A self-taught artist, (“however, anything but simple and untidy”) Nikos Gabriel Pentzikis enriched Modern Greek art with new characteristics that appeared for the first time. Raised in Byzantine Thessaloniki and having a deep knowledge of Byzantine arts and letters, as well as being familiar from an early age with all the movements and trends in European modernism and the avant-garde, he combined elements of post-Impressionism (Seurat) in his work and formed a uniquely personal expression. Pentzikis’ work is related directly to his intellectual world, his particular perception, and his modernist and audacious writings. As he had so often said, the core and the spark of his artistic work were his Orthodox beliefs and the writings of the Church Fathers.
He lived and died in “Mother Thessaloniki”. He studied Pharmacy and Applied Optics in Strasbourg and Paris (1926-1929). During the years between 1930 and 1955 he was in charge of the pharmacy that he had inherited from his father on Egnatia Street and during the period 1955-1968 he worked in a pharmaceutical company. He exhibited his work for the first time in 1944, having already found his voice in literature and poetry with the publication of Andreas Dimakoudis and The Dead Man and the Resurrection as well as the collection of poems Eikones. His artistic education propelled him into writing art critiques and essays (on Papaloukas and Gkikas).
His early works were created with pencils and oil but he quickly turned to tempera, which he used until the end of his life, because he considered oil as being too sensual. During this early period (1950-1967) he depicted the landscape of Macedonia and its vegetation, but also his birthplace with its working class houses and Byzantine churches. Adopting elements of pointillism, he articulates his post-impressionist compositions, in which color plays a leading role. Successive layers of short, rapid brushstrokes dominate his lyrical works, with the use of harmonious colors but without perspective or a play of shadow and light.
In the second period of his work (1967-1993) he employed the improvised, exhausting method of “psifarithmisis” (a method that he developed in which colors corresponded to certain numbers). Pages from the Synaxarion of St. Nicodemus Hagiorite (but also love letters, post cards, place names) provided the raw material for his work until the end of his life and Pentzikis tried to “translate” into colors the harmony and spirit of the holy book which he used. The synaxarion of every day (embedded with other texts) is deconstructed into words, each word in letters, each letter in numbers, each of which corresponded to a color: 1 = blue, 2 = yellow, 5 = orange, etc. The religious themes inevitably increased and the colors became more evocative and darker.
Byzantine and European, complex and innocent, orthodox and modern, Pentzikis wove with innumerable brushstrokes, with boundless love and patience, a mystical landscape where the relationships between man and the ultimate emerge – where, however, hermeticism and the symbolic extension do not obscure the precious aspects of life, the uneasy expertise of a contemporary artistic consciousness.
KALFAYAN GALLERIES | ATHENS 13 December 2011 – 28 January 2012 Curated by Errikos Sofras