An exhibition by George Erotokritos
Erotokritos on love, religion and sexuality
(from a series of interviews with the artist)
I ask Erotokritos how he manages to marry the religious and the sexual, the holy and the earthly in his works. Sitting back on his sofa, he ponders this and explains “There was a time when these coexisted. For example, St Paul allowed the images of the 12 Gods of Olympus to remain in the first church in Corinth. St Evlalios is our protector of those in love, just like the Catholic Church has St Valentine”.
There is a chapel dedicated to St Evlalios in occupied Karavas, near Lapithos, where Erotokritos himself was raised. “Lapithos” he once told me “is where I first imagined the mermaids, near the ancient ruins of Lambousa, looking for little stones and pieces of pottery. I even thought of studying archaeology for a little while. But painting was what drew me”.
And George Erotokritos can paint on anything. He eschews canvas, preferring the warm, solid feeling of wood. In his living room, there are works painted on old wooden doors and windows, headrests of old beds, bits from boats and all sorts of planks and boards.
In some cases the combination of gold and bright indigo on wood, the images of angels and saints, make his paintings look almost like religious icons.
“I’ve used canvas, but I like wood, especially old pieces of wood”, he says smiling. “I used to collect wood, I have so many pieces of old wood now, including some old doors. I think these pieces of wood are part of our heritage, I think that by painting on wood I can protect this heritage”.
These old pieces of wood have traveled far and wide, and are to be found in private collections around the world, even in the homes of Yves Saint Laurent and Whitney Houston.
“These pieces of wood might be as much as a century old and some are engraved and carved. Why should they be left to rot? These pieces of wood have seen so much. Think of how much a door has seen, how many people and experiences it has known?” he muses. “How many joys and sorrows the inside of an old wooden door must have seen…”
“The blue paint” he says “is a balm, to soothe the wounds on these old pieces of wood”.
George Erotokritos tells me that the large television in his living room that is surrounded by heaps of Barbie dolls is there for his daughter. Erotokritos listens to the news at the local coffee shop. “I don’t follow technology,” he says, taking another sip of coffee. “I don’t use the internet. I’ve taken my car to the mechanic and he told me to open the hood” he laughs. “I didn’t know how. I suppose I live a little in my own world. I don’t want to escape my own romanticism”.
George Erotokritos sees lots of things differently, in ways that betray his verve for life. His take on religion is also different. “I believe in God”, he says “but I am not religious. To me, God is love. God is where love is, that is all.” he explains.
Minutes later, when I finish my coffee, take some snapshots and then step out into the cold dark night, armed with a tape recorder, a camera and a pocketful of Lebanese desserts from Erotokritos, his words echo once again as he closes the gate. “I don’t believe in dogmas”, George Erotokritos once told me. “I just believe in love”.