Let there be light
The works of renowned Greek artist Takis Moraitis capture his love affair with the sea, Mediterranean light and the symbols of Greek life
Artist Takis Moraitis joined the navy just to become more intimate with his obsession: the sea. What he didn't bank on his first long journey was a cyclone so severe that it would tear the petrol tanker he had boarded to shreds.
"I can tell you every detail of that day, it left such a big impression on me," Moraitis says. "Everyone else was terrified, and I was thrilled. The power of the sea was impressive, but our boat was brand new, and so huge, it didn't occur to me to be afraid."
Only when a ship in near proximity sank - with 36 people on board - did he realise the severity of his situation.
Even this harrowing experience couldn't shake his undying love for the open seas, and his works are testament to his intense admiration for the deep blue.
A selection of 40 original works by Moraitis has been flown to Melbourne for an exclusive exhibition of his work, Memories of Home.
The internationally recognised artist has held exhibitions in North America, Europe and the Middle East and his pieces grace the private collections of sultans and presidents alike.
As the name of the exhibition suggests, the themes are purely Greek and rely heavily on symbolic representations of life in Greece: the seascape, island life, and stills from a simpler time.
An islander himself, from Cephallonia and Milos, Moraitis references the islands for much of his subject matter. His brush strokes successfully capture the distinctive colour of the Mediterranean sky and sea, juxtaposed against the white cliffs of his beloved Milos. Viewing the canvases from various angles, the light seems to reflect off the water differently, making the scene appear illuminated from an internal light source.
It is this play on light that sets his artworks apart.
"The most brightly lit point in Greece is the Cyclades island group," he says. "The sun seems to shine more brightly" or the amiable artist jokes, "perhaps it seems that way because we love it so much."
The successful artist showed very early signs of his ability when he impressed his first grade classmates with his portraits of them. "I can't say I was a great student because I was always using my imagination, creating fantasies in my mind, and then getting them down on paper."
Moraitis has come a long way since then, having studied and exhibited internationally and now works from his studio, gallery and art school in Plaka, Athens. He purchased the 19th century neoclassical building in ruins, and lovingly restored it to its current state.
Central to the studio is an enormous ancient urn that Moraitis and his students unearthed out of the basement floor.
Moraitis has a passion for salvaging antique objects from destruction. Several of his works have been painted directly onto original doors from the 18th century. "I pitied that they were throwing away these doors, to make way for the new doors that have no comparison with the old," he says.
"For some reason, people think that the new are better. So that these doors wouldn't be lost, I chose to use them for some of my paintings and that way the doors would last."
All of the works from the Memories of Home exhibition will be on sale, giving patrons the chance to take a little bit of Greece home with them.
Memories of Home is open now till 22 June, at the Hellenic Museum, 280 William Street, Melbourne. For further information, www.hellenic.org.au
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