Image F signed in Greek (lower right); signed, dated and titled 'JANNIS SPYROPOULOS, THE IMAGE F, 1965' (on the stretcher) oil and mixed media on canvas 146 x 114 cm.
PROVENANCE: Daniel and Grace J. Ross, USA, bought in 1966. Private collection, Athens.
A modern masterpiece of astonishing complexity revealing a rich variety of textural relationships and a rare combination of technical discipline and explosive emotion, Image F is a powerful yet lyrical poem that affirms the human spirit. Red, grey and yellow block-like forms built into cyclopean structures seem to impose order on a primordial universe, while at the same time expressing tenderness as well as power, peace as well as tension.1
Since 1963 Spyropoulos's evocative palette has been thoroughly suffused by darker tones recalling the great masters of the 17th century, while the occasional flashes of brilliant colour are reminiscent of Rembrandt's golden light. Athens National Gallery Director M. Lambraki-Plaka calls these mature non-objective canvases 'luminous darkness' paintings: "In his nocturnal symphonies, the forms break through the darkness and emerge from within it. It is the victory of light over darkness. It is not by chance that even the colour in these nocturnal compositions is identified with the light or more precisely with the fire. The red is the fire, the yellow the flame and the rare and precious white is the detonation of the conflagration, the pure light, the purification."2
The year Spyropoulos painted Image F, the French art critic R. Cogniat noted: "In his paintings, the object becomes light and the colour space. Matter turns into pictorial sensation while the material form encounters the dream-like."3. A year earlier M. Ragon had made the following comment: "Spyropoulos is the first Greek artist to be awarded at the Venice Biennale and the only contemporary Greek artist to achieve international acclaim while residing permanently in Greece: seven one-man shows in the United States, one in London, one in Milan and four in Germany. People from all over the world come to Athens to visit him as they did earlier with Ensor in Ostande."4
When viewing Image F we have the impression that the image is actually created before our very eyes and that the various elements of the picture act as magnets attracting everything around them. This vivid artistic statement, based on the exciting tension of low-keyed tonalities and dramatic areas of intense colour may be read as a metaphor for the Greek landscape - this severe and incandescent countryside of bleached earth, burned rocks and craggy mountains, which flowers briefly during a spring burst and where the sun always rises and sets upon the deepest blue waters creating extraordinary chromatic effects. His native soil, which Spyropoulos never left, is both austere and wonderful, shimmering in the black and golden play of light.5 It is the heartfelt experience and profound understanding of Greek nature that gives such work as Image F the beauty, depth and sensitivity of a true master.
1. See A. Weller, C. Spencer, J.P. Hodin, "The Art of Jannis Spyropoulos" adapted by B. Rothberg, The Charioteer review, no. 10, 1968, pp. 66-69. 2. M. Lambraki-Plaka, "The Nocturnal Symhonies of Jannis Spyropoulos" in Jannis Spyropoulos, The Classicist of Abstraction, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery - Alexandros Soutzos Museum, Athens 1995, p. 132. 3. R. Cogniat, "Au Confluent du Réel et de l' Imaginaire", Le Figaro daily, Paris 2.12.1965. 4. M. Ragon, preface to the Spyropoulos exhibition at the Palais des Beaux Arts, Bruxelles, November 12-24, 1964. 5. See M. Ragon, "Twenty Years of Living Art", Casterman editions, Belgium, 1969, pp. 171-172 and K. Katz, preface to the Spyropoulos exhibition catalogue, Israel Museum, Jerusalem 1966.