Alekos Fassianos: the Picasso of Greece

January 16, 2022 was a dark day of mourning for the Greek art world as it said the last goodbye to one of the most famous Greek artists, Alekos Fasianos. Fassianos died, at the age of 86, at his home after a long fight with his illness. Described by many to be the Picasso of Greece, Fassianos was widely lauded; many of his works decorate public spaces, including a mural at a subway station in Athens.



A. Fassianos. (1989). Athenian Panorama. Oil on Canvas.


Alekos Fassianos was born in Athens, on October 25 1935, next to the Church of the Holy Apostles. His grandfather, the parish priest, lived there with his entire family. His father was a composer and music teacher, while his mother was a teacher of ancient Greek. His grandfather’s influence was powerful in his upbringing, and Fassianos did not hesitate to mention it at every possible opportunity.


By the age of 17, he was painting on his own in search of answers to his unresolved pictorial questions. He witnessed the German occupation in all its horror. His uncle was executed by the Germans for writing statements of resistance on the walls of Athens. So, in 1945, at the onset of the Greek Civil War, he began to paint. He was born an artist. He studied violin at the Athens Conservatory for twelve years and painting, at the Athens School of Fine Arts, from 1955 to 1960. There he met musicians, such as Yiannis Markopoulos, Mikis Theodorakis, and Dora Bakopoulos, who would play an important role in his life.


While still a student, he had his first exhibition at the Galerie 3+2 in Paris with Stamatis Stamatopoulos and Pantelis Xagoraris. Shortly after his first exhibition, he gained a scholarship from the French Government and moved from Athens to Paris to study lithography in professor Clairin’s studio. He remained in Paris for the next 35 years. During his stay, he became the close friend of fellow painter, Vassilis Sperantzas. He also got acquainted with poets and writers, such as Jacques Lacarrière, Yves Navarre, and painter René Laubiès, who would actively support his work during his stay in France. However, during his stay in France, he held a very close and regular connection with his homeland.




A. Fassianos. (2003). Sun Disk. Oil on Canvas.


The features of his art were slowly formed during his stay in Paris. There he had the chance to get familiarized with the modern trends of the 1960s. Yet, unlike other Greek artists of his generation, he remained faithful to documentary painting and its Greek origins. In Fassianos' work, someone can identify his love for Greek art, from the ancient times to the Byzantine Hagiographies.


His subjects prevail over the human figure. At first, it is attributed with a deliberate simplicity, but over time evolves and acquires a dominant presence in the artistic space. It is designed stylized, with simple and clear contours, in flat compositions with minimal light shading. Often the colour spreads intensely and uniformly throughout the surface of the form, giving an impressive monumentality to the work, which operates mainly poetically and not realistically. The motives, that occasionally appear in his paintings, can be either anthropocentric, for instance smokers and couples, or objects and places coming from everyday life. However, those motives give a mythical dimension to his works, especially when there are direct references to figures of Greek mythology.



A. Fassianos estate. (1963) A. Fassianos.


After completing his studies in 1963, he returned to Athens where he reunited with friends who were engaged in the Greek art world. Along with the architect and painters Antonis Kepetzis, Nikos Stefanou, and Vassilis Sperantzas, they rented a studio in Kallithea owned by the National Gallery; here the group created a lively workshop, the famous Kallithea studio. Fassianos, himself, stated that, “There we matured as painters full of inspiration and enthusiasm, for a cause that was rooted in reality. At this studio, many friends who were poets, painters, artists, and wanderers visited us. Tactics, Tsarouchis, Embirikos, Vakalo, Sinopoulos, Karouzos, Analis, and many others came around often. So their moral support and advice gave us a lot of courage. When you’re starting, you need encouragement because you feel some uncertainty about what you’ve created…. With Sperantzas, we stayed on the top floor while Stefanou was on the ground floor…. It was there in the house in Kallithea that I drew a smoking cyclist for the first time. Suddenly one day, as I stood at the window and stared at the sky, I was inspired, as if visited by the Holy Spirit, to make a cyclist with a cigar and smoke and his hair blowing in the wind...When I painted the bicyclists, the room filled up with smoke. Then I made another, blue, and then a red one. By now, I have painted many such riders for bicycle races.”


Despite his memorable paintings, Fassianos was also involved in other artistic activities. He has illustrated books by well-known poets and authors in Greece and France. He has also designed posters, stamps, and costumes. As a set and costume designer, he collaborated with the National Theatre of Greece, the Art Theatre of Karolos Koun, and other troupes. Four films have been made about his life and work, while several monographs are being released. In 1999, Alekos Fassianos was awarded by the Academy of Athens, and in 2010 he was honoured by the French government with the Order of Legion d'Honneur. He has presented his work in more than 70 solo exhibitions in Greece and in many European cities. His last retrospective exhibition, at the National Gallery (2004), was titled 'Fassianos, Mythologies of the Daily'.


References:


Alekos Fassianos. https://www.alekosfassianos.gr/en/timeline/a-studio-is-born-in-kallithea/


Made for Minds. (17, January 2022). Greek artist Alekos Fassianos dies at 86. https://www.dw.com/en/greek-artist-alekos-fassianos-dies-at-86/a-60443098


Naftemporiki. (17, January 2022). Πέθανε ο Αλέκος Φασιανός. https://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1822006/pethane-o-alekos-fasianos


Image References:


A. Fassianos. (2003). Sun Disk. Oil on Canvas. https://www.alekosfassianos.gr/en/project-category/paintings/


A. Fassianos. (1989). Athenian Panorama. Oil on Canvas. https://www.alekosfassianos.gr/en/project-category/paintings/


Alekos Fassianos Estate. (1963). A. Fassianos. https://www.alekosfassianos.gr/en/timeline/scholarship-from-the-french-governmen



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Anna-Aikaterini Bati

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