The A. G. Leventis Gallery is continuing its research into the history of modern Cypriot art with a new temporary exhibition dedicated to the pioneering Cypriot artist Adamantios Diamantis (1900-1994). The exhibition AGONIES – Diamantis will focus on ‘Agonies’, the important series of works from Diamantis’ oeuvre, exhibited together for the first time in their entirety.
The exhibition will feature the eight emblematic paintings Diamantis created from 1963 to 1977. It will also include Woman with Outstretched Arms, the final complete work by the artist, made in 1983-1984 it is considered to be the conclusion of the ‘Agonies’ series, as well as of Diamantis’ artistic journey, which lasted almost the entire 20th century. In contrast to his monumental work The World of Cyprus, in ‘Agonies’the protagonist is the woman in the role of the mother.
Τhe ‘Agonies’ series explores the artist’s relationship with all the important events that marked his homeland in the 20th century. In the political situation taking shape in Cyprus, Diamantis could see dangers lurking which he discerned would not allow a lasting peace on the island. With his life and art always having been irrevocably bound with the world and destiny of his native land, he felt a great anxiety which was constantly growing and which, inevitably, would be reflected – as an outlet or as an exorcism – in his work, especially in the ‘Agonies’ series. To Diamantis’ agonising about the future of his homeland and about his disconnection from his world of inspiration, other personal anxieties, both existential and artistic, were added.
In his ‘Agonies’, Diamantis attempted a major break with his artistic career up until then, by drastically renewing his pictorial vocabulary. In order to better serve the subject matter of his paintings, but also propelled by an ineffable anxiety to keep up with the spirit of his era, this artist, who had tried for years to fight the general current and to remain independent by resisting the new movements in art, was finally led to change his style of painting. He introduced expressionist vocabulary, bold symbolism in terms of form and colour and Cubist references, while he refused to be bound by realistic constraints.
In order to trace Diamantis’ journey towards the ‘Agonies’, the exhibition will feature the sketches and preliminary drawings for his final works. It will also examine the beginning of his artist exploration of the theme, starting from his school years, when in his copy of Auguste Rodin’s sculpture The Burghers of Calais he tried to capture the anxiety of death. Diamantis had many such important ‘meetings’ with artists and works of art of international acclaim. When he was an art student in London, he explored another kind of anxiety in his copy of El Greco’s The Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. Francisco Goya’s ‘The Disasters of War’and Emil Nolde also influenced him by introducing the idea of using landscape as a means to express the human soul. Wassily Kandinsky’s theories helped him develop a rhythmic drawing style which satisfied an inner need. In Diamantis’ work we can also see some thematic and stylistic similarities with his friend and fellow student Henry Moore. Most of all, it appears that in the creation of the ‘Agonies’ Diamantis was influenced by Picasso’s work, in particular Guernica.
Diamantis’ relationship with the Byzantine tradition is evident both on a thematic level – his maternity-themed paintings refer directly to the Virgin and Child – as well as in his stylistic development. An affinity can be seen in the ‘Agonies’ series: the scenes of horrified women running to protect their young children from imminent threat refer to the Byzantine illustrations of the Massacre of the Innocents.
In order to emphasise Diamantis’ relationship with the works of these artists and with Byzantine art, the A. G. Leventis Gallery will be taking a distinctive museological approach in the presentation of this exhibition by featuring photographs of works of art from museums and private collections that will function as reference points to the artist’s journey in creating his ‘Agonies’.