Feeling a bit disconcerted during my last few days in Athens, I went to view Jannis Psychopedis’ Exhibition Heroes of ’21. The exhibition includes the artist’s most recent paintings, engravings, and drawings “created during long months of covid lockdown”.
Psychopedis’ works are “inspired by contemplations that were triggered and creatively brought into existence with the 2021 bicentennial anniversary of the Greek Revolution”. Admittedly, I don’t know the names of the twenty-seven heroes represented in his paintings. Important revolution participants include iconic leader General Theodoros Kolokotronis, General Yannis Makriyannis, military commander Athanasios Diakos, and writer, political thinker, and revolutionary Rigas Feraios. Several Greek women were heroines during the revolution, including General-In-Chief Manto Mavrogenous and renowned Naval Commander Laskarina Bouboulina.
Psychopedis’ work includes other prominent names associated with Greek art, culture, and history, like diplomat and Nobel Prize winning poet George Seferis and sculptor Giannoulis Halepas.
“Yiannis Psychopedis is one of the main Greek exponents of artistic Critical Realism, an art movement that developed in Europe after the political and social upheavals of 1968.” Wikipedia
“Through a wealth of diverse techniques, this exhibition by Yiannis Psychopedis provides the very first view of a unique, visual gallery of portraits of the 1821 fighters.” Benaki Museum
The exhibition also includes Psychopedis’ works “predating the 1821 anniversary, as well as drawings and compositions on the subject of Lord Byron, the Philhellenes, and members of the Filiki Eteria (Society of Friends)”. In March 2021, the Athens Museum of Philhellenism opened, recording evolution of the Philhellenic movement across the world during the Greek Revolution.
An Old Man
At the noisy end of the café, head bent
over the table, an old man sits alone,
a newspaper in front of him.
And in the miserable banality of old age
he thinks how little he enjoyed the years
when he had strength, and wit, and looks.
He knows he’s very old now: sees it, feels it.
Yet it seems he was young just yesterday.
The time’s gone by so quickly, gone by so quickly.
And he thinks how Discretion fooled him,
how he always believed, so stupidly
that cheat who said: “Tomorrow. You have plenty of time.”
He remembers impulses bridled, the joy
he sacrificed. Every chance he lost
now mocks his brainless prudence.
But so much thinking, so much remembering
makes the old man dizzy. He falls asleep,
his head resting on the café table.
Konstantinos P. Kavafis
“Psychopedis’ paint brush, chisel, and pencil painted, etched, and drew the figures of ’21. They usher the personalities of the past into the present day, through bold, bright colours and the severity that the black-and-white print of the woodcut lends the image.”
Jannis Psychopedis, born in 1945 in Athens, is considered “one of the main Greek exponents of Artistic Critical Realism, an art movement that developed in Europe after the political and social upheavals of 1968″. During the protests of 1968 there was a “worldwide escalation of social conflicts, characterized by rebellions against the military and bureaucracy”.
Psychopedis studied engraving at the Athens School of Fine Arts and obtained a postgraduate degree in painting from the Munich Academy of Fine Arts. Psychopedis lived in Germany as a guest of the West Berlin Cultural Programme.
In 1994, he was elected professor of the Athens School of Fine Art. Psychopedis has many impressive distinctions, including being a member of the 1960s “A” Artistic Team in Athens and the visual arts team of the magazine Epitheorisi Technis. He was also a founding member of the Young Greek Realists Group and the Visual Arts Centre. His work is shown in galleries throughout Europe, USA, and Japan.
During my visit to Greece, I’ve learned that “1821 is a sacred date to Greeks, representing the anniversary of freedom from Ottoman rule”. During the “long months of lockdown,” many Greek artists created works inspired by celebration of the Greek Revolution. I learned about events that defined the War of Independence and those who lost their lives in battle.
“Austere prints and engravings of freedom fighters and Philhellenic figures such as Lord Byron, are given the Warhol treatment under Pyschopedis’ masterful chisel and paintbrush; casting these patriotic idols into a jolting contemporaneousness.”