9, May 2012 § Leave a comment
My expectations for the Easter weekend at Ekatontapyliani were set pretty high. And it delivered the goods. The promised rose petals fell from the dome at midnight on Good Friday, the lights of the church were extinguished at midnight on Easter Eve and then hand-held candles, carrying a flame from Jerusalem apparently, relit the church and sanctuary outside. Then sure enough there was a firework display in the square (followed by an unofficial one conducted by unruly teenagers that was menacingly close to the hoards of church-goers!).
But I wouldn’t dare purport to have experienced Greek Easter without having at least sampled ‘Mayiritsa’ — yes, that’s right, gut soup, eaten to reintroduce meat to the diet after lent. So we promptly drifted over to a nearby taverna at midnight after church and I gave it a go. I also ate a couple of ‘kokoretsi’ rings for my dad’s sake (England’s number one Kokoretsi fan, kokoretsi being chopped innards wrapped in intestines).
Although all these experiences were memorable, what really defined Easter 2012 for me was the impromptu dancing in that taverna after the Mayiritsa had gone down. I’m talking old men in the middle of the restaurant dancing ‘Zeimbekiko’ on smashed glass, with paper napkins snowing down on them, sweat and passion till 5am on Easter morning. The rhythm and the melody got me and I just had to dance. Just days before, Eleni had led a Greek dancing lesson on Zeimbekiko so a group of us headed for the clearing between the tables and joined in.
Although I had been taught Zeimbekiko before, Eleni was the first to teach me about the spirit behind the dance; its origin being an ancient war dance that soldiers performed to simultaneously express their pride, pain and passion. That ethos is still alive and literally kicking.
At one point a man jumped from being upright straight down to being horizontal on the ground in a press up position, picked up a wine glass with his teeth from the floor, downed the wine and then with a nod, released it sending crystals of glass in every direction much to the delight of the crowd.
But what never fails to astound me is the agility of the older men who, to be honest aren’t always at the peak of physical fitness. They manage to draw strength for their hops, leaps, twists and slow backwards bends from somewhere beyond their bodies, it must be from their spirits.
Let me introduce the Greek word ‘kefi’. ‘Kefi’ doesn’t succinctly translate into English but refers to an overflow of exuberance from your spirit which can manifest itself in dancing, singing or general high spirits. Sometimes it carries connotations of being so happy you’re a bit mad. What else could possess you to dance till 5 in the morning and not feel tired? In an instant it didn’t really matter who or what you were, we were one group moved by the moment and nothing else mattered. It can’t be planned or expected but sometimes Kefi strikes and when I look back on that night I’m reminded of exactly why I got a one-way ticket to Greece.
– Nicola Pasterfield
9, June 2010 § 2 Comments
We are halfway through our final week of the Spring semester and a productive hush has descended on the school. The painting studios are full with the final touches being applied to still lifes, portraits and landscapes, there is a gentle hum coming from the printers churning out images in the digital lab and there is an intense quiet in the dark room as final photographs are being meticulously spotted and matted.
At thirty I never thought that I would return to school. I left England at the age of twenty with dreams of travelling and I never quite seemed to get around to settling down and taking the time for tertiary education. As I spent the next decade wandering the world my love of art lay dormant and surfaced only at times when visiting art galleries or trying to capture photographs of the places I visited. I had neither taken up pencil nor paint brush since leaving school but always yearned to be able to sit and paint the beautiful things around me. When the idea of taking time out from work to go on an art course first came to me I started scanning the net for possibilities and by pure chance I came across the Aegean Center. It took me a full year to actually gather enough courage to apply as I was well aware of my artistic abilities and was quite sure my application would be rejected on the basis that I really had forgotten everything I had ever learnt. I was wrong, I knew my desire to learn was there and after corresponding with John I felt so comforted in the knowledge that my beginner status would not be an issue at all I was impatient for the months to pass so I could be on my way to the school.
I arrived in Pistoia in the Fall session of 2009. Before I so much as left the train station the local taxi drivers had me figured for a student and barely needed to be told to take me to the Villa Rospigliosi. Heading up the gravel drive surrounded by olive trees it was hard to imagine that this beautiful old villa would be my home for the next three weeks. I remember being the last to arrive so had no time to meet anyone before the evening meal and the first night celebrations were held so I was quite surprised when I walked in and found that everyone was younger than me. I remember thinking that first night that maybe I had made a big mistake, everyone was so young, so talented and I was quite out of my depth. Again, I couldn’t have been more wrong, socially it was the most wonderful diverse group of people and artistically everyone was at so many different stages of development acceptance and understanding was immediate. Those first few weeks passed by in a whirlwind of museums, cathedrals, train rides, bus rides, gelato, pizza and pasta all shared with new people, excited as I was to learn all about Italy. After so many years of seeing famous masterpieces in books and on film it was so different to see them in their proper homes or in museums and after such a short time I was amazed at how much information I retained. This complete immersion in the Renaissance really was the only way to truly begin to understand the magnificent pieces of art, paintings, sculpture, frescoes, architecture and music. With most of our days taken up by tours with Jeffrey and Liz our practical work time was limited to a few days at the villa. These were moments to enjoy our surroundings and get our first feelings as to what our studio studies would be like when we went to Greece. As somewhat of an indecisive person I found it hard to choose what course to study so found myself attending all the lectures in the hope that I could narrow my field of interest. My initial idea was to study painting and drawing, however when John started to talk about the digital process I found it too hard to resist so as we headed to Paros I was taking the majority of the courses.
The rest of the semester was quite different, Paros gave us the opportunity to unwind from the hectic schedule that Italy had provided us with and begin proper our studies. With each of us moving into our separate apartments and studios we had time to gather our thoughts from all we had experienced and there was an exited air and a new appreciation to the arts.
Paros became quieter as winter approached and our small group enjoyed classes and hikes, pot lucks and movie nights. The semester break allowed people to travel to other European countries and explore some of the other Greek Islands. On return work continued and I decided that one semester was just not enough time for me to achieve everything I had set out to do. So it was in that first week back from the break that I decided to come back for another three months in the Spring.
So spring arrived and I headed back to Greece, a new semester with new goals. Again I had the trouble of being completely indecisive so signed up not only for painting, drawing and digital photography but this semester I would also study print making, a completely new medium for me.
Three months can pass by extremely quickly, Paros has changed greatly from the quiet cool of winter and spring came suddenly with Easter, the island waking up as we headed towards a hot summer.
The dynamics have changed slightly this semester as there are a number of mature students attending the school. This has been a great change and it made me realize that there is no ‘standard’ Aegean Center student, if someone has motivation and drive then they will fit in.
I wanted to share some of my work as I believe that I have come a long way from those first days of basic drawing where my ‘straight’ lines were quite wobbly and my figure drawings looked like something more suited to a horror film. I believe that I now have a solid background and knowledge in all the fields I studied and I’m happy that I chose to do so many subjects. Art continually evolves and I think one of the greatest lessons learnt whilst studying in Greece was patience. Patience to sit for a few hours purely to draw, patience to work through problems encountered in Photoshop and probably the hardest to learn but with the best results patience with layering, scumbles and glazes in oil painting.
I cannot claim that I’m ready for the commercial art world, neither do I want to be; this course for me has been a purely personal desire to be able to fulfill a long standing dream. I I feel that now I can go out into the world, continue my travels and this time I will be able to have the confidence to paint the places I see.
25, May 2009 § Leave a comment
Photography student Alice Houston recently captured the morning light that has visited the Church of a Hundred Doors since the fourth century AD.
13, June 2008 § Leave a comment
Picture of Professor Jeffrey Carson, circa 1988, by Aegean Center alum Julian Parker-Burns
We would like to officially welcome you to our blog, as well as to our recently revamped website at www.aegeancenter.org. Check back here for more Aegean Center news and events, as well as alumni updates, archival images and Paros highlights. With the new semester will also come student diaries and student work in progress.
If you are an Aegean Center alum and are still working in the arts, or have exciting news to tell, send us an email at email@example.com, and we’ll feature your news on these pages.
Have you got an image of Paros or the Aegean Center from the 60s, 70s or 80s? Add it to our historical archive, again at firstname.lastname@example.org. Pictured above is our very own Jeffrey Carson in the courtyard of the Church of 100 Doors in 1988.
Check back soon for pictures from the Spring 2008 Student Art Exhibition.