Art in contemporary Macedonia

Despite fundamental gaps in its infrastructure (the city’s School of Fine Arts was not founded until 1989), painting — first taken up in the 1930s — was truly flourishing by the post-war era. The cinema is now a powerful presence in the city (in the form of the annual Thessaloniki Film Festival), while the founding, in 1961, of the first permanent theater in the region put a stamp on its theatrical life. Another decisive factor in the cultural development of Thessaloniki, as well as of northern Greece as a whole, was the multifaceted dynamic activity of “Techni” (Art), a cultural society.

Spearheaded by M. Saltiel and Linos Politis, but having the support of virtually all the artists and writers of Thessaloniki, “Techni”, the oldest cultural association in northern Greece, was founded in 1951.

The driving force behind the creation of the School of Fine Arts, the Symphony Orchestra, the State Theater and the Thessaloniki Film Festival, “Techni” has organized countless exhibitions, concerts, performances, seminars and lectures.

It also maintains music and photography workshops, a theater library and a notable engraving collection. Other landmarks in its history were the founding of the Cinema Club (1955) and the Experimental Theater (1979), the second permanent theater in modern-day Thessaloniki.

Painting in contemporary Macedonia

Until after the First World War, apart from folk art and icon painting, activity in the visual arts consisted primarily of sporadic exhibitions, Papaloukas’ show in 1924 being one of the most important. Immediately afterwards, the work of the first generation of local painters bore the imprint of Byzantine tradition and the landscape of Thessaloniki.

The generation of the 60s, revitalized by the creative atmosphere fostered by the School of Philosophy at the University, the Polytechneio (Architecture and Engineering School) and “Techni”, is distinguished by a variety of styles, most notably abstract painting of exceptional, often pioneering, quality.

Rengos was the artist who not only initiated but also deeply influenced artistic activity in the city. The imaginative enrichment of traditional styles and subjects with more modern trends that sets him apart is also characteristic of the lyric landscapes of Fotakis.

Lefakis, on the other hand, cultivated an idiosyncratic abstract tone with daring expressivity. The realism of Paralis is equally idiosyncratic; his poetic landscapes are frequently imbued with a metaphysical mood, while in the work of the multitalented Pentzikis the impressionist’s wealth of color is interwoven with Byzantine mysticism.

‘Greek themes’, painting by Christos Lefakis (1906-1968), one of the most important Greek representatives of ‘peinture matierique’, Thessaloniki, Private collection.

If the expressionism and experimentation with the plastic surface that define the way Sahinis looks at the human environment have left their mark on abstractionism, then Venetoulias‘ urban landscapes, which are chromatically exciting and frequently acerbic owing to his inclination towards social criticism, as well as Loustas‘ lyrical landscapes, continue to depict the Macedonian towns and countryside that inspired the previous generation.
An idiosyncratic blend of realism, expressionism and surrealism is evident in Mavromatis‘ principal subject, the trains. In the younger generation, representational painting appears robust and exploratory in the work of Botsoglou, while Lazongas cultivates the three-dimensional possibilities of abstractionism.