Paintings, 23/11/2006 – 13/01/2007

On Thursday, November 23 at 8 p.m. Maria Demetriades opens at the Medusa Art Gallery as a tribute to painter Mario Prassinos an exhibition of works rarely seen in Greece: drawings, temperas and oils on paper from 1938 to 1958. His first period, influenced by representational art and focusing on portraits and still lifes, was followed by works on landscapes and trees which were to become the painter’s main subject.
A major colour monograph on Mario Prassinos by Éditions Actes Sud will also be presented during the exhibition. The book examines the entire oeuvre of the artist, paintings and drawings, with texts that illuminate many of its aspects.

Mario Prassinos was born in 1916 in Constantinople to a Greek-Italian family established in Turkey many years before. His sister Gisèle was born in 1920. In 1922 the family fled the Atatürk regime and moved to France.
Mario completed his secondary education at the Lycée Condorcet in Paris and then studied at the École des Langues Orientales (1932) and the Sorbonne (1934). In Constantinople, his father Lysandre had been teacher of French literature and editor-in-chief of Logos magazine. Always in touch with the art movements in Europe, he encouraged both his children in their artistic and literary pursuits which began in 1934. Through the publisher Henri Parisot, Mario and Gisèle Prassinos frequented the circles of surrealist painters and writers.
In 1938, Mario held his first solo exhibition at the Galerie Billiet-Vorms. In 1935, the Éditions Guy Lévis Mano published Gisèle’s first poetry collection, “La sauterelle arthritique”. In 1940, coming back from his army service as a volunteer, Mario moves away from surrealism and embarks on a period of representational art. In 1942 he begins a long collaboration with the Editions Gallimard as illustrator of the NRF collection. His illustrating activities had begun in 1935 with the Éditions GLM and would continue throughout his life. His illustrations include books of Lewis Carroll, Albert Camus, Edgar Allan Poe, Jean-Paul Sartre, Guillaume Apollinaire, Arthur Rimbaud, Raymond Queneau.
As a teenager, Mario Prassinos wrote imaginary texts, very close to surrealism; he never stopped writing on literature, drawing, tapestry, photography, etc.
In 1970 he writes Les Prétextats, a chronicle of his work on the series of the same name. In 1976 he begins to work on his second book, La Colline tatouée, published in 1983 by Grasset.

Theatre: In 1946, Prassinos makes his first stage designs for Jean Vilar and the First Avignon Festival. This is followed by numerous commissions for Vilar and the National Theatre of Paris, La Scala in Milan, the National Theatre of Marseilles and the Avignon Opera.
In 1948 he holds his first exhibition at the Galerie de France in Paris, where he will exhibit regularly until 1976.
In 1951 Mario Prassinos buys a house in Eygalières, Provence. He begins to work daily on drawing the Alpilles, a range of hills that extends south of his house, and makes his first tapestries; he will make over 150.

In 1956 he holds his first tapestry exhibition at the Galerie La Demeure, where he will exhibit regularly until 1975.
In 1958, first sojourn in Greece. After a cruise in the Aegean with Albert Camus and Michel Gallimard, he rents a house on Spetses for several months; his stay there proves decisive for the course of his work. That year he starts on the series of the island’s cypresses, which ends with the painting “Meltemi” in 1959.
Portraits: After 1962 he resumes his work on portraiture, which he had begun in the 1940s. This time he makes a sketch for the portrait of singer Bessie Smith, and then he embarks on the portraits of his family. He starts with his grandfather, Prétextat. From 1972 to 1974, the Prétextat theme appears in many different versions: the Proprotextats, where his grandfather’s image is mixed with that of his own pet dog, Propro, and Pèretextats, a mixture of his father’s portrait, a mask of the Baule tribe and an image of the Turin Shroud. The Shroud series is completed in 1974-75. These large drawings in Indian ink outline the portrait of his father, Lysandre.
Sculpture: Mario Prassinos makes his first sculptures from as early as 1932, based loosely on the African artefacts one could see at the time in the Musée de l’Homme in Paris, or at the Gallery of Pierre Verité.
In the early 1970s, while still absorbed in depicting his family, he works on sculptures made of mud, some of which were cast in bronze. They are mainly groups of quaint figures copulating.
Turkish landscapes: Created between 1970 and 1981, the Turkish landscapes are “…a childhood memory. The countryside around Constantinople is relatively flat and interspersed with clumps of trees. I wished to recreate this image of the horizon being dissected by a tree which stands out against the light.” (Excerpt from an interview to Jean-Louis Ferrier in 1972.)
They were first exhibited in 1976 at the Galerie de France, and in 1980 at the Galerie Nationale du Grand Palais. From 1980 to the end, Mario Prassinos devoted himself to the Trees series, the oil-on-paper paintings which culminated in the Supplice series. These are at the chapel of Notre Dame de Pitié in Saint Rémy, Provence, as part of the 108 works of Mario Prassinos donated to the French State in 1985, the year of his death.
Numerous exhibitions in France and other countries.

Main exhibitions in Greece:
1966, Merlin Gallery, Athens; paintings and engravings.
1973, Athens Art Gallery; paintings and drawings.
1978, Athens Art Gallery; Indian ink drawings.
1984, Medusa Art Gallery, Athens; paintings and drawings; the Gallery represents the artist in Greece after that year.
1984, Palace of the Grand Masters, Rhodes; paintings, drawings, tapestries. In the same year the show travelled to Athens (French Institute) and Thessaloniki (Museum of Contemporary Art).
1991, Titanium Gallery, Athens; paintings on paper, Indian ink drawings, tapestries.
Recent publications: Henri Parisot, Correspondance avec Mario et Gisèle Prassinos, 1933 – 1938, J. Losfeld-Gallimard, Paris, 2003.
Desmos (Δεσμός) Νο. 21, Ed. Desmos, Paris, 2005.
Monographie Mario Prassinos, Ed. Actes Sud, Arles, 2005.