Yerassimos Sklavos

Yerassimos Sklavos

1927 - 1967


Yerassimos Sklavos was born in the village of Domata, Kefalonia, in 1927, and was the fourth of eight children in his family. During the German Occupation, as a teenager, he did farm work with his father while also creating his first sculptural objects from clay, sand and century plant. In 1948, after completing his military service, from 1950 to 1956, he studied at the Athens School of Fine Arts under Michael Tombros. In 1957, he was awarded a three-year scholarship from the Greek State Scholarships Foundation (IKY) and continued his studies in Paris, at the École Supérieure des Beaux-Art, as well as in the workshops of Georges-Henri Adam, Marcel Gimond and Hubert Yencesse. He also attended the Académie de la Grande Chaumière under Ossip Zadkine. In Paris, his sculptures obtained an abstract and geometric character and depicted strict and simplified forms, such as in the work The beginning of an era, 1959. In 1960, he traveled to Italy, England and the Netherlands. This is when he invented his own technique of shaping sculptures using oxygene flame and acetylene, which he called “Telesculpture”, and obtained a diploma of patent from the French Ministry of Industry. He also met publishers and art dealers Christian and Yvonne Zervos, and Baroness Alix de Rothschild, who granted him a studio and a residence in Levallois two years later. His international recognition and a highly productive period began in 1961, after his first solo exhibition at the Cahiers d'Art in Paris owned by Christian and Yvonne Zervos and after winning the 1st place in sculpture and receiving the Young Artists Award at the 2nd Paris Biennale for the work Spirit. The works Fertile Man, 1961, for the São Paulo Biennale and Revolution – Group of People, 1961, for Castellaras-le-Neuf followed. In 1962, he met André Malraux and Georges Boudaille and exhibited solo at the Panorama Gallery in Lausanne. A year later, an exhibition of his work was held at the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, which was inaugurated by the Minister of Culture, André Malraux, on the occasion of the 3rd Paris Biennale. In 1964, he traveled to Montreal, New York, Brussels, Berlin and Greece, and created the works The Virtue Sisters from Carrara marble and The Eyes of the Sky from Vermont white marble, which are representative examples of the vocabulary Sklavos developed and maintained until the end of his life. The unique rhythm and harmony in his works is the result of the gradual evolution of his geometrical tendencies towards organic and plastic expressiveness, with direct references to his love for nature, the Greek landscape and its different manifestations. By transforming granites, porphyries and marbles, he created biomorphic volumes with deep striations, gaps, perforated cavities and barriers, which trapped and at the same time brought out the light while referring to sea cliff formations and look as if they are a result of natural phenomena over time. In 1965, he created the work Delphic Light from Pentelic marble at Delphi, a place that highlighted the mystical character of his work. In the same year, he held a solo exhibition at the Cahiers d'Art and had a relationship with the German painter and costume designer Tymia. He also created The Bystander, which was acquired by the Ministry of Culture in 1978, and participated in the Panathenaea of Contemporary Sculpture. In 1966, he held a solo exhibition at the Hilton hotel of Athens and introduced a new technique in order to work with his material, in which he used solar energy that he gathered through a lens system. In 1966, he created the work The Girl Who Wouldn’t Stay following an order by the Monnaie de Paris, as well as two honorary medals for the Biennale des jeunes artistes. His last work was the sculpture Last Vision, 1967. One night, in 1967, when he was coming back to his dark lab in Paris, he stumbled and found a tragic death when the massive sculpture The Girl Who Wouldn’t Stay crushed him. He was buried in his village. In 1968, retrospective exhibitions were held by Yvonne Zervos at the Cahier d'Art and by Cecile Golsdcheider in the gardens of the Rodin Museum in Paris. In the coming years, more events and tributes regarding his work took place in Greece, France and Belgium, and a significant retrospective exhibition was held by the National Bank of Greece Cultural Foundation (MIET, 1998-1999) in Athens and Thessaloniki. His works can be found in public spaces in Europe, the USA, Canada and Brazil.