… I consider myself lucky because early enough I found out that first I am a labourer and then an artist…
… Eventually, you seek truth in life. And this originates from a heart and then gushes from within.
The strange thing is that you never know whether it is you who carves the rock, or the rock carves your soul…
… Art is not knowledge; it is development, a life stance…
… There is no inspiration. There is only the need to express something your own way…
… Without love, labour, hard work there is nothing you can achieve…
… “We are shaped and formed by what we love”
The enigma of form
Try as the sculptor might to force out
The enigma that dwells within
The bowels of unspeaking stone,
The ultimate word inevitably remains with
The chisel of water and wind
Yiannis H. Papaioannou
Erotic exultations and poetic references in the drawings of Kyriakos Rokos
I do not create to produce beautiful paintings or fine sculptures. Art is but a medium to behold.
For years now it has been known that I have a predilection for the art of engraving, for the aesthetic vigor its proud, uncompromising solitude sends forth. How am I to speak of the aesthetic thrill that shakes me whenever I set my eyes on works of art, either printed on paper, carved in various traditional techniques of engraving, or sketched directly by the artist on paper in pencil, crayon or ink, sovereign works of art lacking additional mediations, lonely and imposing in the litotes of their mediums, wherefrom an aesthetic vigor similar to that of an engraving is finally communicated.
I am referring to drawings in pencil, crayon or ink, of ultimate chromatic expression accomplished through the primordial universal essence of the extreme, through the harmonious coexistence of light and dark, day and night: essentially, of black and white, of the fundamental poles that set the boundaries of man’s life and psyche. And it is precisely this zeugma of black-white that attaches a chromatic hallmark to both engraving and drawing.
This was more or less how I felt when I looked at the 31 drawings in pencil the sculptor Kyriakos Rokos made and published in 2005 in a collection. It felt as if those drawing compositions “fired” my mind and soul. Indeed, Giacometti had a point: art is a medium to behold. And perhaps words cannot precisely articulate the plurality of “things”, or of the paths indicated by art, nor can they count them, that is to say, enumerate them.
What are words supposed to state about the naked female figures Rokos produced and how should they do so! Set in imaginary dimensions, it seems as if they are radiantly beamed away and form multi-level shapes in irregular arrays, as if they claim and occupy some extremely vital space, it’s almost as if they shield human body. Indeed, I am under the impression the artist chooses this way to connote the rights of the body, for today’s man, disoriented as he is due to his intoxication with individualism and material goods, is in a quest for happiness outside his own self: outside his body and soul, ignoring or subjugating his genuine needs.
The pointed, sharp edges of the figures of the naked bodies that look as if they are not touching anything or standing anywhere support this idea. The body seeks its own vital space, the body wants to claim it.
With sculptural experience underlying, the linear tonality of Rokos’ surrealistic drawings results in a fluid artistic language. Everything here signifies and is signified. A line can even constitute an entire somatic universe. And although flowing forms are recognizable, they are also unexpected, unanticipated. It is for this reason that such drawings sometimes refer, semantically, to erotic exultations whereas at other times references are poetic – the artist ostentatiously as well as consciously quotes verses from his favorite poets: Sachtouris, Manos Eleftheriou and Yiannis Papaioannou.
Only love and poetry, Rokos suggests in this selection of his drawings, can help and console the 21st century Man during his painful course on earth, and they can also keep the memory of a paradise which may not have been completely lost after all alive inside him.
Art Historian – Author
Member of A.I.C.A. Hellas
Director of Museum of Engraving
Sculpture is an art in crisis. This is mainly due to the fact that public space is gradually becoming extinct· and so is freedom, as it is by definition interrelated with it. Sculpture has always been a political art. Its degradation stems from the fact that its postmodern convention reduces it to a decorative function of space, rather than its interpretation.
Kyriakos Rokos (1945) is a sculptor who defends the political potential of his art and combines aesthetic research with ideological content. In a personal composition, it is through his morphoplastic language that he becomes involved in the direct carving of material, in the somatic relationship he develops with it, in the direct emergence of forms which underlie matter. Sparked both by prolific imagination and solid technical training, Rokos matches conflicting issues, a whole world of suffering forms, guided as he is by surrealistic independence as well as plastic entelechy developed by volumes while they seek their precarious yet extremely suggestive equilibrium.
By carving directly the marble or rock and creating alla prima compositions, Rokos produces an exceptionally hard combination: the surrealistic, automatic writing with the emergence both of an individual and primordial mythology.
The drama of substance in the hands of this politicized descendant of Halepas becomes a drama of existence. Even the title of each one of his works of art, be it a traditional sculpture or an avant-garde theater-like backdrop, becomes a verbal complement of the composition. E.g., the “Alluring portrait of power…” (1991). Besides, Rokos, a student of Yiannis Pappas, of the revolutionary César, or the multi-level Kostas Koulentianos, oversteps the mark by pairing sculpture with…ro(c)kies.
Αbout Kyriakos Rokos
Art’s task has always been the mimesis or representation of Truth, in order to guide Man to his existential reference realms. Actually, we’d rather say, to the Truth of the time, to the wandering and floating – to cite Axelos – Thought which is Man’s partaking of the great Cosmic Game, i.e. History. This concurrence of Thought and Art, or rather this complementary development of Thought and Art expressed the collective objectives of societies, when there were such objectives, that is to say, since the beginnings of Man on earth, up until at least the 16th – 17th century, and to a great extent even until the 19th century. Art stood for and manifested the “shared and proprio” of peoples –to quote Dionysios Solomos’ expression– and was one of the central means of Man’s access to what was at that time regarded as Cosmic and Historical Reality or Truth, while it also offered him existential identity and assertion. Since the 20th century, however, things have changed: Western societies seem to have been entangled in an unprecedented confusion of ideas, as the “shared and proprio” Thought became a self-complacently sovereign “science”, independent and self-sufficient, detached from peoples’ desires, pain or dreams. Consequently, Art, too, became independent -despite some not so unselfish efforts of organized groups in the first half of the 20th century – incidentally, it, too, found itself in a confusion as to what was its raison d'être.
In such confusion, some –inevitably single, even “fringe”– artists strived to remain loyal to the primordial task of Art, either by following faithfully and unselfishly the “official” Thought which had been detached from peoples, or by hearkening for a different prospect of existence, closer to peoples, i.e. closer to their existential references, which had survived in a dormant hypertopic and hyperchronic collective unconscious that silently and imperceptibly is shaping its own continuity. Modern Greek Art has had the privilege of such cultural suggestions, perhaps “… because I was guided there, without my knowing it, by my origins and the Art I have practiced..."- to quote Savvopoulos' lyrics. Such an intervention of ecumenical value is Kyriakos Rokos’ Art, both in terms of his Painting and his Sculpture.
I shall attempt to refer to the central themes Rokos poses:
Initially, he establishes an erotic relationship with the material – this constitutes primarily a Greek introduction originating from Asia Minor, as do his mottos-statements “Art is not knowledge, it is rather an attitude towards life” and “…you never know whether you carve the rock or the rock carves your soul, no matter what the case is, the result remains the same” (quoted from an interview of extraordinary didactic value he delivered for issue No 4 PERISTYLON review). Then, he introduces human forms in vibrating complexes with historical memories that bring into play a different reference field – hyper-realistic, if you wish, if “real” in its Western version is limited merely to what is visible. Additionally, with exceptional ease and without it becoming unfavourable for the search of a Bergsonian “vital impetus” (élan vital), he uses “good forms” as prescribed by Gestalt, that is, perfect shapes and volumes that refer to prototype existential forms or ideas: he uses them not in an abstract or impersonal manner (as is the practice of those who resort to them in order to allude to cosmic prototypes), but rather incorporates them in his effort to extend the range of human presence.
Rokos, as he is perhaps the primary successor to Halepas’ statement, transforms Art into an act of Divine Madness, in the platonic meaning of the term – and this constitutes a reminder as well as a lesson. Halepas introduced this Divine Madness in the deliberation on human form; Rokos has taken it farther: it is how he sees human presence in Nature, in Space and Time, with their entire semantic scope, for his works are intended to awaken our inner self through symbolical historical references. Such references are not intended for our consideration only; they are references to forms and symbols of ecumenical value: they permeate History and Nature, and they are meant to seek existential realms of Man’s reference.
Kyriakos Rokos has already been included in the class of those great Greek artists of universal and historic contribution. I have saved this remark for the end: it is in an extraordinary way that his work and its presentation remind us of the three Panofskian levels of analyzing works of Art. In Rokos’ case, all of these three levels are co-moving with the “mythology of the look” (in S. Ramfos’ own words) – and this is a remarkably significant didactic example of Art.
Dr. Nikitas Hiotinis
Director of the School of Graphic & Fine Arts,
Technological Educational Institute of Athens
...It depends on the breeze
«To love and respect whatever is born of necessity. Whether it transforms into a work of art, this depends on the breeze…» . How unexpected it is, talking about sculptures, made out of glowing marble, granite, wood and bronze, to refer to the light breeze, as if this is what comes definitively between the artist and his material, as if this is the secret ingredient of a real work of art.
But, as far as the sculptures of Kyriakos Rokos are concerned, this could be the case. The fact that the artist works on his sculptures without drafts or plans, instead lets himself be led by his inspiration and the quality of his material that lies in front of him, brings in mind the lightness and freshness of the springtime breeze. What really surprises the viewer though is that despite the spontaneity of the creation of each composition its content seems complicated, difficult to figure out, but at the same time well known and familiar.
It is familiar because everybody can recognize the parts of the human body, palms, fingers, faces, whole or fragmented, noses, eyes, lips that come out of the dense compositions. All these images offer only the one end of the thread, and not the solution of the Gordian knot of the human parts that are bound in every work of art. The knot must be cut by the viewer himself his own way, he must interpret the images as he thinks right, without restrains. The title Kosmos (World), in fact, that Rokos bestows on his works makes even larger their hermeneutical plane and multiplies the choices and the possibilities of approaching the sculptures.
The complexity of the compositions testifies also the complexity of their provenance. The artist himself reveals: «I feel that a work of art is the product of the contribution of time, space, place and ideology of the creator as well as of his need for expression» . His sculptures are complicated creations, with a multitude of meanings that are not revealed at once, loud and clear. They take the form of symbolical figures that vibrate the heavy material and not just transform it into a balanced composition.
One of the most important characteristics of Rokos’ sculpture is exactly this enlivenment of the material by images, figures, faces and ideas. The solid, harmonic and smooth mass of marble, of bronze or even of wood, is torn in two revealing a throng of figures that are striving to come to the surface. Like a crowd of protesting, fighting people who are trying to disturb the false equilibrium of the world and of slife itself, to prove the effervescence and the tumult that lies beneath.
It is also indicative that the same vivification and movability is found on Rokos’ busts, works of art that, de facto, constrain the artistic freedom in the boundaries of an already existed personality and its history and in the limits of the expectancies of other people. He seeks on these sculptures the deeper distinctive marks of the models, not only the characteristics of their face, so they look like they are moving, like they are trying to free themselves from the academic stiffness of their type.
The work of a sculptor is complicated. And it seems even more painful if we think about the battle that he gives with his materials, with their hardness, in order to imprint on them ideas, images, moods. It is indeed a real fight for the one that contemplates a finished work of art. But for Kyriakos Rokos himself, this is simply his way of expression: «Everybody speaks his own way. What’s important is have something to say. Then, let the breeze do its work».
CATALOGUE: Hard cover 96 pages full color, size each sheet 29 x 24 cm. edition of 2000, Published by Antoniades ABEE, Athens 08, Sponsored by NATIONAL BANK OF GREECE
Text: Yiannis Papaioannou, Nikos Grigorakis, Manos Stefanides, Dr. Nikitas Hiotinis, Eleni Margari
<ekfrasi-yianna grammatopoulou> Athens, 12/2008-1/2009