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Agony II



Adamantios Diamantis (1900-1994)
Agony II
oil on canvas
AGLC 1020 @ A.G Leventis Gallery

The uprising of the Cypriot people demanding freedom in 1955 and the intercommunal riots that broke out in 1958 and intensified in 1963-1964 caused Diamantis severe anxiety for the future of his homeland and his people, which reached its apex with the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974 and all its disastrous consequences. In a series of eight works entitled 'Agonies', the artist declared these feelings of anxiety, pain and frustration that overwhelmed him.

In his painting ‘Agony II’, we can observe, two terrified female figures that are trying to escape. Symbolically, one is holding a child and the other a baby goat. The earthy, red colouring of the bare parts of their bodies, is reminiscent of red-figure vases and Minoan frescoes, contrasting with their illuminated white garments. The two figures are set against a dark, inaccessible, utterly arid mountain landscape, which becomes even more frightening with the turbulent sky in the background portending a storm.

The stifling, antirealistic, exitless and inhospitable space is of prime importance in the rendering of the subject. Symbolic value is also attributed to the lighting of the work, especially the contrast between light and darkness; life and death. The composition contains a spiritual, transcendental element that draws the viewer into a contemplative process.

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About the artist

He studied in London at the Saint Martin’s School of Art (1920-1921) and the Royal College of Art (1921-1923). Upon graduation, he split the First Prize for Drawing with his fellow student Henry Moore. He taught art at the Pancyprian Gymnasium (1926-1962) in Nicosia. He spearheaded the creation of the Cyprus Folk Art Museum and was its first director (1950-1994). He developed his own style through the study and unrestricted use of different artistic idioms. He especially studied classical values and delved into the work of El Greco, Cézanne and other Modernist artists. At the same time, he kept alive the artistic tradition of his homeland, by inseminating his works with the forms of ancient and Byzantine art. He drew his subjects from the landscape and the human element of Cyprus, which he did not try to describe but to interpret. His painting focuses on the formal, the universal and the monumental. Between 1967 and 1972 he painted the monumental work 'The World of Cyprus' (1.75 x 17.5 m) and from 1963 to 1977 a series of eight works under the general title 'Agonies'. He showed his work in solo exhibitions in Nicosia (1957, 1975, 1977, 1989), Athens (1962, 1976, 1989) and London (1964, 1979), as well as in group exhibitions in Cyprus and abroad. He received the Award of the Academy of Athens (1976) and the Excellence Award in Letters, Arts and Sciences of the Republic of Cyprus (1993).  

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