Nikos Engonopoulos

With the Colours of the Word and the Word of Colours

25.06 - 01.10 2017

In the summer of 2017, the Museum of Contemporary Art of the Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation in Andros presented a tribute to the distinguished Greek poet and painter Nikos Engonopoulos (1907-1985).

Nikos Engonopoulos lived by Horace’s maxim Ut pictura poesis: “as is painting so is poetry” or, more freely translated: “Painting and poetry must be based on the same principle”. He was a painter, a poet, he was also a professor at the National Technical University. Three inter-related paths – the term career is unfitting in this case – for a single man, who followed them unceasingly and tirelessly for almost fifty years. Three areas of activity separated to some extent which, however, enriched one another thanks to a prevailing common denominator: Engonopoulos’ immense, diverse and insatiable - over time – broad and wide-ranging education.

The aim of this dedicated exhibition was to highlight this manifold activity and the undisputed talent he demonstrated in everything he became involved. In a museum setting of course, the facet of the painter inevitably prevails without however overshadowing the side of the poet and the professor. There is so much one can say about the role of the painter alone... The painter who is as afraid of the black hole as the writer is of the blank page, as he described very well himself:

The painter handles colours and brushes, oil, white spirit and others. But he knows that behind the canvas there is a terrible, deep black hole. He moves the canvas aside, with the boldness of a dream, and leaning into the dark abyss he sees far, far away, near the bottom, something glowing faintly. At the same time -silently- black birds, winged fish and ghosts are flying. He comes back to the light. Between him and the canvas is now a beast. But still he is not afraid

Who could have expressed better the agonies of the poet if not the painter himself?

The exhibition was structured around 7 interconnected, thematic units:

  • The first was made up by both religious and non-religious paintings, influenced by Byzantine painting, focusing particularly on the technique of egg tempera on wood.
  • The second unit was related to historical heroes and the artistic archetypes that influenced Engonopoulos and to which he dedicated many compositions.
  • The third unit was dominated by the female form, the unequivocally recognisable as being created by Engonopoulos’ hand woman, who is also so unattainable, so enigmatic, that she runs through the entirety of her creator’s work without revealing her secrets.
  • Greek mythology was the subject of the fourth unit which, like its heroes and archetypes, offered viewers the opportunity to appreciate both the breadth of the painter’s knowledge and his cultural heritage.
  • Fifth unit, the couple, the entity with the two heads so loved by Engonopoulos that it was the basis of numerous and important compositions.
  • The sixth part was focused on the artist’s interest in architecture and his ability to depict the charm of numerous buildings through the gaze of a painter with knowledge of the details of perspective.
  • Finally, the seventh unit presented his activity as costume designer for the theatre.

Every unit of the exhibition was accompanied by well-referenced texts, written by people with a deep knowledge of Engonopoulos’ work which are included in the 290-page, bilingual accompanying catalogue which also contains reproductions of the 110 works.

Works from the exhibition

Exhibition Catalog

Nikos Engonopoulos, With the Colours of the Word and the Word of Colours

2017 Exhibition Catalogue

  • Kyriakos Koutsomallis, Marie Koutsomallis-Moreau, Sotiris Sorogas, Thanassis Hatzopoulos, Katerina Perpinioti-Agazir,
  • Published
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Basil & Elise Goulandris Foundation Organisation of the Exhibition
Kyriakos Koutsomallis Director
Marie Koutsomallis-Moreau Curator of the Exhibition
Katerina Perpinioti-Agazir Scientific Advisor
Alexandra Papakostopoulou Administrative Secretary
Yannis-Paris Ketipidis Research Assistant
ELIX - Andreas Georgiadis, Paraskevi Gerolymatou Exhibition Graphics and Labelling
Mikri Arktos Public Relations and Communications Department
Viviane Koutsomallis Legal Council
Kelly Skaftourou, Harry Massouras Finance Manager
Vangelis Panagiotarakos Network Supervisor
Leonidas Issaris Art-store Administrator
Sotiris Piperas Security Services
Michalis Salonikis Facilities Administrator
Orphée Beinoglou Transport of Works
Daès-London Market Insurance Brokers Insurance
Chris Doulgeris Photographer


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