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The Ambivalence of Memory

Kostas Paniaras
The Ambivalence of Memory
May 19, 2018 - September 30, 2018

Archaeological Museum of Poros
Korizi Square
18020 Poros Island

(+30) 697 9989 684

Opening Hours
12.00-14.00 &19.00-23.00

About the artist

1934 - 2014. Kostas Paniaras was born in 1934 in Kiato, Korinthia. After taking his first painting lessons with Theodoros Lekos (Errikos), he studied at the Athens School of Fine Arts under Yannis Moralis, taking, at the same time, lessons with Eleni Zongolopoulou. His first solo exhibition was presented in 1956 in Athens (Monica Pane gallery). Then he left for Paris, where he studied painting at the studio of André Lhote, mosaic and fresco at the studio of Gino Severini and lithography at the École des Beaux Arts. Until 1976, he stayed in Paris with visits to the U.S.A., Iran and the Far East. He presented his works—paintings, sculptures, constructions and installations—in many solo and group exhibitions in Greece and abroad. From 1961 to 1983, he cooperated with the Alexander Iolas Gallery in New York. Retrospective exhibitions of his work have been presented at the Pieridis Art Gallery (1984) and the Benakis Museum (‘Landscapes and Utopia’, 2007). He died in Athens in 2014.

About the exhibition

The theme of this year’s exhibition evokes the inherent identity of a museum, which by definition is the space where memory is preserved and highlighted.

The Archaeological Museum features a group of works overpainted by the artist Kostas Paniaras. These works serve as his personal comments on the museum’s exhibits. The ‘Ambivalence’ of his memory shows through, affirming and treating the ambiguity of history.

As a Greek artist, Kostas Paniaras strives to deal with a prodigiously large cultural heritage, the burden of a long past. His works have as their starting-point the often abused plaster copies of symbols of antiquity; yet he also begins with authentic museum exhibits. He indiscriminately insinuates himself in all of these: he overpaints them, bisects them, multiplies them. He renders clear, discernible, and recognizable the theme of historical memory and its consequences.

The works by Kostas Paniaras have been selected first on the basis of their ‘archaeological interest’. At the same time however the selection focusses on the treatment of memory — collective and personal — which also often turns tyrannical. The artist’s ‘Ambivalence of Memory’ is reflected in the ‘representations’ of select symbols in which he sometimes multiplies the copies (‘The Memory of Night’, 1984), and sometimes bisects them (‘Day and Night’, 1984). He thus expresses the desire for proud national continuity but also the need to be freed from from the dead weight of history.

The relationship and dialogue of Kostas Paniaras with the ancient world have characterized his work for many decades. They surface unexpectedly; for instance, the ‘Package for an Unknown Recipient’, a parcel box with a red interior, contains a copy of the head of Hygieia. This work, one of the artist’s last before his death in 2014, suggests the nature of his own questions.

What is more, especially in his recent works he presents the contemporary debates about the uniqueness and incommensurability of a work of art: the question of how images of the most famous, unique, and invaluable works in museums — the landmarks of world heritage — change over time and are conveyed. Thus, the three-part section ‘Aphrodite’ (2012-14) can be assigned to three different sources. ‘Aphrodite III’ starts off from an overpainted, mass copy in sculpted form of Venus rising out of the sea from Botticcelli’s well known Renaissance painting, with its allusions to ancient Greek mythology. The subsequent anonymous maker of the mass object not only copies the original in an arbitrary way, he also changes its identity, turning a painting into a sculpture. In his second Aphrodite, ‘Aphrodite I’, Paniaras has ‘severed’ the head and part of the body; the work has Aphrodite of Melos as its starting-point. A third Aphrodite, ‘Aphrodite II’, takes its cue from Aphrodite of Rhodes, a late Greek adaptation of the famous Crouching Venus of the 3rd century BC. The world famous head of Alexander the Great is represented as an item of food in a deep blue dish — a classic Greek symbol that has changed, having been wounded and worn by time, use and abuse.

As an international Greek artist, Kostas Paniaras searches for the global message of Greece’s cultural legacy. At the same time he strives for a new, private definition, an individual approach to the reality of Greek history. This search is visible and detectable in the works now displayed in the Archaeological Museum.