in all domains of arts.’

It’s a great blog for discovering all sorts of new artists, and I urge you all to take a look. However, it is not a WP blog, so I could not discover how to re-post – I just managed to embed the film.

GARDEN PARTY is a short, animated film about two frogs who take over a deserted, if luxurious house. It has already picked up numerous awards. But I shall say no more, just let you discover it for yourselves. I’m curious to see what everyone thinks!

 

 

Old Athens

Today Athens is a large, bustling city with a population – suburbs included – of over three million. It has its own particular Greek flavor, of course, but it also has many common characteristics with other European capitals: a lot of traffic, pollution, the usual ubiquitous shops, restaurants, cafés, museums, opera houses, theatres, squares and parks.

Athens, however, is a relatively new city, which evolved, in the 19th century, from a regional town of the Ottoman Empire to the capital of the new Kingdom of Greece. After the liberation from the Turks, it was a ruined and semi-abandoned town. But King Otto, the young Bavarian prince sent over by the Allies, declared it a capital, and in 1834 its reconstruction began, under architects Stamatis Kleanthis, Edouard Shaunert and Leo von Klenze, the king’s counsel.

It was then that the neo-classical buildings which even now give the city distinction were erected, starting with the Royal Palace, which was paid for by King Otto’s father, the king of Bavaria, as a personal loan to his son. In 1934, after extensive renovation following two fires (the royal family had meanwhile moved to a new palace), the building became the House of Parliament.

 

 

The University of Athens was designed by the Danish architect Hans Christian Hansen and built with financial support from the king, the king of Serbia and various prominent Greeks.

 

The Athens Cathedral was also initially designed by Hansen, but finished by Greek architect Dimitris Zezos, who added Byzantine aspects. The church was partly built using material from abandoned Byzantine churches.

 

There were many other public buildings built at that time, as well as private residences.

Fast forward to circa 1917, after the first war, when the following photos were taken by our French Allies.

Cattle at the temple of Hephaestus.

 


Cooking with a view of the Acropolis.

 

A neighborhood near the center.

 

A shopping street with a mosque in the background.

 

 

Buying grapes. Some men still wore traditional clothing.

 

Children playing in the streets of Plaka, beneath the Acropolis.

 

Coffee in the garden of Zappeion. In the early twentieth century, Athens was still a provincial town of circa 180.000 people.

 

Constitution Square: The large white building on the right was built in 1842 and since 1874 houses the Grande Bretagne Hotel, where history has been written many times over and  which is still  today one of the  great luxury hotels in the world. In 1888 it was one of the first buildings in Athens to have electricity installed.

 

One of the main commercial thoroughfares, Stadiou Avenue, in 1935.

 

During WWII, Athens came under German occupation.

 

German tanks in Athen.

The city suffered great destruction and famine, exacerbated by the civil war which exploded following liberation from the Germans, and which raged until 1949 (my parents always told us this was much worse than the German occupation).

 

A British soldier in Athens during the civil war.

 

Children singing carols in the early 1950s. Ill-fitting coats, heads shaven against lice, but at least these two have shoes on.

 

The ice-cream man. Many years later, a man on a bike pushing an icebox still came into the park where we played when I was a child. I vividly remember our excitement, and the smell of the ice as the heavy lid was lifted, and we bent over the box to make our choice: vanilla or chocolate, on a stick or in a cup. It was a real treat.

This is far from pretending to be a comprehensive overview of the long and complicated history of Athens. I just happened upon these old pictures and thought they gave off a charming aroma of time passing.

Syntagma  (Constitution Square) then…

And now…

All images are from Google. Since most are old, it was difficult to attribute credit.