Nikos EngonopoulosWITH THE COLOURS OF THE WORD AND THE WORD OF COLOURS25 June – 1 October 2017

For the summer of 2017, the Museum of Contemporary Art of the Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation is preparing a tribute to the distinguished poet and painter Nikos Engonopoulos.

Nikos Engonopoulos lived by Horace’s maxim Ut pictura poesis: “as is painting so is poetry” or, more freely translated: “Painting and poetry must be based on the same principle”. He was a painter, a poet, he was also a professor at the National Technical University. Three inter-related paths – the term career is unfitting in this case – for a single man, who followed them unceasingly and tirelessly for almost fifty years. Three areas of activity separated to some extent which, however, enriched one another thanks to a prevailing common denominator: Engonopoulos’ immense, diverse and insatiable - over time – broad and wide-ranging education.

The aim of this dedicated exhibition is to highlight this manifold activity and the undisputed talent he demonstrated in everything he became involved. In a museum setting of course, the facet of the painter inevitably prevails without however overshadowing the side of the poet and the professor. There is so much one can say about the role of the painter alone... The painter who is as afraid of the black hole as the writer is of the blank page, as he described very well himself:
The painter handles colours and brushes, oil, white spirit and others. But he knows that behind the canvas there is a terrible, deep black hole. He moves the canvas aside, with the boldness of a dream, and leaning into the dark abyss he sees far, far away, near the bottom, something glowing faintly. At the same time -silently- black birds, winged fish and ghosts are flying. He comes back to the light. Between him and the canvas is now a beast. But still he is not afraid”.
Who could have expressed better the agonies of the poet if not the painter himself?

The exhibition is structured around 7 interconnected, thematic units:

  •      The first is made up by both religious and non-religious paintings, influenced by Byzantine painting, focusing particularly on the technique of egg tempera on wood.
  •      The second unit relates to historical heroes and the artistic architypes that influenced Engonopoulos and to which he dedicated one or more compositions.
  •      The third unit is dominated by the female form, the unequivocally recognisable as being created by Engonopoulos’ hand woman, who is also so unattainable, so enigmatic, that she runs through the entirety of her creator’s work without revealing her secrets.
  •      Greek mythology is the subject of the fourth unit which, like its heroes and archetypes, offers viewers the opportunity to appreciate both the breadth of the painter’s knowledge and their own cultural heritage.
  •      Fifth unit, the couple, the entity with the two heads so loved by Engonopoulos that it was the basis of numerous and important compositions.
  •      The sixth part focuses on the artist’s interest in architecture and his ability to depict the charm of numerous buildings through the gaze of a painter with knowledge of the details of perspective.
  •      The last unit presents his activity as costume designer for the theatre.

Every unit is accompanied by well-referenced texts, written by people with a deep knowledge of Engonopoulos’ work which are included in the 290-page, bilingual accompanying catalogue which also contains reproductions of the 110 works, published by Mikri Arktos.

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