Joannis Avramidis

Joannis Avramidis

1922 - 2016


Joannis Avramidis was born in 1922 in Batumi, a city in the Black Sea, by Greek refugees who originated from Sürmene, Trabzon. At the age of 14, he started attending the State School of Art in Batumi. In 1937, his father became a victim of Stalin's ethnic and linguistic minorities persecutions and was sent to Siberia where he died in prison. Thus, seventeen-year-old Joannis discontinued his studies and immigrated with his family to Athens. During the Axis Occupation of Greece, he found refuge in Ptolemaida and, in 1943, he immigrated to Vienna where he initially worked in a labor camp. Two years later, he began his studies in painting at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna under Danish professor Robin Christian Andersen. During his studies, he paid particular attention to the design and rendering of nudes. His early works were sometimes characterized by realist values, other times by a melancholic mood, simplicity, a progressive tendency for abstraction and a geometric portraying of the figures, and in some cases by compositional freedom. In any case, his main theme was the human form, on which he based his ever-increasing interest in plasticity matters. From 1953 to 1956, he studied sculpture under Fritz Wotruba at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. In the early stages of his sculptural activity he worked with stone and metal, simplifying the structural principles of the human body and rendering geometric elements. Having succeeded in formulating his own constructive logic and morphoplastic vocabulary, he then devoted his career to delivering the idea of an ideal human form that would extend over time. Influenced by both archaic tradition and Cycladic figurines, as well as by the work of Piero della Francesca, he developed consistent biomorphic and abstract volumes so as to represent timelessness and at the same time substantiality in sculptures that depict bodies, heads, legs, columns, logs and trees. From 1959, he moved forward with the modular development and harmonious fusion of intertwined shapes into sections that extended across space, level, surface, and even height. In these works, he focused on the vertical axes and horizontal stripes that transformed the human form into a kind of pillar or column. Later on, his forms were dominated by repeated curvilinear, organic and rhythmic elements. In 1967, he reverted to more geometric features and shifted towards angular forms produced in bands or belts that he called Forms in Belts or Bands (Bandfiguren). In the 1980s, he focused on topics such as the City, the Temple, the Trojan Horse and the Agora with the intention of exploring the social, public and symbolic notions within the sculptural process. Since 1956, he started participating in numerous group and solo exhibitions in art galleries and museums such as at the Würthle gallery (1957, 1960) in Vienna, the Rodin Museum (1961) in Paris, the Das Museum des 20. Jahrhunderts (1962, 1980) in Vienna, the Galerie im Taxis-palais (1965) in Innsbruck, the Tate Gallery (1964) in London, the Appel und Fertsch (1964, 1967) in Hannover, the Ulysses (1975, 1982, 1983, 1986) in Vienna, the Kunsthalle (1980) in Mannheim, the Kunsthalle (1980) in Nuremberg, the Der Spiegel in Cologne and many more, as well as at major international exhibitions such as at the Venice Biennale (1956, 1962), the Middelheim Biennale in Antwerp (1959, 1959, 1963, 1973), the Konstruktive Kunst Biennale (1969) in Nuremberg and Documenta (1964, 1977) in Kassel. He has also received the following awards: the State Prize of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna (1956), the Austrian Prize for Sculpture (1958), the Hugo-von-Montfort Prize (1961), the Promotion Award of the city of Vienna (1961), the Austrian Association of Industrialists Award (1961), the Prize of the city of Vienna (1964), the Will – Grohmann Prize of the City of Berlin (1968), the Budapest Small Sculpture Biennale Prize (1973) and the Grand Austrian State Prize (1973). In addition, he was a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Hamburg (1966 – 1967), Director of the Nudes Department at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna (1966 – 1967) and Director of the Sculpture Department at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna (1968 – 1992). In 1968, he became a member of the Vienna Secession and, in 1973, a member of the Austrian Senate of Art. In 1997, the National Gallery – Alexandros Soutsos Museum of Athens organized his retrospective exhibition, after which he donated his artworks to the museum's collection. He died in Vienna in 2016.