Triptych A signed in Greek (lower right) oil and mixed media on canvas 117 x 272 cm.
Painted in 1969.
PROVENANCE: National Collection of Fine Arts / Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC (Accession No TL.33.1969.2). Byron Gallery, New York. Private collection, Athens.
EXHIBITED: Sydney, David Jones' Art Gallery, Jannis Spyropoulos, Paintings 1969-71, November 9-27, 1971, no.2 (illustrated in the exhibition catalogue). Athens, National Gallery - Alexandros Soutzos Museum, Jannis Spyropoulos, The Classicist of Abstraction, 1995 (illustrated in the exhibition catalogue, pp. 88-89).
LITERATURE: The Greek Painters - 20th Century, Melissa Edition, Athens 1988 (p. 440, no 27, illustrated and p. 421 referred). Jannis Spyropoulos, National Gallery - Alexandros Soutzos Museum, Ministry of Culture, Athens 1990, pp. 172-173 (illustrated). Y. Papaioannou, The Work of the Painter Jannis Spyropoulos, doctoral dissertation, Athens 1994, pp. 189-191, no.1043, p. 303. E.Vakalo, The Physiognomy of Postwar Art in Greece, vol.1, Kedros Editions, Athens 1981, p.69 (illustrated).
'I spread out the dark to find the light within it.' J. Spyropoulos
The third largest work Spyropoulos ever made and the largest in private hands, since the other two adorn the collections of the Athens National Gallery and the Jannis Spyropoulos Foundation,1 the monumental Triptych A from 1969 is a dramatic painting of marvellous sophistication, linear elegance and simple grandeur. The dark background takes control of the entire composition, like the abyssal inner environment of the artist's personal quest from which various markings, fragmented letters and calligraphic signs emerge, intensifying the mysterious atmosphere and enhancing the work's expressive power. This dark expanse is ingeniously juxtaposed with a golden light, distantly echoing Rembrandt's dramatic canvases in a cross-temporal dialogue of figurative and non-objective art. As noted by art historian L. Tsikouta, "the relationship of light and darkness is not the only similarity between the two artists. As is the case in Rembrandt's work, the dark depths in Spyropoulos's backgrounds are by no means homogeneous. The variety of hues and scintillating nuances and the incorporation of various materials and techniques give the impression that these backdrops host an entire world that comes to life through the mystical encounters of various elements."2
"Triptych A perfectly illustrates the artist's intention to transform the whole composition into an orchestrated series of contrasts. The tone is set by the juxtaposition of extensive dark areas and small luminous spots, as well as the use of rigorous lines and fine, purely calligraphic markings. By means of well thought out verticals and diagonals, as well as sombre colours chosen for their evocative charge opposed by scattered bright incidents of monumental thrust, the whole canvas is transformed into an expanding galaxy, a sort of cosmic system "in the making".3
Prefacing the artist's 1971 one-man show in Sydney, Australia which included this magnificent picture, art critic C. Spencer noted: "The first thing to be said about these paintings is that they are extremely beautiful to look at, avoiding any obvious effort to charm, any easy seduction by sensuous colour or gaiety of mood. Inherent in heir beauty, which is at once immediate and at the same time evasive, is superb craftsmanship. What may first appear as areas of monochrome colour are in fact brilliant, painstaking technical achievements, the work of a master painter who works with love and conviction. His dark canvases are like veils moving slowly and sensuously in the wind, revealing here a brief shaft of light, there a sharp burst of sun, an unexpectedly brilliant colour, textures of ancient stones and crumbling walls. Areas of great calm are disturbed by elements of tension and conflict. There is excitement and drama alongside simple acceptance. It is as if we are been given glimpses into the fascinating mystery of life through the equally mysterious processes of artistic creation."4
1. See Y. Papaioannou, The Work of the Painter Jannis Spyropoulos [in Greek], doctoral dissertation, Athens 1994, p. 189. 2. L. Tsikouta, "Processes, Influences, Assimilations, Personal Idiom, Birth of an Artwork: The Case of Jannis Spyropoulos" in Jannis Spyropoulos, The Classicist of Abstraction, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery-Alexandros Soutzos Museum, Athens 1995, p. 27. 3. C. Christou, "From the Capturing of Visual Reality to a Personal and Free Style" [in Greek], The Greek Painters, vol. 2, The 20th Century, Melissa editions, Athens 1974, p. 421. 4. C. Spencer, preface to the Yannis Spyropoulos - Paintings 1969-71 exhibition at the David Jones' Art Gallery in Sydney, November 9-17, 1971.