Happy cycling signed in Greek (upper left) and titled (upper right) oil on paper laid down on canvas 122 x 148 cm
"A cyclist is Pegasus, a messenger from the gods" A. Fassianos
One of the most emblematic and enduring images of postwar Greek art, Fassianos ubiquitous bicyclist, with his yellow necktie flowing in the wind, is remoulded into an archetypal figure echoing the timeless symbolism of ancient Greek iconography. As in ancient pottery, Fassianos modern figures are captured in an eternal contre-jour which renders them both precise and timeless. These figures inhabit a land which might well be Greece, a totally luminous and airy land, an Aeolian land. The wind which tosses the hair of Fassianos figures is the same wind which pervades Homers epics and fills Odysseus sails on his way to meet the Sirens. 1
Embirikos once told me Son, always paint bicyclists. I never stopped doing so. To learn a song you have to practice it many times; and if you like it youll sing it again and again. As Pascal used to say, LÉternel Retour. It is the same in art. You cant just do different things all the time because youll no longer be yourself. 2 Recalling the emergence of his signature theme in the mid 1960s, the painter notes: I remember I had a large brush in my hand and stood thinking We had bicycles - there were no cars after the German occupation. We used to wear American clothes from the Marshal Plan. These were loose-fitting clothes, and we also wore ties. We were going down to Vouliagmeni and back, with our thumbs on the bicycle ringers. Suddenly it occurred to me to paint this bicyclist who had passed in front of me like a shadow. I said to myself his hair will be waving in the wind, just like Absaloms hair. 3
Full of life and virile strength, monumental yet surprisingly down to earth, universal yet quintessentially Greek, Fassianos youth looks as immobile and eternal as a relief sculpture, demonstrating the artists power to capture the eternity of the moment through timeless forms and such vibrant colours as his extraordinary signature blues. Blue is the colour in which Fassianos discovered himself notes Nobel laureate O. Elytis. A colour which he voiced in every scale, distilling one tone into another, yet ensuring that they retain their limpidity, never losing a fraction of their profound, deep-sea magic. 4
Behind the blue bicyclist lies Fassianos mythical neighbourhood, the same lyrical Athenian neighbourhood immortalized by Michalis Cacoyannis in Stella, Manos Chatzidakis in Lilacs and Iakovos Kambanellis in the Backyard of Miracles. This nostalgic and vanishing neighbourhood provides him the source material for his unique expressive language: a simple scarf left on a table, a slice of watermelon, a garden gate, a low courtyard wall that gives us a sense of identity. The things which attract me are the real things, the things that last forever.5
1. J. Lacarriere, 'A Shadow Play' in Fassianos - Mythologies of Everyday Life, exh. cat., National Gallery - A. Soutzos Museum, Athens 2004, p. 24. 2. as quoted in V. Kalamaras, Bicycling Forever [in Greek], Eleftherotypia daily, 21.04.2004. 3. A. Fassianos, The Myth of my Neighbourhood [in Greek], Kastaniotis publ., Athens 2002, pp. 119-120. 4. O. Elytis, 'The Fassianos we Love', preface to A. Fassianos, exh. cat., Zoumboulakis Galleries, Athens 1977. 5. See A. Fassianos, 'The Low Wall', in Today, and Tomorrow and Yesterday [in Greek], Kastaniotis publ., 1990, p. 86 and Athenian Panorama, exh. cat., Zoumboulakis Galleries, Athens 1990, p. 15.