Before Andreas Georgiadis, Greek painting had remained bound within the confines of the
. The Munich School Paris where Georgiadis studied on a scholarship essentially liberated him from the teachings of the School of Fine Arts in . Athens admitted the young Greek to her own humanist traditions and gave Georgiadis the gift of self-awareness. Yet he never became involved in the questioning of forms and movements which engaged so many painters during those times of change - times when the very foundations of geometry seemed to be shaken, when our vision of the world was challenged and overturned in an ongoing confusion of ideas, values and perspectives. France
Georgiadis appears to have reacted with indifference, if not actual aesthetic hostility, to these new perceptions, He believed - and often affirmed to his students at the School of Fine Arts - that 'art is meant to reveal, not conceal, what we see with our eyes',
He did not seek to unsettle the spectator with the shocking, the unexpected; he was not afraid of everyday visual habits - even amidst the turmoil of avant-garde experimentation. The form which matter assumes was, for him, a question of our own spiritual and mental depth. It was for us to see beyond the incidental phenomena of reality.
He responded to the radical changes in painting with his own individual solutions, seeking them within the obscure depths of the world of men and things. What had already been built, he built again from the beginning. In the material world he saw not distortions but gradual changes of shape, the ceaseless dynamic of colour and light, abstracting, transforming and expanding the energy · of shapes and structures.
Georgiadis' relationship with matter - or merely for matter - is a vivid, continuing flow, a movement from the spiritual state to its material embodiment and completion. It is to this perspective that we owe his technique, that of a painting which uses colour like a membrane, a skin stretched tight across the surface, but not concealing it, Light for Georgiadis was a an element which revealed, its purpose being to empty matter of its weight. His technique described as 'not quite modern' - remained isolated, alone since he deliberately kept it at an 'imperceptible' distance from the ordinariness of everyday life. He even saw beauty as relative. His intention was always to render the world in all its fullness, in other words in all its truth; he neither selected nor generalised. Instead he used colour, the vital warmth, the life-giving breath of his painting. And thereby circumvented the classical perception of the beautiful, which measures happiness in terms of serenity. Physical objects, like the human body, are beautiful or ugly, aesthetic or anti-aesthetic, only in our own minds. What interested Georgiadis was the truth.
To return, then, to his original personal work, from the compositions to the human figures and depictions of material things, the basic principle on which he works operates through colour, and also through his knowledge of how to structure large surfaces, This can be traced back to his experience as a very young man, working on large, flat wall surfaces with the decorators he worked for in Egypt. And memories too, perhaps, of the vanished Byzantine world he had once known in
Crete. We see this principle become practice in Georgiadis' i technique - the essence of his work, a technique of opposition of colour, shape and mood, where colour itself is the subject. It is colour which his eye fastens on first, before he is aware of the line which will outline the image. We can see this most typically in the work Urpinos, the judge with the red cloak,- in which the colour acts as a scaffolding supporting the picture as a whole. The red stain in the centre of the painting is the central and first principle from which the whole composition is derived. The red cloak entering our field of vision, at the first chromatic level, startles and immobilises us, We are taken aback by the artist's daring. The light is internal, its radiance is not concealed from our eyes. It could even stand alone as a study of colour in its own right. As a symbol and constituent of harmony, colour plays its central role right through the artist's oeuvre, from the Averofeio Competition to his long journey around the museums of Europe. It was there that he saw everything hitherto unknown to him - all the paths taken by the old masters, How these animated tones sprang from his palette, from natural ochre, earth red, burnt Sienna, zinc white and black, chromium green or English red - we shall never know. The underlying design of his works is the result of interrupted planes and volumes, revolving masses which either move or stand still, It is what he called pleine forme which assumes central significance, exerting and subjected to pressure from the centre, pushing out towards the edge that which is lacking from the material and which is required if the work is to function - the power of harmony. This technical approach, in which the lines disappear as they seem to merge into the combination of volumes, was his own form of flight, his own kind of abstraction, stretching out to the boundaries of visual sensation. It began in an attitude to life which gave voice to his ideas and allowed him to live or die in harmony with his own self. The texture of his work and the level of his aesthetic approach were what liberated him. Many believe that he held himself aloof from developments in the world of the visual arts, standing alone on the threshold of his own ceaseless reverie, a longing for an aesthetic depth of times gone by. Yet he did not bring to the surface whatever he saw in those depths. It was this which was to mislead and disappoint the public, but he himself found the justification for his painting in eliminating the superfluous from external phenomena - and this was not an achievement dependent on association with any school of painting. It was a process difficult for the human eye to follow, yet as timeless and vital as the truth of the natural elements themselves: liberation and abstraction were the two principles on which the essence of Georgiadis' work came to rest, For a period early in his career the two strands are seen in parallel; later, however, technique and painting merged together and became one flesh.
Perhaps the only exceptions to what we have said above are the works The Gathering and The Exodus. They both belong to different worlds: that above and that below. A new generation of men confronts an image of God - just saved from the flood in The Exodus, and following a total holocaust in The Gathering. These are men with no faith in what they see with their eyes, or what they hear with their ears.
In both his religious and aesthetic ideas he expresses a world without outline, a world adrift, where both heavenly and earthly happiness are unknown. In The Gathering and The Exodus we feel oppressed by the colour, almost overwhelmed; it seems above all to hold us captive. It is their very existence. But now, revelatory clashes of volume and plane are released, in a multidimensional complex of lines. Not- even now, however, has their time come. Yet of themselves they seem drawn to self-destruction, to their own nonexistence, Their place is to be taken by the axes of the composition, as the lines of the picture allow clear tendencies to emerge, directions with a beginning and an end. The subject gradually assumes its organisation in space, and the composition takes shape in its final breadth and height.
This is seen with absolute clarity in The Exodus, where the long, narrow shape of the canvas determines the vertical, upright axis of the composition. As if rising by steps to the fusion and dissipation of the source of light, deification. Streaks of lightning herald the impending doom. Twilight has descended and in a while total darkness will fall. The totality of things is- shaken to the very foundations. The exodus of the divine image on earth is now certain. And for this reason alone its existence is necessary. The whole painting is an animated sky, rent like the wall of the
And while these effects are achieved with colour and technique, the surviving humanity, in the portraits Georgiadis has left, whether full figures or facial portraits of our fellow men, acquires a new dimension, precisely because of the attention the artist has compelled us to pay them. Whether1 the subjects gaze back at us in ecstasy, behold their own visions or indulge their own secret thoughts - none of them is the same as before. Although much testimony has been heard, there are few who have confessed so much and so freely of what they might have wished to remain secret. Let us now return to our subject, the painter Andreas Georgiadis, who signed his works Andreas the Cretan, coupling his first name with his place of origin, in the manner of the painters of times gone by, He was born in Chania, on 25 November 1892, at dawn. The city walls with their sturdy bulwarks and ramparts, the old Venetian houses, the library and the historic archives -all were still intact. But in May 1896 the city was set on fire, the Georgiadis family were scattered in all directions and Andreas found himself eventually working in
, assistant to a firm of decorators. In a sense, he was the first of his generation. The environment which shaped the future artist was already with him when he abandoned Crete, and when he left Egypt Greece to study in . It was there that his artistic vision was formed. He returned to his native France Greece in 1930 and lived in until his death in 1981. He was a painter. Athens
Giorgos A Georgiadis