An exhibition of Contemporary art works by tutors of Cyprus College of Art at the University of Northampton Art Gallery. The exhibiting artists will be Peter Bird, Margarita Drosopoulou, Andreas Efstathiou, Sarah Hoskins, Alexandrous Michaelides, Roderick Newlands, Margaret Paraskos and Stass Paraskos.
University of Northampton Art Gallery, Boughton Green Rd, Northampton, NN2 7AL.
Thursday 5th May 2011 5-8 pm. For further details please contact Suzanne Stenning- Curator of Northampton Art Gallery. 01604 893046 firstname.lastname@example.org
About the exhibition:
Romantic Cyprus: Artists of the Cyprus College of Art, by Dr. Michael Paraskos.
For anyone who knew the Cyprus College of Art in the 1970's the words 'Romantic Cyprus' will immediately produce a nostalgic memory of a ubiquitous guide book to the island, called Romantic Cyprus, written by the American Cypriot bookseller Kevok Keshishian.
Back then, in the days before the rough guides and Lonely Planet, Romantic Cyprus was almost the only substantial guidebook to Cyprus, which was not really regarded as a significant tourist destination. But it was also a guidebook that was, in many ways, deeply romantic, rooted in a love for the island and a desire to show the visitor what a wonderful place Cyprus was to visit. Of course we do see that in guide books today, but it is often hard not to think that the reason the authors are being so gushing about one tourist attraction or another is that they want to sell more copies of their book. You do not often get a sense that they really love the place. And when it comes to the Rough and Lonely Planet guides the writers seem under instruction to pepper their texts with dismissive comments, sarcasm and sometimes downright abuse. Presumably the asumption is that this gives their books a greater sense of honesty.
Romantic Cyprus was not like that. It possessed a kind of innocence. This was not innocence in terms of lack of knowledge. Indeed, there are some very erudite sections to the book. Rather it was an innocence based on an extreme optimism. The first edition of Romantic Cyprus was published in 1964 during the period of British rule, and even then there were plenty of British colonists and native Cypriots who thought the future of Cyprus was rosy. There would be agricultural improvement, industrial development and tourism, and all of those things would lead to a golden future. Sadly the optimism was misplaced, but as a guiding spirit it remained in every edition of the book, even during the violent liberation struggle against British colonial rule in the 1950's, the civil war of the 1960's and even the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974. It was optimism in spite of experience, and that always has a charm even if it can sometimes be infuriating. It is the charm of romantic love, not in this case for a person, but for a place. It is a kind of geographical romantic love that is almost difficult to imagine in the modern world.
The exhibition Romantic Cyprus is part nostalgia for a book that featured so prominently in the early life of the Cyprus College of Art, and part homage to the spirit of Romantic Cyprus . At the College we have always encouraged students to engage with Cyprus, to get to know it and feel able to respond to the aesthetic experience of this place at this time through their work. This has led to a philosophical outlook that the best art, from any time or place , is always rooted in the spirit of that place, a sort of love affair with a genius loci. Or perhaps we should acknowledge the location of Cyprus in the Middle East and say it is a love affair with a genie, the genie of Cyprus. Either way, without that engagement with a place, art becomes flaccid, and no amount of justification that someone is painting 'from their imagination' can redeem it. Art can be imaginative, should be creative and can even cope with an excess of emotion or spirituality. But the most important element is that it always emerges from a direct physical and sensual engagement with the real world around us. To call the transformation of this experience into a work of art an act of love might seem sentimental, but love is not a synonym for sentimentality. It can be hard edged. And we can use the word love in this context, it does not seem too much of an extension to say that art emerges from a romantic engagement with the real world.
The artists in this exhibition, Peter Bird, Margarita Drosopoulou, Andreas Efstathiou, Sarah Hoskins, Alexandrous Michaelides, Roderick Newlands, Margaret Paraskos and Stass Paraskos, are all tutors at the Cyprus College of Art whose artworks subscribe to this principle. Like the College as a whole they come from different places, including Cyprus, England, Greece and Scotland. But while they are in Cyprus they seek to engage with the genie of our island. Each of them does this in their own way, as their sensory awareness of Cyprus passes through the alembic of their individual identities and experiences, producing very different kinds of work.
That spirit always underpinned the book Romantic Cyprus with the result it was not really a tourist guide written for people passing through the island in search of a short cut to information on the fashionable bars, the cheapest hotels or the sandiest beaches. It was simply a guide embedded in a love affair of a particular place at a particular time. And that, I would argue, is a description that fits equally with our tutors and our College.
Evoking the sensual, the life-size organic and mechanical forms in Roderick Newlands large paintings hold a deft conversation with the twisted and contorted figures skillfully draughted in his compelling drawings. Newlands paintings and drawings span a period of 30 years and provide a glimpse into the work of this celebrated artist.
Born in Aberdeen, Newlands graduated from the Royal College of Art in 1978. In 1979 Roderick was awarded a Fellowship to ‘Cheltenham college of Art.’ Roderick has exhibited both nationally and internationally and has exhibited at the Royal Summer Academy shows and Royal Scottish Academy summer exhibitions on a number of occassions. Roderick has won two major awards from the Royal Scottish Academy, the Meyer Oppenheim Prize and a RSA Carnegie Travelling Scholarship and was awarded a Fellowship to Cheltenham College of Art. . He has been based in Norfolk since 1980 lecturing at both Yarmouth and Norwich Schools of Art. He was course leader of the Foundation Studies Department at ‘Norwich School of Art and Design’ (UK) between 1993 and 2006.
The skill and technical brilliance of the artist tells further in his many inclusions into the RA and RSA summer exhibitions.
Like Roberto Matta(D) (who counts a number of Newlands’ works in his collections,) the artist plays with space and light. His family of bold, energized images cut across the featureless backgrounds. References to things past inhabit Newlands’ canvases. Childhood memories of his father, an agricultural engineer, mending ‘monstrous mechanical contraptions’ in a dark barn with only a hand-held lamp for light bring to life the monumentally present figures in his work.
It is figurative elements that also feature in Newlands drawings. Hands, larger than life and wrung together play with haunted faces, figures scarred and scored and at times Newlands’ pencil works so hard that the paper almost tears. Parts of heads and bodies tease us with their textures, a beard so fine contrasts with a distorted face and heavily worked parts play with those that are just implied.
Newlands is now living in Cyprus (Kissonerga) and has a studio where he continues his practice and is currently lecturing at 'Stass Paraskos- Cyprus College of Art' on the MA Fine Art course.