Fishing place by a lagoon signed and dated 'Ghika/77' (lower left); signed, titled and dated 'Ghika 77/Fishing place by a lagoon' (on the reverse) oil on canvas 82.5 x 58 cm.
EXHIBITED: Athens, Ghika, New Art Centre, 8 February - 4 March 1978.
Prefacing the exhibition catalogue of his 1978 one man show at London's New Art Centre, which included Fishing place by a lagoon, Ghika wrote: "To reach beyond, without in the least disturbing the latent appearance or the exacerbation of everyday things."
Here, an intricate lacework of rhythmically orchestrated angular shapes and curved or slanted lines arranged in geometric planes and captured in brilliant colour, builds up a dynamic composition echoing the spatially contorted depictions of Byzantine towns used as backdrops for religious subjects. As noted by Professor M. Michelis, "Ghika observes the world carefully and in every glance of his eyes he makes the world anew. His vision is akin to the Byzantine mosaics of the Chora Monastery. His buildings are depicted almost according to the laws of Byzantine perspective. This kind of perspective is always in motion, adhering to many points of view rather than a single, fixed one."1 Unfolding vertically rather than receding in deep space and invested with all the concentrated force and power of the abstractive Byzantine town depictions2, this evocative and engaging rendition of a traditional fishing village illustrates the words of art historian M. Chatzidakis who argued that "Ghika's paintings are perfect architectural edifices where each element has an essential and irreplaceable function, while all parts are completely subservient to the whole."3
Drawing from indigenous and age-old, timeless sources, ranging from icon painting to folk art and Karaghiozi shadow-puppet theatre (compare Fishing place by a lagoon to his legendary stage set designs for the Cursed Serpent ballet (1951) performed by Rallou Manou's 'Hellenic Choreodrama' dance group,) Ghika formulated a distinctive and forward-looking artistic premise related to Braque's and Picasso's avant-garde approach. (Compare P. Picasso, The Reservoir, Horta, 1909, Museum of Modern Art, New York.) According to the painter himself, the fragmented forms and distortions of cubism recall 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."4
Moreover, the tender convolutions and fragile gestures so evident in Fishing place by a lagoon allude to the mystical world of oriental calligraphy, which the artist became acquainted with on his journey to Japan in 1958, when he visited the USA at the invitation of the State Department and returned to Greece by way of the Far East. As noted by art critic S. Spender, the drawings of India and Japan Ghika did in 1958 are of particular importance because they established a connection between far-eastern art and Ghika's sensibility which was partly Oriental."5
1 . M. Michelis, N. Hadjikyriakos-Ghika [in Greek], Zygos magazine, no. 58, September 1960, p. 10. 2 . See A. Xydis, The Work of Hadjikyriakos-Ghika [in Greek], Zygos journal, no. 58, September 1960, p. 20; B. Papadopoulou, Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghika, Modernism and Tradition [in Greek], Exhibition catalogue, Ermopouleia 2006, Cyclades Municipal Gallery, Syros 2006, p. 26. 3 . See M. Chatzidakis in N. Hadjikyriakos-Ghika [in Greek], Exhibition catalogue, Eirmos gallery, Thessaloniki 1994, p. 34. 4 . N. Hadjikyriakos-Ghika, On Greek Art [in Greek], Neon Kratos journal, no. 5, January 1938. 5 . S. Spender, Ghika in Ghika, Paintings, Drawings, Sculpture, Boston Book and Art Shop, Boston 1965, p. 23.