NICOSIA - The state of the art Leventis Gallery in the heart of the capital officially opens its doors on Tuesday, giving an opportunity for visitors to get aquatinted with a tribute to European art.
Divided into three sections, the gallery features paintings from the Paris collection of European masters, Monet, El Greco and Chagall (photo), while on a different floor, the Greek collection features names such as Constantinos Volanakis.
Closer to home however, the Cyprus collection gives the opportunity to come across the first, very important steps of modern and contemporary Cypriot art.
Having the opportunity to listen to the curator of the Cyprus collection, Eleni Nikita, narrate the works and artists at hand, it is perhaps one of the first times the public will have the opportunity to appreciate the history of Cyprus art, from the works of first generation artists themselves.
“These first generation artists featured important work after 1960, after the republic of Cyprus was founded and so our relationship and our contact with these artists is important because they constitute a huge chapter in the art of the 20th century,” said Nikita.
Revolving around Adamantios Diamantis’ 17 metre painting entitled “The World of Cyprus” a tribute to Dimantis’ interest in portraying the traditional peoples of Cyprus, their values and way of life, the collection begins with a work of Kasialos.
“Although he was a naïve artist and began creating quite late in 1960, at the age of 75, he (Kasialos) is an important figure in the artistic life of the 1960s until 1974,” said Nikita.
Considered as a link between past and present “his work was specifically supported by spiritual people of his era and the state because it was considered at the time that he essentially continued our popular, folk art”.
“Kasialos brings, memories from our popular and Byzantine art, to the present,” said Nikita. “Cypriot contemporary art begins at the beginning of the 20th century due to the fact that before the 20th century, the only artistic expression existent on the island is Byzantine and folk art.”
Kissonergis stands next to Kasialos, the first Cyprus artist to have graduated from the Fine Art School of Athens but also the first to use aquarelle and manages to get away from the academic climate he derived from.
Always revolving around Diamantis’ work which portrays the Cypriot character and spirit of a certain era, Kanthos’ work depicts a scene from the woman’s bazaar, an open air market which used to take place in the centre of Nicosia.
Depicting more of the character of the Cyprus ‘landscape’ are works by self-taught artist Georgiou which as Nikita describes, could be considered as “contemporary icons”.
Aside Lefteris Economou, and others stands the only work by Cypriot female artist Loukia Nicolaidou, the first Cypriot woman to study art in Paris from 1929 – 1933.
“She is influenced by the pioneers of the beginning of the century,” said Nikita.
“Loukia returned to Cyprus in 1933 under the social values which determine the role of women at the time, and is inevitably forced to spend most of her time in private spaces; at home or in friend’s homes.”
The painting in question depicts the figures of two women, representing Loukia’s necessity to paint scenes from private spaces and especially women.
Micahlis Michalelides’ work purveys two important problems of the 1950s, that of the mass migration of men, and the internal migration of peoples after the economic crisis of the 50s.
Last but not least, two paintings by Christoforos Savvas are emblematic of his work and depict his influence by cubism and an abstract piece which attempts to depict the new orientation Savvas bought to the Cypriot art scene.