Still dreaming with the giantesses on the Acropolis. In the vast, contemporary space of the New Acropolis Museum, the Charyatids, now freed and 12 feet tall, powerfully transmit their magic for all time. What is it about their marble contours softened by wind and dust, their beautiful forms, there to be completed by our imaginations that still stir us to reverie, filter into our subconcious and invade our dreams.
In Greece, I rediscover sacred geomety in the ancient ruins of the Acropolis and then again, in the New Acropolis Museum, a suitably majestic, grandly simple and pristine space impossibly housing the giants of Greek antiquity. And yet there is somehow an intimacy that allows one to rub shoulders with Apollo and Aphrodite or follow the scuff and ruin of the marble in the Equestrian Frieze. From the Erechtheum, modern Athens appears framed by its ancient history, so many forms of bits of white paper, crumpled, shaded in white.
At Delphi the world is renewed in all her light and mystery, restored by these ancient temples and remnants, an invitation into their silence and quiet grandeur. Walking Mycenae rock against rock; the long triangular slope of the opposing hillside and curving texture of olive and orange grove complete the equation. In my sketchbooks, how to capture line and light and colour so sprung from earth and sky and sea; how each edifice, in ruin holds its quiet and sure weight in pillar and post. Perhaps what the late British painter, David Bomberg called “the spirit in the mass”.
Ryszard Kapuscinski’s “Travels with Herodotus” accompanies me on this journey; he writes of provincialism, not only of space but also of time, and how his own travels as a journalist, with Herodotus’ Histories, gave him not only the breadth of perspective of space as he traversed continents, but also, of time, as he lived through the events and story of thousands of years ago.
Faced with Demeter in the Archeology Museum, I feel the reverberations of this ancient story. Each funerary stele whispers the intimacies of death and passage. Birds alight from the marble singing into the silence, and later at Mycenae there is a robin that will not be disturbed from her perch, even by the vigorous efforts of young Tem.
On the platform at Larissa Station, as we wait to depart Athens, there stands a woman silhouetted in the morning light, boots, black coat, with a suitcase. Is the suitcase part of the iconography of being Greek? Of migration, travel? I see it sometimes in artists’ works in galleries around Athens. What if Aphrodite had a suitcase? As she makes her appearance in my notebooks, she has.
back in the studio, at first I avoid my Bosphorous walk and city commute, not wanting anything to impinge on the silence of my memories. On the easel is a canvas begun sometime before. A vague evokation in turpsy paint and winter light, a group of fishermen standing aloft, caught under the veil of their nets.
Enter left, Aphrodite with a suitcase, soon to be joined by her fellows, refugees, travellers, exiles, emigres all on the move, momentarily held.