Kostas Paniaras

Kostas Paniaras

1934 – 2014


Kostas Paniaras was born in Kiato, Korinthia. He started painting intensively since he was in high school, under the supervision of his teacher Errikos Lekos. In 1952, he enrolled in Law School at the University of Athens. The following year, he took painting classes with Eleni Zongolopoulou and, in 1955, he studied at the Athens School of Fine Arts under Yannis Moralis. In 1956, he held his first solo exhibition at the Monica Pane Art Gallery in Athens. In the same year, he moved to Paris and took painting lessons with André Lhote. In parallel he studied lithography at the École des Beaux Arts while also studying fresco and mosaic art at Gino Severini’s studio. During his first year in Paris, he met many painters and developed friendships with Thanos Tsingos, Yannis Gaitis and Jason Molfessis. In 1958, he made his first stage and costume designs for André Gide’s Minotaur and, in 1959, he painted his first non-figurative pieces expressing his tendency toward monochromy. During this period, he became involved with the poet and writer Louise de Vilmorin as well as with Alexander Iolas with whom he would closely collaborate for the next 20 years. Since the 1960s, he focused on exploring the capabilities and the different formats of color. Adopting gradations and bold combinations, he painted works using clear, basic colors that formed horizontal zones which defined the painting surface. In 1961, he exhibited at the French Institute of Athens and participated in the second Paris Biennale at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, during which two of his pieces were acquired by the MoMA in New York. For the following 5 years, he exhibited in France, Greece, Germany and America. In 1967, he traveled to Iran where he presented his works at the Borghese Gallery. He then visited India, Nepal and other Far Eastern countries. In 1976, he returned to Greece, and moved all his work and archives to his studio in Kiato, which were later on destroyed during a fire. The following year he began working on the series Day and Night, 1977, which are dominated by red and blue colors, characteristics he would retain in his future works. In the framework of this series, he produced his first overpainted copies of ancient sculpture. Later on, since the early until the mid-1980s, he created three-dimensional works such as reliefs, constructions, interventions on ancient Greek art sculptures, and introduced into his practice the use of industrial materials such as vivid vinyl. In 1981, he showcased paintings and overpainted sculptures at the Athens Art Gallery, as well as piecesrom the series Day and Night at the Samy Kinge Gallery in Paris, on which he used fabric folds. In 1983, he met Meta Filippou and married her during the summer of the same year. In 1984, Pieridis Gallery inaugurated his retrospective exhibition and, in 1985, he participated in the exhibition After the Abstraction at the Nees Morfes Gallery in Athens. In 1986, he also participated in many important group exhibitions such as The Generation of the Sixties at the Pieridis Gallery and The Physiognomy of the Greek Post-war Art at the Municipal Art Gallery of Athens. In 1988, he completed an environment at Syntagma Square for the Dromena ’88 of the Municipality of Athens, and the construction of the piece Enlightenment in the old Anglican Church of Patras, provoking the reaction of the local Protestant community. In the same year, he created the stage installation for Molière’s Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme at the Modern Theater, as well as for the plays Death’s Dance by Strindberg and Hedda Gabler by Ibsen, staged by Marietta Rialdi’s Experimental Theater. From 1990 until the end of his life, he held numerous solo and group exhibitions and installations. In 2007, the Benaki Museum of Athens presented a retrospective of his work. He died in Athens in 2014. The need for an alternative interpretation of Greek antiquity and his love for the Greek landscape, especially the sky and the sea, contributed to the development of his personal idiom, which is characterized by the gestural but at the same time harmonious rendering of color contrasts, as well as by a mystical and primordial essence.