Philip Tsiaras is a world renowned, Greek-American artist: painter, sculptor, photographer, poet, designer; a true Renaissance man. In fact, he is the most important artist from the Greek Diaspora of his generation.

When considering the life of an individual, we sometimes have to understand the pedigree of such a human being, whose life and work continue to evolve and influence others in their wake. Philip Tsiaras is exactly this type of person. His pedigree, as varied as it may appear, is impeccable. Born to Greek immigrants who left the ravages of the Civil War, Tsiaras spent his childhood in New Hampshire.  Philip’s Father, a captain in the resistance and a close associate of Ellas commander, Aris Velouxiotis, found a way to escape with his family to the United States. Philip, one of four sons was born in New Hampshire.

 

 

The Achievements of Philip Tsiaras are all the more impressive as he was trained as a classical musician, studied literature at Amherst College, winning the American Academy Award for Poetry, founded an National award winning literary magazine, and made exhibitions of his photographs professionally by the age of 18. At Amherst he met and would become the close friend of both Andonis Samaras and George Papandreou, two students who would later both go on to become Priministers of Greece.

When I asked Tsiaras of his opinion of them, his answer was “We were young and restless and full of dreams, there was a Junta in Greece and a war in Vietnam, two cruel and naturally bonding realities no matter what your political affiliation. I think of Andonis and Yorgo as two friends who are good people inside, about their political achievements, history will have to judge the rest.”

 

 

And what do you think of Greek politics today. “ I think the Greeks will have learned and evolved from this crisis, and however much they have suffered, and they have endured a lot, they will be stronger for it. Now it is time for someone to clean up the present mess and get the country back into the real world. It appears that more than likely it will be Kyriakos Mitsotsakis next. I think New Democracy is the right vision for the future of Greece at this time. I hope Mitsotakis has the balls to do the right things“.

Tsiaras leaves Amherst College and comes to Greece on a Thomas Watson Fellowship. In that one short year Philip joins and exhibits with the Bernier Gallery, the most prominent gallery in Greece.  Alexandros Iolas endorses and launches Tsiaras with a major party at the Iolas mansion and Tsiaras is a young art star in Greece at the ripe old age of 22. When Philip returns to New York City a year later, he meets and becomes the assistant to Lucas Samaras, then and now, the most important living Greek artist. Since his beginnings, Tsiaras has more than 80 one person international exhibitions, with more than 15 books attributed to his works, and his paintings are in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum, amongst many others.

 

 

For the summer of 2018 Tsiaras has a bit of Aegean-Omania, with 2 exhibitions on Mykonos and one on Paros. In Mykonos a full installation of his works at Alegria Estate, replete with a 3 meter bronze sculpture, where Paris Hilton was photographed embracing it while posting to millions of followers; and a week later Tiffany Trump as well. In Paros a similar installation of his artworks at Villa Rannia, where Tsiaras collaborated with the aesthetic of architect, Alexandros Samaras.

 

The Tsiaras exhibition at the Skoufa Gallery Mykonos is perhaps the most tailored and significant of the three exhibitions. At Skoufa Mykonos Tsiaras shows his signature “Crystal Guns”, glass guns he has fabricated in Murano that are encased in Crystal. Tsiaras has worked in Venice and Murano for more than a decade, concentrating on glass works with the most significant of glass masters, who have collaborated with other contemporaries, Wei Wei, Jeff  Koons, Gio Pomodoro, Dale Chilhuly and others.

 

 

The transparent worlds of Tsiaras are many: the “Crystal Guns” are just some of his glassworks, disguised in allegory and veiled symbolism. In Tsiaras a surreal universe of humor and irony confront the viewer with disarming complexity. Like fish, the viewer is attracted to the sheen of glass, but this submerged cartoon is a political statement too, of gun violence at the epicenter of American life.

Another prime work from the exhibition is called “East Eats West”, a pink glass gun engulfing a black gun as though it is devouring it whole. The ethos of the gun is hard to read through the colorful seductive crystal. The East, perhaps China, will devour the West, perhaps America or Europe, the clash of Titans is reversed as the geopolitical phenomena changes; China occupying by trade, engulfing the world through commerce.

 

 

All this to be found in Tsiaras’s message in the bottle, or glass guns in crystal. In the words of the artist, “As playful as these guns are, they are rooted in a critical unfortunate reality, that guns are made to kill primarily people, and the world is better off seeing them, entrapped in crystal, beautiful yes, but immobilized of their violent potential. I suppose having a Father who was a captain in the Resistance (Andartiko), who immigrated to America and had a large collection of guns himself, (America the gun heaven of fools), probably remained in my unconscious.

 

 

The Tsiaras “Crystal Guns” can be seen at the Skoufa Gallery Mykonos through September. In addition, a multi-colored, pop series of the Tsiaras Parthenons, are on view.  These images of a classical temple are infused with the history of Modernism, echo their return from captivity of the British Museum; all done with the bravura of an ultra-updated vision of an artist, and the greatest of Architectural achievements-The Parthenon.

Gianni Triantafillou

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