Around Cycladic archeological sites, in the museums and even the sunscreen shops, are small and large figurines chiseled from local marble. They have the look of the Moderns — smooth and stylized, with blank, polished faces. The locals call them Kouros, or “man” — a term now used for all male figures in Greek sculpture. Near the village of Apollonas you can scramble up a rocky bank where an 11-metre-long marble Kouros lies across the hillside overlooking the sea at the edge of the quarry from which it came. He’s thought to be a statue of Dionysus — the god of wine — abandoned mid-chisel around 600 B.C. The divots are as fresh as if the artist had merely stepped away for some mid-day calamari.
On the road to Fira stands the new Asimis Kolaitou Art Foundation museum designed by architect and digital artist Katonas Asimis and inspired by the work of his parents: painter Christoforos Asimis and sculptor and jeweller Eleni Kolaitou. In addition to his fresh and brushy Santorini landscapes, Christoforos has been working on a series of iconographic Byzantine murals inside the Fira Cathedral, the project now in its seventh year. “Isn’t it delightful,” wrote Euripides in The Bacchae, “to forget how old we are?”
On the other side of Thera, an artist mingles in his own small gallery housed in one of the stacked, cubic caves dug into the pumice that makes up the medieval village of Pyrgos. Thirty-five-year-old Grigoris Kouskouris is the fourth generation in a family of sculptors and collects his marble personally. He chisels by hand the objects of a life hugged by the sea: boat forms, solitary shells, figures, open vessels and heart shapes, polishing the old-fashioned way. “The hand is the tool of tools,” wrote Aristotle. Kouskouris’ sculpture of a giant ammonite hints at perfection, like a wind-blown chunk of nature, enhanced.
PS: “Art completes what nature cannot bring to finish. The artist gives us knowledge of nature’s unrealized ends.” (Aristotle)
Esoterica: The archipelago of Santorini is all that remains after one of the biggest blasts in human history left an imploded, sea-filled caldera and a handful of skyward-jutting islands. The eruption destroyed the Bronze Age settlements — their technology included pottery, fresco painting, lost wax process and masonry, all buried for later civilizations to uncover and continue. Santorini’s aqua lagoon also endures as an unspoiled swimming and fishing hole and inspiration for future generations. “With regard to excellence,” said Aristotle. “It is not enough to know, but we must try to have and use it.”
“We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts, not breaths; in feelings, not in figures on a dial. We should count time by heartthrobs. He most lives who thinks most, feels the noblest, acts the best.” (Philip James Bailey)