Untitled signed 'Gaitis' (lower right) oil on canvas 116 x 90 cm.
Painted in 1964.
PROVENANCE: Manos and Epi Pavlidis collection. Private collection, Athens.
EXHIBITED: Athens, Merlin Gallery, Gaitis, 30 October - 20 November 1964. Rome, Schneider Gallery, Gaitis, 23 February - 13 March 1965 (illustrated in the exhibition catalogue).
LITERATURE: J.M. Drot - G. Gassiot - Talabot, Gaitis (catalogue), 1964. Yiannis Gaitis Catalogue Raisonne, Angers 2003, p. 207, no 748 (illustrated).
A restless inventor of enchanting microcosms and fantastic mythologies, Yannis Gaitis was always preoccupied with the idea of the multitude and the grouping of figures, which proved to be a defining trait throughout his career. Between 1960 and 1965, and especially in 1963, when the work was painted, his canvases were animated by humaniform insects, animals and birds rendered in a child-like manner, with intense colours and clearly naïve elements,1 transforming his compositions into a personal language of signs in a peculiar blending of surrealism's witty freedom with the intense passion of expressionism.2
During this period, his canvases are subdivided into smaller compartments and space is organized in multiple, geometrically arranged scenes, echoing, as perceptively noted by art historian B. Papadopoulou, Byzantine icons depicting the lives of saints or ancient Greek vases decorated with bands of figure scenes, or even modern-age comic strips adhering to sequential frame patterns.3 Gaitis' figures, neither comforting nor nightmarish, seem to provoke the spectator to recompose the various parts and fragments in a narrative of his/her own; rather than exuding a sense of beautified reverie, these works activate the imagination.4 As argued by art critic G. Gassiot-Talabot, who prefaced the artist's 1964 show in Athens (which included the work on sale) these figures are not heroes but the vehicles of our own mythologies, the discreet and close companions of our very lives.5
1. See D. Papastamos, preface to Yannis Gaitis [in Greek], exhibition catalogue, National Gallery - A. Soutzos Museum, Athens 1984, p. 8. 2. See C. Christou, 'Forms, Characteristics and Content of Yannis Gaitis' Artistic Creation' [in Greek], in Gaitis in Minion, exhibition catalogue, Athens 1983 and C. Ch(ristou) in Dictionary of Greek Artists [in Greek], vol. 1, Melissa publ., Athens 1999, p. 234. 3. B. Papadopoulou, preface to Yannis Gaitis, A Subversive Visionary [in Greek], exhibition catalogue, Municipal Gallery of Chania, Chania 2007, p. 26. 4. See N. Kyriazi, preface to Yannis Gaitis [in Greek], exhibition catalogue, Municipal Gallery of Athens, Athens 1996. 5. G. Gassiot-Talabot, preface to Gaitis [in Greek and French], exhibition catalogue, Merlin Gallery, Athens 1964.