After a group of local artists used the Ottoman Baths in Kato Paphos to mark the end of 2012, a date that had been widely communicated through mythology and in the literature of fantasy and science fiction as the end of the world, the local art scene began to give fruit to countless artistic ventures throughout 2013.
This feature by no means attempts to present all the important cultural endeavours of the local cultural scene of the year but to give an indication of some highlights.
An attempt to review this year’s cultural events could begin with the “anThrOPOS: Faces of Cyprus through the centuries” exhibition organised by the Department of Antiquities which sought to probe what ancient Cypriots looked like from the Neolithic age to the Roman Empire and how their image meets our own nowadays.
As an on-going retrospective exhibition at the Cyprus Museum in Nicosia, it accentuated different versions of the Cypriot human figure throughout the ages and was taken to a new dimension when secondary and tertiary education students from across the island attempted to replicate the exhibit through their photographic lens.
The Evagoras Lanitis Centre in Limassol sought to present, to young and old, the works of a man who requires few introductions given the breadth and magnitude of what he achieved in his lifetime: Leonardo Da Vinci.
The exhibit aspired to offer the closest modern day representation of the Renaissance Master possible. The interactive ‘Da Vinci Machines – An Exhibition of a Genius’ exhibition was a unique opportunity to learn more about the life and achievements of a man who lived more than 500 years ago through more than 60 models based on original drawings of Leonardo Da Vinci, as described in full detail in his ‘coded’ books.
But there were other masterpieces being mounted in cultural centres around the island.
The return home of a work of art sold initially for its protection when Cyprus was going through turbulent times after the 1974 invasion prompted a message of courage and a sense of strength to Cyprus today, in the midst of the crisis, with the ‘constant, firm and timeless values of its world’, as portrayed by Adamantios Diamantis in his monumental piece entitled ‘The World of Cyprus’.
Permanently exhibited at the Leventis Municipal Museum in Nicosia, the 17 metre painting made up of 11 canvases, attempts to serve an idea, to give shape to the spirit of an age and a particular world which can easily be related to current times.
Although for very different reasons which we acknowledge today, the composition of 67 symbolic figures set in a background of various parts of the island, sets a tone to transcend a notion of a population that was enduring an invasion.
Local artists Nicolas Iordanou and Sylvia Nicolaides were also spreading the word on the need to ‘sustain’ Cypriot art forms.
In a documentary they produced called Cementography, they chronicled the work of Costas Economou to throw some light on this little-known multiphase art form that was introduced to Cyprus in the 1960s which experiments with various materials and carries an undeniable Cypriot identity.
Another duo – two amateur local photographers, journeyed to the less frequented areas of the island which led to a touring exhibition and a publication showcasing its beauty both on land and underwater, now available at both Paphos and Larnaca International Airports.
Showcasing the island’s flora and fauna is a well-travelled road, as it has been captured innumerable times by both amateurs and professionals.
The recent financial turbulence has also prompted more people to portray Cyprus as an ideal destination through the photographic lens as a boost for tourism. But these images were unlike any you have seen of Cyprus in the past.
The journey by Nikolas Michael and George Pantazis began years before the financial crisis engulfed the island or the need to pay attention to local realms emerged. Cypriot by birth, the duo were initially approached by Cyprus Ambassador to Germany, Minas Hadjimichael, who envisioned showcasing Cyprus in Germany, in towns such as Munich, Cologne and Berlin.
And they were not alone. The mere need to show the public what 13 photographers had been shooting for the past seven years is what gave fruit to a photography exhibition that was on show in Limassol, Paphos and Nicosia.
Entitled “Cyprus Through Our Lens”, the exhibition depicted a journey through the island’s eternal beauty through the lens of these photographers.
People, landscapes, nature and local customs were the elements captured; images the group claimed illustrated the passion and unique perspective of each and every one of them.
From a different perspective this time, Thomas Sagory, a French archaeologist and kite aerial photographer exhibited his photos of Cyprus taken from his remote controlled kite.
Since 2007, Sagory has visited the island three or four times a year on behalf of the Antiquities Department or with foreign archaeological missions, going from one site to another to register, record and catch views from above so as to offer a unique view of the island.
There were also moments when pioneers of specific local artistic endeavours were celebrated.
Such an event was Valentinos Charalambous’ exhibit at the Evagoras and Lanitis Foundation in Limassol, a celebration dedicated to his ceramics over the last sixty years, under the title “Valentinos - Pottery, Old and Recent Creations”.
The large scale exhibition which was organised in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Culture, aspired to assemble Valentino’s work, both old and new, in one place, something which had not been done before, something quite daunting considering the scope of Valentino’s work.
But there were also moments of pure silence, when two of Cyprus’ acclaimed artists passed away during the course of the year.
The art world and its followers mourned the death of Ioannis Antoniou in September, a man whose life was deeply intertwined with his work and whose contribution to the cultivation of critical awareness about contemporary art in the local art scene will remain invaluable.
Born in Famagusta in 1955 he was educated in France, at the Ecole des Arts Decoratifs in Strasbourg.
Along with artist Chara Metaxa and Gallery Morfi in Limassol, Ioannis founded the Diaspro Art Centre in Nicosia where he exhibited his work in the eighties (1986 – 1989) while he also participated in a number of group exhibitions in Cyprus, Greece, Italy and the UK and won a prize for his work in ceramics at the Baghdad Biennale in 1989.
His work as a whole bore marks of influences from new realism, pop art and particularly arte provera, a modern art movement established in the late sixties when artists began attacking the values of established institutions of government, industry and culture.
An Influential personality of the artistic life of Cyprus Yiorgos Erotokritou left life abruptly in August, at the age of 65.
Born in 1948 in Lambousa, a village near Kyrenia now under Turkish occupation, Erotokritos’ work was marked by a most powerful and unique feature which he conveyed into almost all of his works of art; that of an impressive and intense indigo colour.
His lines carried Cypriot tradition, his figures were modelled through history with elements of religion and mythology and symbols taken from throughout the centuries.
On a lighter note and much celebrated, local trio Monsieur Doumani’s debut album released in May was reviewed by The Guardian in July, giving a sense of pride to the trio who have been working on this act for the last year and a half.
Soon after the trio released ‘Grippy Grappa’, the group sent copies of their debut album across the worl, to various media in hope their music would catch the ears of critics.
Aside from Robin Denselow’s (The Guardian) review, Monsieur Doumani have been picked up by other established music reviews/magazines such as fROOTs in the UK and Les inRocks in France.
There were also artistic ventures which were rewarded and await to be materialised.
Responding to an architectural/ artistic competition call by the Ministry of Defence earlier this summer, architect Zenon Sherepeklis and fine artist Melina Shoukouroglou teamed up with a handful of architecture graduates from the University of Nicosia to put forward a proposal for a national monument to commemorate the Mari Naval Base explosion off July 11, 2011.
Dealing with such a delicate issue, it would have been a daunting project for anyone to take a stance on.
But looking at the outcome of the project, it’s evident that Sherepeklis’ approach, combined with Shoukouroglou’s artistic sensitivity, purely attests to the profound loss that the explosion left behind.