Calligraphy of a town signed and dated 'GHIKA 62' (lower right); signed, dated and titled 'GHIKA 1962/Calligraphy of a town' (on the reverse) oil on canvas 76 x 51 cm.
Provenance: Acquired directly from the artist by the father of the present owner.
Exhibited: Athens, Benaki Museum, The Dionysian-The Apollonian N. Hadjikyriakos-Ghika, 22/11/2006-15/1/2007.
Literature: Dora Iliopoulou-Rogan, N. Hadjikyriakos-Ghika, The Apollonian-The Dionysian, Livani Publishing Organization, Athens 2006, p. 135, no 225 (illustrated).
"The painting of Ghika leads geometry to poetry." Odysseus Elytis
A pulsating landscape, which sweeps the crooked lines of the whitewashed Cycladic walls into a cosmogonic whirlpool, Calligraphy of a town is an expressionistic formulation of a labyrinthine architectural complex charged with dionysiac energy. Starting off with a Cezannesque conception of the landscape's deeper geometrical structure, and after breaking it down to its component pieces in accordance with post-cubist doctrines, the painter sets about recomposing it, investing it at the same time with poetic feeling. The rhythmically developed and spatially contorted depictions of Byzantine towns - used as backdrops for religious subjects in much of icon painting, are transformed by Ghika into an intricate lacework of angles and curves.1. According to the painter himself, the fragmented planes and spatial distortions cultivated by cubism, also allude to an enduring convention of Greek art: "The character of the Greek schema, whether in antiquity, the Byzantine era or folk art, is by and large geometric."2 As argued by Professor P. Michelis "Ghika's cubism draws from indigenous and age-old, timeless sources."3
"Ghika's landscapes are fabrics which with a sense of freedom hide and yet reveal the desire to be liberated from fear; they are fragments of refuge and pleasure. Particularly after the late 1950s - perhaps as a result of his visit to Japan - the spirals and angular movements become transformed into frantic whirlpools. The world of oriental calligraphy, with which he became acquainted on his journey to Japan with his wife Barbara, may have suggested mutations and associations. The pronounced calligraphic gestures, the convolutions of tender and fragile intensity, which had been long-established points of reference in his work, find new outlets. His landscapes become denser, more secret. The angular microgeometry disappears or rather is hidden under a continuous paroxysm of spiralling curves. Ruins, trees, leaves, stalks, walls are perpetually spinning in uncertain orbits."4 As noted by Professor D.A. Fatouros, these stylistic features can be associated with the man himself, his body language, gestures, behaviour and way of expressing himself.5
From 1961 to 1965 Ghika's subjects turn to depictions of imaginary towns verging on metaphysical abstractions. The maze of narrow streets and whitewashed buildings rolling towards the sea evokes a mysterious and uncanny presence, culminating in a body of highly geometric works inspired by the dramatic clifftop towns of magical Santorini,6 this "queen of Aegean pulses and wings" and legendary capital of lost Atlantis. This suggestive atmosphere is further enhanced by the depiction of the precipitous rock occupying the left half of the picture, which loosely resembles a female form, echoing a mythic Mediterranean past crystallized in the rounded, wide-pelvised and narrow-waisted outlines of ancient Cycladic figurines.7
1. See H. Kambouridis - G. Levounis, Modern Greek Art-The 20th Century, Athens 1999, p.123. 2. N. Hadjikyriakos-Ghika, 'On Greek Art' [in Greek], Neon Kratos journal, no. 5, January 1938. 3. P. Michelis, 'N. Hadjikyriakos-Ghika' [in Greek], Zygos journal, no. 58, September 1960, p. 10. 4. D.A. Fatouros, 'The Painting of Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghika: Referenses and Sensations' in N. Hadjikyriakos-Ghika, the Apollonian-the Dionysian, exhibition catalogue, Benaki Museum, Athens 2006, p. 72. 5. See Fatouros, 'The Wisdom of the Teacher' in A Portrait of N. Hadjikyriakos-Ghika, Texts from the Two-Day Conference at the Athens Academy, Tetradia Efthinis 37, Athens 1998, p. 50. 6. See N. Petsalis-Diomidis, 'Ghika's Painting' in N. Hadjikyriakos-Ghika, Kathimerini daily, Epta Imeres, 15.1.1995, p. 18. 7. See M. Achimastou-Potamianou, 'Ghika's Art' [in Greek], in Greek Painters - 20th Century Melissa publ., Athens 1975, p. 340.