I think it was Picasso who said, “being an artist isn’t a job, it’s a life work”. That thought went around my mind as I talked to Greek and American artists Stavros Lambrakis and Kara Suhey last night, as Sandra and I walked around their exhibition in old Lefkosia.
The area of the old city, close to the Green Line [the ceasefire line drawn by the UN in 1974] is popular with students away from the buzz and commercialism of Ledra Street. It is full of old Levantine, semi-derelict buildings with their sagging balconies, peeling stucco and shutters hanging at crazy angles. One of the old shops close to Faneromeni church is regularly used as a gallery space and it is here we viewed their latest exhibition.
It always seems to me that if you want to find an interesting area that will one day become the most fashionable place in town, you need to see where the artists are. West Berlin, Greenwich Village in New York and Haringey in London are but a few examples. Old Lefkosia, near to the cease-fire zone [around the corner from the Checkpoint Charlie café] is another.
We met Stavros because Sandra and I needed to hire a car for a few days and like many things in Cyprus, you find the best deals through your cousins. My cousin Ritsa’s husband Athos’s sister’s, husband’s uncle, runs a car hire company and talking to the younger son of the business Sophocles, were told that his older brother Stavros was a poet and artists. We met him in the car hire office and over the paperwork, said we would love to see his latest exhibition.
Inspired by the research of Japanese scientist Dr. Masaru Emoto. Stavros and his partner Kara work together to create canvases that bring light and joy to the world. Swirling gas clouds and distant galaxies are translated into colourful abstract pieces. Using acrylic paints they soak their canvases with water and using both brushes and their fingers move the colours towards and through each other.
Stavros talked about the conservatism of the art buying public that doesn’t trust its emotional response to a canvas and are afraid to say they like something, because it speaks to them. He said, “people like to say, “I like that tree””, because they can see what it is. People don’t want to appear foolish about what they like, in case someone derides them.
He is a striking figure, tall and slim with a long beard and curly hair, tied behind. Kara balances him with her dark good looks and quieter nature. They are passionate about what they do. They met in Barcelona and plan to travel to Italy where they plan to carry on painting and exhibiting their work.
Stavros is working with the family business for a short time and feeling the pressure of family and friends who have taken a more conventional course in their lives. By the age of 29, most Greek men have established a career, may well be married and have settled down to a routine life but both Sandra and I felt that they should follow the path their heart lead them.
In my work as an arts development professional, I have met and worked with many visual artists. To be an artist, you need a vision and belief that there is value in what you are doing but hardly anyone encourages you in your pursuit. I trained as a potter and my Father said “keep it as a hobby”. That’s normally as good as it gets. Kara and Stavros are going that extra mile and living their beliefs. Good. We need people who take the path less travelled. They are members of our tribe.
Check out their blog for more information about their exhibition: http://coyoteslikeme.blogspot.com/