ALEXIS ABOUT HIMSELF
"I’ve been hooked on painting ever since I was a boy. I knew with absolute certainty that one day I’d become a painter. Other children make up stories with words: I used to make up stories with pictures; a whole lot of pictures following one another on a strip of paper that was sometimes as much as four metres long. But the people I lived with had their own ideas about painting and this stopped them from taking me seriously – though not for the reasons grown-ups usually find themselves unable to take seriously. The result was that none of my childhood pictures have survived.
I left school at 16, and I bummed around for a while with George Makris and George Koundouros. Late, late nights at the Byzantium café, shuttling back and forth between Athens and Salonika, for no apparent purpose, two bitter-sweet years in Paris – all this served me as an early invitation and apprenticeship to the mysteries of the real world and art today. The experience I gathered from this period (1956-1960) eventually surfaced in a series of dense, schematic, almost automatically produced drawings, which were carelessly scattered here and there and finally got lost.
Then came my military service. I might say those were two wasted years, if it weren’t for the fact that they helped me to grasp – in a negative way, but never mind – a few more significant aspects of Greek reality. Then there were three more vagrant years, punctuated by the same old circular pattern of anxiety-brief happiness-anxiety and back again. But my instinct of self-preservation and maybe an unconscious belief in some more permanent form of happiness, compelled me to go back stubbornly to painting. In December 1965, I had my first one man show at the Institut Francais with a series of works in ink and tempera. Nanos Valaoritis wrote the programme note of which I have retained one sentence:
“ And here at last, the untold is told in pictures”.
In 1966 I spent several months in the house of Costas Taktsis, in a set-up that helped me believe once and for all that I had to be a painter. Then I went off to Berlin, where I made friends with a number of artists like Remotti, Engelmann, Brusse, Armitage, Castillo and others; free and open give-and-take with these people, in the besieged city which is now Berlin, provided the multiple stimuli necessary to an artist of my temperament.
The themes of the suitcase and the handwritten words appearing in this show are simply the enlargement of details from previous works – the purpose being to make them more visible and as a result, better conductors of human communication. They represent the topography of life under an oppressive system but at the same time a code signal for hope."
Exhibition catalogue, 1971 Gallery Zouboulakis, Athens
Translated by Kay Tsitseli