ELENI VAROPOULOU: PORTRAYING ODYSSEUS
In the eyes of Anna Filini Odysseus would seem to be the supreme myth for the traveller, the wayfarer, and the wanderer – the man who is learning the art of inquiry. An extremely ancient and vital myth, the artist is able to superimpose her personal myth upon it.
‘’15 pictures together with texts and poems” : the pictures, the texts, and the poems contained in this trim fifty- five page volume published under this sub-title by Agrostis are holding a dialogue between themselves. The pictorial element, the fifteen paintings, co-exist with passages of prose and poetry which explain, complement, and enlarge upon them.
LANDSCAPES & SEASCAPES
“You see the seer earth and dry-stone walls of Tinos; the orange tints of Delos’ torpid noonday hour overhanging the ancient city with its temples and traders’ stalls; the burnished black rocks of Kameni off the island of Thira; the blue-green olive groves stretching from Mytilene to Lefkas and Ithaca; and the palm-trees rising into the air, like so many fountains playing, beside the accursed walls of Lefkosia.”
Taken from the artist’s own foreword to the book, these phrases refer to the pictures that follow. They describe particular aspects of them, of the landscapes and seascapes of the Aegean and Ionian Seas and of the Mediterranean, rendered as Nature’s paradises with all the authentic beauty and ideality, the familiar light and stupefying colours of the Greek scene. In Anna Filini’ s vision Odysseus’ adventurous voyage is a marvellous journey through Greek seas and lands, a voyage on which one delights in the sunshine, gazes ecstatically at the horizon, sails over the storm-tossed sea, and strolls along strands surveying the mountains.
The epic tale of Odysseus is transformed into a story peopled by young men and girls who depart on voyages, disport themselves, acquire learning, fall in love, know danger, and return home. It is transformed into an individual ‘wandering and hardship, into recollection and life experience. In “Portraying Odysseus” Anna Filini haw re-written the myth so that Odysseus is each one of us, a contemporary conscience half-way between the mythical past and the present day, between reality and dream, between life’s experiences and legend.
Apart from being an excursion to much loved places, a nostalgic return to homelands, a recalling of privy occasions in islands, on beaches, or in corners of Attica, for Anna Filini Odysseus’ voyage is a peregrination around the interior of a painter’s memory dominated by recollections of ancient Greek temples, of the Italian Renaissance, of post-Byzantine painting and hagiography, and of portraits by Cranach; of a memory in which various figurative myths dating from bygone times to the 20th century have been established; in which the transmuted limbs of Magritte, the metaphysical resplendence of de Chirico, the Byzantine rocks of Kontoglou and Giotto, the walls and striped garments of Engonopoulos, and the bewitching objects of Dali all receive acknowledgement.
Sensibility is embedded directly in speech, and symbolic features are effortlessly brought together in the paintings. There is a spontaneity and freshness in them since “spiritual reality takes the place of wordly reality”- to adapt one of Breton ‘s phrases – while land – and seascapes are glorified, Odysseus ’ vital pertinacity is extolled for nothing can hold him back at points along his route because of that inner urge of his to return home. Aspirations, the voyages, the yearning for love… all are passionately depicted.
In portraying Odysseus, Anna Filini reveals herself to be optimistic to the point where almost childlike innocence and naivety are called into play: the lost innocence of the youth on the threshold of knowledge with his satchel and tools, the works of the Alexandrian poet, and his compass in his hands; the lost innocence of the naked, or half-naked, bare-footed children on the beaches and in the hills, children at play, going on excursions, starting out on life ‘s quests; the lost innocence of young girls when they wear a hat and a skirt, or when they remove their footwear to impersonate Circe, Helen, Calypso, Nausica, Penelope, Euryklea, or Magdalene; the lost innocence of the man who knows no guilt after the experience of each encounter, and who awakens in Ithaca one morning after a voyage lasting twenty years.
The paintings and the text of the book are distinguished by the intermingling of features taken from different geographical and cultural areas and from different historical periods. The painter hellenizes Italian subjects, modernizes Circe, identifies Odysseus with Sant Paul and Saint George, names Athens the Ithaca of her own Odysseus and her own Penelope. This intermingling is attained through a new sourrealist mood, a new sourrealist language. The familiar Greek landscape is transmuted into a vision. Memories of the Ionion and Aegean Seas, of Sicily, Cyprus, Venice, and the rock of Athens are idealized and inclined to transcend the familiar. They conjure up the conches, arches, columns, stairways, and titled floors of buildings exposed to the winds and hot climate of the Mediterranean. The spectator is attached by the enigmas inherent in the choice of objects: the black satchel, the sphere Odysseus holds in his hand, Circe ‘s wild cat, Nausica’s playthings, the marble torso, the bicycle and mantel-clock on the sandy shore – each placed in a context both expected and unexpected.
In “Portraying Odysseus” Anna Filini relates in a metaphoric language her own journey or, rather, journeys among the senses and sensations, through idyllic surroundings, and among the fears, thoughts and impressions, the emotions and ambitions experienced in a lifetime, among symbols and archetypes. In her book a personal mythology voyages aboard a vessel loaded with myths taken from Greek antiquity and Byzantium, and from later cultures born of Hellenism and the rest of Europe