charcoal on paper mounted on canvas (150x200)
Megakles Rogakos 2005, p.6-9
DN: Ms. Pelagia Kyriazi
The source of inspiration for Kyriazi's Chronicle
, part of which is the work entitled Return
, is found in a series of archival photographs published on the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of the 1922 Asia Minor Catastrophe. Many of these photographs showed vast gatherings of soldiers, like group portraits of people that are brought together by a quirk of history. Besides being a record of a historical event though, the pictures evoked a charged atmosphere and an ominous feeling. The photograph that inspired Kyriazi to draw her Return,
taken by Petros Poulidis (1885-1967) in 1919, presents a group portrait, primarily of soldiers who have just arrived in Piraeus from their toils in the frontline of Asia Minor [PouP1919pira
]. It offers a general feel of a crowd, whose identity is defined by their headgear – army and navy – without going into much detail. Every soldier poses differently, with an individual manner of expression. Nevertheless, the general feel is one of exhaustion, retreat, and submission. This small photograph becomes Kyriazi's starting point for a large-scale drawing with dark areas and intense graphic gestures, which, in the process of its making, is infiltrated by a peculiar aesthetic and emotional quality, and ends up as a true psychograph.
Kyriazi's reading of the photograph is materialized following the drive of feeling and instinct and not through the use of the grid system. She erases many of the figures' features that are evident in the photograph. The eyes are replaced by dark hollows, which become legible with - so to speak - the 'eyes of the soul'. She emphasizes the human wounds with highlights that owe their whiteness to the work on the paper: erasing and rubbing. Four soldiers clearly display their wounds; the central one having lost both an arm and a leg. Though it is not easy to discern the nature of the soldier's wounds on the photograph, the point is what Kyriazi felt while experiencing the imprint of history. "The trauma of the wound extends to the psyche", Kyriazi emphasizes. Traumas begin as bodily wounds, but in essence they are internal. Deep down, it is the condition of the soul that is quintessential, which – despite the irreparable bodily harm of lost parts – is revealed in the shadow of a smile on the pressed lips of the central figure. It is this smirk - the shadow of a smile - that supports the entire composition not aesthetically but psychologically. Hence, it is he, the central figure, who manages to confront a personal trauma more effectively than any other of life's invalids.
While working on Return
, Kyriazi saw Napoléon
, the 1927 film by French film director Abel Gance (1889-1981). The film, projected on a triple screen in order to show a staggering panorama of the battlefield, impressed Kyriazi with its unusual length of six hours and its panoramic quality. Return
bears the signs of influence from the quality of this film, and - like Napoléon
- it recreates eloquently the psychological dynamic of a crowd, the character of a large group of people, who happened to get involved in a monumental event with consequences that are as much uncertain as tragic. The work began in 1987 and was completed within a year and a half. "The feeling was like a dive into history", Kyriazi says. "On the one hand we may argue that the term 'Asia Minor Catastrophe' is a strong way of putting it, on the other hand, the use of this word just about manages to express the dimension of the tragedy. This very point in history is invested with such emotional charge as the word implies. In the making of Return
I re-experienced the humiliation, the feeling of losing something that is very much my own. The action I recreated may eventually be an escape from the accident, a flight from the burden of history". Considering Kyriazi's thoughts of escape in relation to Return
, Aristotle's definition of Tragedy
comes to mind: " mimesis of an action that has magnitude and order [...] by means of pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish a catharsis of such emotions".
In closing, it is worth noting that Kyriazi herself has origins in Asia Minor. Her father studied at the Greek Gymnasium of Kydonies, today's Aivali, and the family on her mother's side owned land in the area around Smyrna. The artist feels Asia Minor to be the source of things that are homely. Yet she does not speak of Smyrna as a place, but of 'Smyrnas' as versions of 'Ithaka'. This explains why true likenesses in her drawing matter so little.
[Megakles Rogakos 11/2005]
ROGAKOS, MEGAKLES Pelagia Kyriazi: Psychographs
2005 ACG Art, Athens
|© THE AMERICAN COLLEGE OF GREECE: ACG ART .