Internationally-acclaimed Cypriot art pioneer Stass Paraskos has died.
“The Cyprus College of Art and Cornaro Institute are sorry to announce the death of the celebrated Cypriot artist Stass Paraskos. He died at his home in Paphos yesterday afternoon, aged 81,” an announcement said.
A state funeral for Paraskos is due to take place on Saturday.
An Education Ministry statement expressing the state’s “deep sadness” over Paraskos’ death was among the many tributes issued by political parties and other organisations yesterday.
Paraskos had humble beginnings. The son of a shepherd, he was born in Anaphotia, a village near Larnaca in 1933, moving to the UK in 1953, and becoming a cook at his brother’s restaurant in Leeds.
Local art students encouraged Paraskos to enrol for classes at Leeds College of Art (later Leeds Metropolitan University).
After a move to St Ives, Cornwall in 1959, Paraskos returned to Leeds in 1961 and began teaching at the college.
Paraskos also taught at Leicester Polytechnic before joining the faculty at Canterbury College of Art (later Kent Institute of Art & Design,) before returning to his homeland to run the Cyprus College of Art which he founded in 1969.
In 1966 Paraskos was involved in a notorious British court case in which it was alleged he displayed paintings that were ‘lewd and obscene’, in contravention of the outdated 1838 Vagrancy Act.
Despite luminaries of the art world speaking in Paraskos’ defence and messages of support from Britain’s Home Secretary Roy Jenkins, Paraskos lost the trial and was fined five pounds.
Out of this, Paraskos was invited in 1967 to take part in a group exhibition, Fantasy and Figuration, alongside Pat Douthwaite, Herbert Kitchen and Ian Dury at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. Paraskos’ style of painting has been described as figurative but non-naturalistic.
He was known for his use of bright colours to describe scenes which often seem rooted in his childhood in Cyprus and was also influenced by the Byzantine church art of Cyprus, and modern masters such as Paul Gauguin and Henri Matisse.
Paraskos is the only artist born in Cyprus to have works in Britain’s Tate Gallery and his pieces can also be found in the State Collections of Cyprus, the National Gallery of Greece, the Collection of the Arts Council of England, Leeds University Art Collection, and Leeds City Art Gallery.
In 2005 he was awarded the Cyprus state’s highest award of excellence in recognition of his contribution to the arts and in 2008 Paraskos received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Bolton for his services to art and art education. (Photo © Cyprus College of Art)