Christos Iliou Kagaras was born in 1918 in Granitsa of Evrytania, and became an orphan at a young age. He wandered travelled outside the borders of Greece (Egypt), doing various jobs for a living. Evetually he decided to return to his village, were he painted for very little money portraits, landscapes, wild flowers and sacred pictures. He began as a farmer and shepherd to finish off as a hagiographer - an art he learned from monks at Dionysius Monastery on Agion Oros. His first works were painted directly on tree trunks, rocks and stone tiles. His best known paintings represent scenes from farm life, topics relevant to nature, and hagiography in local churches. All his works share the same transparency and clarity, which characterize popular Greek songs. In his landscapes all is alive fresh and dampened by green, miraculously identified with Mother Nature. From the first grade of school, they called him a "painter". When he was roaming the mountains as a shepherd - a child at the age of six - he took along pieces of charcoal and painted on rocks and stones. During the Greek Civil War (1946-1949) he was arrested as a guerrilla and was imprisoned in Amfissa and Lamia. There he made portraits, which he sold at a very low price in order to face his basic needs, cigarettes and some food. In 1955 he returned to Granitsa and the next year he married.
Until 1966, when he was discovered by his notable fellow countryman and architect Panos Tselepis, Kagaras had preoccupied himself almost exclusively with hagiography, having painted more than sixty churches of Evrytania and Etoloakarnania, their majority in a naïve popular style. When in 1967 he settled permanently in Lamia he indulged in portable paintings, and - free from any dogmatic prescriptions and obligations - his passion for painting was overwhelmingly expressed, painting thousands of artworks, many of which reveals the influence of Byzantium. His work is characterized by a primeval vigor, a plastic and expressive temperance. When this untrained artist painted people he expressed deeply and miraculously their inner world. Their faces are so true and alive, that they are convincing you have encountered them somewhere and are indelibly imprinted in your memory.
Since many years Christos Kagaras lived with his large family in Lamia, Fthiotida, where he received great acclaim. The daily press and magazines, artists and intellectuals have expressed their enthusiasm about his work. He lived to see his major retrospective exhibition at the Vaso Katraki Museum in 2010, and passed away on 2 July that year.
[Megakles Rogakos 12/2010]
COSTAS STAVROPOULOS / CHRISTIAN ZERVOS / VASSO KATRAKI Christos Kagaras: The Air of Liberty 2010 Vasso Katraki Museum, Aetoliko [Greek]