Summer and Oleander

OLEANDER

Azure, cobalt, cerulean. Ochre of the earth and of limestone, a fragment of white marble blinking ferociously into the sunlight. Long shadows, jagged cliffs. Olive green and pale rose. One more week of August, but Summer still reigns in glorious Cyprus colour palettes. There is still time to take off, be a culture vulture or a beach bum. And on every adventure, out of the corner of the eye, an oleander: white, garnet, peach or pink, the quintessential flower of Cyprus. Unwilting in heatwaves, and forgiving of negligence. Anthropomorphised as heroine in distress, and sung of in medieval ballads. Deceivingly fresh looking, and treacherously toxic. Rosebay or Rhododaphne in greek, Arodaphne in the local dialect. Nerium Oleander, the laurel-rose of the ancients.

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Charmed lives in Greece

VERYDEARNICO
Personal letters, photos, objects, drawings and paintings at the exhibit “Ghika, Craxton, Leigh Fermor: Charmed lives in Greece”

A small but fascinating exhibition is currently on at the Benaki Museum, in Athens, of the kind that really should happen more often. “Ghika, Craxton, Leigh Fermor: Charmed lives in Greece” explores the friendship and shared love of Greece and everything greek, of three important creative figures in the post-war years, spanning over half a century, during time spent on Hydra, Corfu, Crete and in Kardamyli, Mani, between the Greek painter Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghika and his British friends Patrick Leigh Fermor and John Craxton.

Ghika first met writer Patrick Leigh Fermor and painter John Craxton in London in 1945. Leigh Fermor, or Paddy to his friends, was already at home in Greece. Also known as “The Man who Walked” – for having walked through much of Europe at age 18, in the ’30s – he had ended up spending a long sojourn in Greece, to which he returned as a Para major in World War II. A public school drop-out, a peripatetic polyglot, a back-packer before it was even a notion, and a war hero on Crete, where he masterminded and executed the kidnapping of the German commander, his writings on Greece show an astonishing understanding of the place and people, and a willingness to explain them to the world that is both illuminating and unapologetic.

Soon he would cross paths with many of Athens’ intellectuals, both the locals as well as their Anglo-American associates: Durrell, Seferis,Henry Miller, George Katsimbalis (the Colossus of Maroussi), Steven Runciman to name but the most prominent. In a way, it was through this circle that Greece was able to re-imagine itself in the post-war years. The Saronic isle of Hydra played a key role, as the ancestral home of Ghika and a dazzling hotspot for local and foreign intellectuals. Paddy called it a source of joy, and used his friend’s house as a refuge for a couple of years while writing his tome on Mani.

Ghika has been called a cubist, but I have always thought his work only became cubist because his island was. There is a lot of light in his work, and a delicate atmosphere. I suppose what he shares with other cubists is the way he creates a visual vocabulary. There is lore there, but without the folkiness. Craxton shared a similar sensitivity, and the interplay between the two painters is evident.

Later Leigh Fermor created his own private paradise in Kardamyli, Mani, a place I visited while he was still alive, though I did not catch a glimpse of him. Ghika was so enchanted by the place that he would paint landscapes there, and also provided some of the art that decorates the house that Paddy and wife Joan built together. John Craxton was Joan’s close friend, and when he visited he instantly fell in love with Greece. Craxton also followed this pattern of first using Ghika’s Hydra house as a haven until the time he discovered his own slice of heaven, in Hania, Crete. Their 50-year friendship proved enduring and creative. Shared by family, friends and guests from abroad these houses were idylls, and individual private universes, and arenas for the meeting of minds. When the family property on Hydra was destroyed by fire, Ghika transformed an old olive press into a home, in Sinies, Corfu to enjoy with his friends.

BOOKS
My dog-eared PLF travel book collection, cover art by Craxton

 

The exhibition was funded by the Leventis Gallery here in Nicosia, where I saw it. It is currently on at the Benaki Museum in Athens, and I believe will be in London this fall. Well worth a visit.

Until 10.09.2017

http://www.benaki.gr/index.php?option=com_events&view=event&id=5172&type=1&Itemid=163&lang=el

 

 

 

School project: recycled materials

HORSES1

Ages 17-18 (Third year of Lyceum)

Sping has been super busy -as usual- full of projects, paperwork as well as the Easter break. Catching up just as it is about to expire, here is one of the things that has kept us busy: a project we had been working with in my class of seniors (17-18 yrs).

Our piece began as an attempt to cut down costs: we couldn’t afford supplies, but wanted something large and three-dimensional. Using recycled materials isn’t just better for the earth, it’s cheap, and the materials are readily available.

Drawing from previous experience, we came up with the idea of creating animals out of plastic bottles and papier mache. We were given the subject “Bridging Cultures”,  for which horses and their relationship to humankind seemed the obvious leap (no pun intended). Gradually we thought of a board to anchor the pieces to, so the idea of a modified chessboard came about, with horses form Art History painted in the squares. We kept the pieces to a minimum, with a castle (or rook), a pawn and a queen.

HORSES2

The art history influences were: cave paintings, pottery from the Archaic period in Cyprus and Greece, the Parthenon Marbles, Byzantine icons, Nordic carvings and Degas! The model for our Rook (formerly a large juice container) was Kolossi and other Cyprus castles. Our Queen was inspired by various paintings, and was meant to allude to any one of the queens of Cyprus, actual or legendary.

Plastic parts were put together with duct tape. Recycled printer paper was glued in strips to create volume, magazine paper and tissue paper for more delicate work. Tissue paper is excellent for creating a “skin” on top of the finished horses. The painting was done in acrylics, our only luxury!

QUEENIES

 

Learning Curves

kelefos

There’s a first time for everything. This is my first illustration on a iPad using a stylus. My latest toy is Pencil by 53, and it’s fabulous! Still have a lot to learn, but that’s how I like it! I made this in Adobe Draw and Pencil works great in it. I am a little aghast that it took me this long to discover how much I love this stuff, but hopefully I’ll make up for it in due course.

It’s also the first “selfie” I’ve posted, inspired by a recent visit to this splendid Venetian bridge in the middle of cypriot nowhere. Kelefos Bridge is near the village of Ayios Nikolaos, technically in the Paphos district, but actually in a tight corner between Nicosia, Paphos and Limassol, on the south side of the Troodos mountains. Hidden in thick woods of pines and great big plane trees, this is one of many stone Venetian bridges built in the 1600’s. There’s a trail you can walk, all the way up to Kykkos (17 km but otherwise easy going, from what I’m told) that links at least three of these stone wonders. Known as the Venetian Bridges Nature Trail, you can read about it here  http://www.visitpafos.org.cy/enetika_gefyria_trail.aspx

moleskinebridge

This second sketch is from a previous visit to the same spot, with my Djembe teacher, Annika – https://web.facebook.com/Drum4Joy/ – and a group of friends and their percussive instruments, just over a year ago, back in the day of watercolours and ordinary pencils! Which one do you like?

In Ayia Napa

Where all the people go / Just to feel the flow
A secret paradise, paradise, girls are nice / A perfect hideaway on a sunny day
Come with us and set your mind at ease  / 
Ayia Napa
Can you feel the sun shining down / Da, da, da, da, da in Ayia Napa

-Lonyo

ayianapa

Most people have heard of Ayia Napa, the party-central destination of Cyprus, in the context of its white sand beaches and non-stop clubbing. It took a Medieval Festival and a visit by a dear old friend to inspire me to look at it in a different light.

Hidden in plain sight, bang in the middle of the busy square, surrounded by restaurants and bars, is one of the most tranquil and picturesque medieval monuments in Cyprus: Ayia Napa Monastery, founded in the 12th century, by turns (and in no particular order) a Catholic nunnery, an Orthodox parish church, a farm house, a flour mill and a theological conference centre.

Yellow limestone, native plants, gargoyles and fountains, gorgeous renaissance windows, nooks and crannies and a cave with a fount of holy water, are only some of its charms. I wanted to incorporate the beautiful rose window carved in the stone facade of the church, so I added it to the sky. In its cloisters, it is possible to feel transported to another time. {I edited out some modern additions.} My beautiful friend, harpist Diana Rowan, completes the fairy tale!

stonerose

Camino

santg

Praza Cervantes, Santiago de Compostella, 13 July

Three months ago, I reached Santiago de Compostella. I had been there before, but this was the first time as a pilgrim. Under the beautiful honey-gold sandstone arcade around Cervantes Square, I sat watching pilgrims come and go, enjoying my celebratory Estrella Galicia  – this sketch is the fruit of that labour.

While walking the Camino, I barely drew anything, though I took hundreds of photos. Twenty to twenty seven km days really take a lot out of you! Next time I’ll know to pace myself better. Galicia is so beautiful; fairy-tale gorgeous, even! I like to think I internalised some of that beauty, and truth be told I made a lot of sketches after that, throughout the summer. Just one of the many ways the Camino keeps on giving forth its gifts. I can’t wait to go back there…

1916

1916

Ochre, dark green and sky blue, the palette of Nicosia streets. As I mentioned in my first post, I’m something of a “door-collector”. I’ve been posting photographs of doors on my other instagram account https://www.instagram.com/aka.anna.kay/
for a while now. Here’s one I created in Illustrator, inspired by a favourite door from 1916, in the neighbourhood of Kaimakli. (I love working in Adobe Illustrator, as you may have noticed.)

People ask why doors. Besides being absolutely gorgeous, the simple answer is they are ready-made compositions. Colour, symmetry, texture and contrast are all there, waiting for the eye of the beholder. They are concise tableaux, given context by time and history.