CHRYSANTHOS CHRISTOU

Short text taken from a taped speech which was given at the Athens Rotarian Club, on March 1992)

 

 

The art of Sophocles Christou 
   			It is not, of course, as easy as one might imagine to give a presentation of the creative work of 
an artist which, more than anything else, also seeks an encounter with fate, because, over and above anything else,
I repeat, this is an art with purely existential and experiential starting-points, which the artist truly succeeds
in making an image of the meeting of man with the world. But please remember that Sophocles Christou is an artist who
was born in 1932, who at the age of 14 lived through the tragedy of the loss of his hands, who, in spite of this,
followed a course at the School of Fine Arts under first-class teachers, taking his degree in 1959, while even earlier,
in 1953, he had held his first exhibition at the Parnassus.
And reflect also that here we have an artist, Sophocles Christou, who, effectively, had some of the most important
teachers in modern Greek art, among them, Parthenis, one of the Fathers of the art of the twentieth century, and also
artists like Omvertos Arghyros, Andreas Georgiadis, Spyros Papaloukas, and loannis Moralis, who represent, more than
anything else, four differing directions in modern Greek art.
This is because Parthenis brought to Greek art the purely symbolic idealistic trends, Georgiadis, the Cretan,
brought Academic idioms, Papaloukas those of color and the inwardness of forms, while Moralis brought the capability
of giving the human form the universality of the geometrical type. If you reflect on this, you will see what a debt was
owed and what problems were faced by a young artist like Sophocles Christou.
He could have been seduced by the Idealism, for example, of Parthenis, by the Academicism of Georgiadis the Cretan,
by the colors of the painting of Papaloukas, or by the specific in the abstract and the geometrical abstraction of
Moralis.
And yet, as a genuine and individual artist, he succeeded in avoiding the pressures from his teachers and in following
his own purely personal path. And what has that path of Sophocles Christou been, as we see him from his first efforts
down to the works which you see in this room? Think first of all about his subject-matter.
The art of Sophocles Christou is an art which is interested in and succeeds in translating what is common into purely
poetic values. It is a specific art.
Works from everyday life, alleyways, little ships, boats, ancient ruins and contemporary architectural features,
everything which is to be found in what we call urban landscape and natural space - these are his interests.
He is, that is to say, an artist who takes visual reality as his starting-point. He is an artist who is interested in,
more than anything else,providing an inner contact with things and,from this point of view, he succeeds in transcending
things.

But over and beyond his subject-matter (and we shall see how he transcends it), let us look at what his
composition is. His composition in the works which you see is a composition always with a strictly organized balance of
levels, and even more of forms. You will be able to see in the works here how, when each of the subjects predominates,
the horizontals are developed, or when the space is active, there are successive levels and there is a whole series of
such features which show us a truly remarkable artist in the form of composition. But what is his stylistic vocabulary?
What is the style of the artist? It is a style which transcends or goes beyond the familiar trends.
It is neither realistic, nor impressionistic, nor formalistic, nor expressionistic, nor cubist.
It is something much more. It is a style which interests itself in a poetic translation of visual reality.
The artist does not confine himself in a subject like the Parthenon or a landscape with a few boats to a more cataloguing
of actuality.
He is interested, and succeeds in, conveying something of its inner character, something of its spiritual content.
From this point of view, the artist succeeds in going much further, and he succeeds in going much further because
he restricts himself to non-color, to black and white.
Black and white are non-colors.
And yet, a sense of the aesthetic, simplicity, emphasis on the essential are what gives astonishing extrapolations to
some the works of Sophocles Christou. This is because, over and above anything else, this is an art truly not of external,
but of inner truth.
The artist is not interested in external accuracy, but in the inner fidelity of the forms which he gives us, in what
we would call the 'psychology' of the landscape, in what we would call the spirituality of natural space, in what
we would call the very basis of forms.

There can be no doubt that, effectively, we have here an artist who combines vernacular and learned features purely
individual manner. His organization is always so carefully studied that it often gives the feeling that it comes from
the primeval origins of the soul of the people itself.
On the other hand, it is 'learned', because in circumstances does he depart from what one would call the inner potential
for expression of the features which he gives us.
This is an art which is distinguished by its spontaneity, its immediacy, and its truth of expression.