Nikos Kessanlis

1930 - 2004

Born in Thessaloniki (GR), died in Athens (GR).

Nikos Kessanlis

In 1948 Nikos Kessanlis moved to Athens, where he studied at the Athens School of Fine Arts, under Yannis Moralis, while also assisting in the workshops of Yiannis Syropoulos and Nikos Nikolaou. His first works – mainly oils – follow the post-cubist academic teachings of the school at the time. He obtained a scholarship from the Italian Institute of Athens and moves to Rome in 1955, in order to study restoration at the Instituto Centrale del Restauro. At the end of the Fifties, he is drawn towards the concerns of Art Informel and of Abstract Expressionism, thus creating his Walls series.  These compositions are made by pasting and scraping multitudes of thick layers of colour coagulations.  

In 1961 he settles in Paris where he bonds tightly with the art group Nouveaux Realistes, and their theoretician Pierre Restany. During this period he gets familiar with the use of found objects (objets trouves) and with textiles, creating the series Gestures. The culmination point of this series is the provocative, Great White Gesture, with which he makes an intervention at the La Fenice theatre, in the exhibition Three Propositions for a New Greek Sculpture, curated by Pierre Restany (within the framework of the Venice Biennale, 1964).

The next stage of his work involves image intervention via experimentations with photomechanical reproduction. He takes part in the exhibition Hommage a Nicephore Niepce at the J gallery with his work Phantasmagorias of Identity, which signals the beginning of his Mec Art period. In 1966 he progresses on his photomechanical quests via the series Reformations. In Meta-Structures, he works on more possible ways of deconstructing the image, by intervening and repainting on photographs of classical reproductions. From the Eighties onwards he rejuvenates his painterly style via the Walls, Portraits and Palimpsests. In 1996 he reprints photographs from the previous Cements series. In 1981 he is elected professor at the Athens School of Fine Arts and from 1991 he serves as its Dean. He realises the school’s rapid restructuring and regeneration.

His work has been presented in numerous group and solo exhibitions internationally (Venice Biennale, 1958, 1976, 1988, Sao Paulo Biennale, 1961, 1963, Paris Biennale of Young Artists, 1963, 1965, Nikos Kessanlis (retrospective 1955-1997), Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art, Thessaloniki, 1997, Athens Biennale, 2007, Nikos Kessanlis: From Matiere to the Image, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Elefsina Cultural Centre, 2007). 

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