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Metabolism ( from the Lithosevia series), 1968



George Skotinos (1937-0)
Metabolism ( from the Lithosevia series), 1968
oil on canvas
AGLC 534 @ A.G Leventis Gallery

George Skotinos lived in Famagusta to the age of 37. He was forced to leave his beloved town and a large part of his body of work in 1974, when the town was occupied by Turkish troops. As a boy in Famagusta, he had witnessed the constant succession of finds brought to light by archaeological excavations in the neighbouring ancient towns of Engomi and Salamis. The enormous cultural wealth hidden in the bowels of the land of Cyprus, from as early as the Stone Age, sustained his work from the very first steps of his career.

The first cycle of Skotinos’ painterly oeuvre, extending from 1965 to 1974, has the general title Lithosevia. Its subject is matter as the agent of culture: through its ability to change and survive in time, matter can transport alive to the present a history that spans millennia. The painting Metabolism, from the group of paintings by the same name that constitutes a part of Lithosevia, was inspired by precisely this continual metabolic change of matter. It aims at the creation of a visual experience of time as it is imprinted on matter, which, constantly changing and reproducing, perpetuates life in different forms each time. It was painted in 1968, one year after Skotinos’ monumental work, The Horses of Engomi (S. Stefanou private collection). The latter was made in 1967, following the discovery by archaeologists in 1966 of a royal tomb in Engomi, a major settlement of the Late Bronze Age. Inside the tomb, together with the illustrious deceased, his chariot and two horses lay buried. Skotinos painted the skeletons of the two horses as he saw them in the grave, in a process of metabolism; that is, when, during the transition from death to life, they took on the form of plants and flowers of the wild nature of the area of Engomi. An account that the two horses were buried alive with their master was particularly moving to the painter, who ‘saw’, in their struggle to escape, humankind’s effort to live free. A part of the skeleton of the Horses of Engomi, as they are known, can be traced in the painting Metabolism.

Using an expressionist, surrealist idiom, Skotinos – who introduced Surrealism to Cyprus – creates, with realistic impressions as his point of departure, symbolic spaces, dream worlds and spheres of insight, thus abolishing the concept of time and space. The painting accommodates abstraction and the element of the baroque, which lends it drama. This dramatic sensation, which is indicative of many of his works, could be linked to the painter’s personal experiences, as well as to those of his homeland. His works have always sprung from his life experiences. With poetic power and creative imagination, he has created symbolic worlds, giving shape to the individual and collective conscience.

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About the artist

He studied in Athens at the Drama School of the National Theatre of Greece (1961-1964) and in New York at the School of Visual Art and Movie Subscription Group (1964-1967). He appeared on the Cypriot art scene in 1960. His first large series of works is titled Lithosevia and includes paintings in subgroups, made between 1965 and 1974. After 1974 he painted the monumental series The Circle of Protest. With life experiences as his starting point, he proceeds to compose poetic, symbolic worlds. He expresses himself in an expressionist, surrealist style, and abstraction and the baroque coexist in his oeuvre. He has shown his work in nine solo exhibitions in Cyprus, and in New York (1966), Edinburgh (1969), Tel Aviv (1971), Athens (1974), Vienna (1975), Basel (1975) and Hamburg (1991). He has taken part in many group shows. He represented Cyprus in the Paris Biennale (1967), the Alexandria Biennale (1968), the Venice Biennale (1968), the São Paulo Biennale (1969) and the Triennale-India (1969, 1982). In 1990, the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow held a retrospective of his work. In 1982 he was awarded with the Gold Medal at the Triennale-India.

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