Leaves over dry torrent signed and dated 'GHIKA 59' (lower right) oil on canvas 100 x 70 cm.
Painted in 1959.
PROVENANCE: Collection Professor J. Georgakis, Athens. Private collection, Paris.
LITERATURE: Dora Iliopoulou-Rogan, N. Hadjikyriakos-Ghika: The Apollonian-The Dionysian, Benaki Museum, Athens 2006, p.51, no 69 (illustrated). C. Zervos, S. Spender, P. Leigh Fermor, Ghika, Paintings, Drawings, Sculpture, Boston Book and Art Shop, Boston 1965, no. 99 (illustrated).
Featured in the 2006 major Ghika retrospective at the Benaki Museum, Leaves over dry torrent is mentioned twice by curator Dr. D. Iliopoulou-Rogan in her exhibition catalogue text as a characteristic example of the artist's lifelong insistence on light, reflections and overall rhythm. "Subject to a transcendental rhythm, Ghika's charismatic reflections go beyond the conventional contrasts of light and dark. Not only his figurative, but also his semi-representational or even abstract works are dominated by either a linear organization of form arranged in geometric planes or a freer rendering, based on a dynamic and rhythmically orchestrated nexus of lines or on an explosion of lush colours. This kind of instinctively freer use of colour is demonstrated in such works as Leaves over dry torrent, 1959."1 Dr. D. Iliopoulou-Rogan goes on arguing that "in Ghika's work, any manmade walls and fences or geological formations of the landscape captured in slanted lines, angular shapes or geometric planes, are imbued with the breath of the earth, the refractions of light and the atmosphere of Greek nature, constantly expanding, contacting, pulsating and transforming and always alert, ready to change position, course and orientation. His paintings inspired by the geomorphology of the island of Hydra are ever-growing organisms, constantly transformed from rigorously defined shapes to visual allusions and multi-dimensional signs, becoming metaphysical fragments that explode, spin and swirl around agile webs, enigmatic forms and dynamic traces so that the whole composition is immersed in a constantly changing and revived atmosphere, as, for example, in Leaves over dry torrent, 1959."2
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 set about recomposing it, investing it at the same time with poetic feeling. According to the painter himself, the fragmented planes and spatial distortions cultivated by cubism, 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."3 One of the painter's signature subjects,4 namely the crooked stone walls that inform so much of the Greek insular landscape, feature prominently across the picture plane, emerging like ancient ruins from the luxuriant flora. However, their angular microgeometry seems to give way to an explosion of colour and form, where trees, leaves, bushes and flowers are set in motion, engaged in a perpetual, Dionysian dance. From approximately 1957 on, Ghika's ordered architectural structure was gradually replaced by a world subject to natural forces.5 In 1958, a year before he painted Leaves over dry torrent, the artist visited the USA at the invitation of the State Department and returned to Greece by way of the Far East. Inspired perhaps by Japanese calligraphy's pronounced gestures and constant flow of brush and pen, his landscapes became denser and more mystical, reflecting his perception of nature as a cosmogony invested with pantheistic rituals and Oriental myths.
A paganistic work of Dionysian contemplation, this captivating painting aptly illustrates Ghika's innovative approach to nature: "The artist discovers pulsating rhythms derived from his intimate relationship with nature. He discovers them in the leaves and insects, in the light and the shadows cast by wind swayed trees, in the flight of birds and the nuances of colour. In other words, I want the viewer to feel the knife used to carve out nature. I want him or her to even feel the music, the sounds emanating from the orchestration of different forms, different shapes, different lines and not only the orchestration but, if possible, even the inherent scent they exude, which is the most elusive sense of all."6
1. D. Iliopoulou-Rogan, N. Hadjikyriakos-Ghika, the Apollonian-the Dionysian, exhibition catalogue., Benaki Museum, Athens 2006, pp. 37,42. 2. Ibid, p. 52. 3. N. Hadjikyriakos-Ghika, 'On Greek Art' [in Greek], Neon Kratos journal, no. 5, January 1938. As argued by Professor P. Michelis "Ghika's cubism draws from age-old indigenous sources." P. Michelis, 'N. Hadjikyriakos-Ghika' [in Greek], Zygos journal, no. 58, September 1960, p. 10. 4. In an attempt to delve into the artist's temperament, writer Christian Zervos noted: "Isolated among men, impatient to stand out from others, and deliberately confined in his solitude, Ghika felt the need to harmonize the dispositions of his inner life with the fictitious images to which he sought to give convincing existence. The barriers he raised to shut himself in explain why walls became one of the recurring features of his iconographic repertory." C. Zervos, 'Ghika and his Art' in Ghika, Paintings, Drawings, Sculpture, Boston Book and Art Shop, Boston 1965, p. 5. See also N.Kyriazi, Ghika Landscapes and Interiors, exhibition catalogue., Municipal Gallery of Athens, Athens 2006, p.17. 5. See M. Achimastou-Potamianou, 'Ghika's Art' [in Greek], in Greek Painters - 20th Century Melissa publ., Athens 1975, p. 340. 6. Transcribed excerpts from the 'Monogramma' television documentary, ERT-2, 1984 in Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghika, Tegopoulos publ., 2009, p. 150.