Feature on Vangelis' first ever painting exhibition, in Valencia, 2003.
We've all known Vangelis as the composer, musician, maybe even the music producer, and we read that he's been playing music since the age of 6. But for true artists, talents often don't come single sidedly.
Now, especially when this artist is a private person, he might choose to show only one side of his output, while he's at work in many other fields of art. As a result, the public will have a limited view on what this artist has to offer to the world. One day however, a moment may come where this artist decides that it's time to share another part of his spectrum of expressions with the world.
Evidently, such a moment has arrived for Vangelis. This summer the public is finally given a chance to see a selection of his - so far - almost completely hidden work as a painter. A chance to see this work first hand, carefully displayed in a monument with a fittingly unique aura. To see them, it will take a trip to Valencia, Spain, between June 5 and September 30 of the year 2003, but for those who are interested enough and willing as well as able to take that step, it will certainly be proven worthwhile.
The Almudin building is located in Valencia's old center, not far from the cathedral and just some footsteps to the east of the "Plaza de La Virgin", one of the cities most attractive squares. Walking from the square into Almudi street, you pass the building from the right; its wall decorated with two large banners announcing the Vangelis exhibition. The entrance of the building faces a little square, decorated with a little statue and water in the middle. The entrance to the building reads "VANGELIS, Pintura / Painting" on a window next to the door leading into the exhibition. The first and only public display ever, of Vangelis' lifelong excursion into the art of painting.
While walking your route through the hall with the paintings, a slow and only softly audible piece of music can be heard accompanying your journey. Vangelis created it especially for this exhibition. Just a few slow, graceful tones, no melody or harmonies, but Vangelis' most minimal exploration in the art of ambience. It helps pace down the mind, having just left the noisy, living city. It helps create the feeling of silence that real silence just never seems to accomplish.
The exhibition consists of 70 paintings. It was earlier announced to be displaying 75 paintings but last minute changes brought it back to the current 70. They display an amazing diversity. There are plenty of recurring themes, but each painting seems to have a unique and unexpected way of dealing with its subject. Most paintings in one way or the other depict human beings, sometimes in more ethereal shapes, often situated in mystic or dreamy environments. There are many signs of the paintings' and painter's Greek origins, most obviously represented by leaves, or heroic depictions.
Everyone will no doubt have his own favorites, works that linger on the mind's eye long after leaving the exhibition room. It could be the dark caveman seated on the muddy or scorched earth, with the dark red sky behind him. One could easily imagine it is not a caveman at all, but just one more of modern humanity's many secret faces. Another eye catcher might be the angelic child, just a cautious thought away from carefully stepping right out of the canvas.
One wall in particular - located in the back of the building - collects a large number of portraits, all of them very expressionistic, sometimes reminding even of Picasso. But it's again the diversity of the combination of these outings, pitched against the powerful vision found in each individual painting that truly keeps the eyes and mind busy.
All of the paintings have a certain level of abstraction, expressive as they are, but only a few portray no clearly defined subject... The bold strokes and general style of technique holds all of the paintings together, and the lauded diversity never takes anything away from the unity of the exhibition.
People have already come to Valencia from many places over the world, to bare witness to Vangelis' art. Without exception they express their enthusiasm for the work. Nicolas Sabourin from Canada writes: "Vangelis' style is quite peculiar, with many paintings featuring angel-like characters, often crowned with a laurel wreath and with a double pair of eyes - I'm still trying to figure out the meaning of it - some of which remind me of Jean Cocteau's drawings. Most paintings are portraits and have a very calm, intimate nature, which musically would correspond to the softer parts of Voices for instance rather than more bombastic themes. I wouldn't say that Vangelis' paintings reflect the same genius as his music, but they are certainly great works: he uses an intriguing technique to draw some characters' silhouettes, and often uses colors in a brilliant way. Let's hope he will illustrate his own covers in the future..."
Luc van Aarschot was among the public at the opening. He remembers: "Before visiting the painting exhibition, I had seen very few of Vangelis’ paintings, so it was quite an experience to see seventy of his works. It was terrific! Some were quite elaborate paintings, like nothing I had seen before. There were many styles of paintings, and it was great to see them all in one place."
The opening was planned at eight o clock in the evening of June 5 and open to the general public, so people started gathering at the little square in front of the Almudin building a little before and after that time. Art enthusiasts, fans, Spanish celebrities, organizers and politicians all gathered to be among the first to publicly see Vangelis' paintings. Vangelis himself was absent, due to influenza, but the doors eventually opened and the guests were welcomed in with champaign and delightful little snacks including little balls of chocolate that were so good they're actually worth mentioning here.
However, most of everyone's attention was drawn to the paintings. Luc remembers his reaction: "I felt a sense of immediacy and truthfulness to them (the paintings), without any pretense or overdoing."
Members of the press had already enjoyed an advance look, having been invited to the exhibition in the morning preceding the official opening. The special event was visited by countless journalists, photographers and TV camera crews.
Local newspapers on June 6 printed pictures of the paintings and of the politicians involved in the exhibition. They wrote about Vangelis' absence and one paper - the "Diari Express" - even phoned him, quoting: "I am attending there, because my eyes are my works."
See also the article in Spanish and the newspaper photo depicted here.
Headlines included phrases such as "Vangelis chooses Valencia for his first presentation as painter" or "Vangelis' passion for painting - The Greek Composer exhibits at the Almudin, for the first time, his physical creations."
In the corner of the exhibition room is a little information counter. Here it is possible to obtain a poster for the exhibition (see photograph near the top of this page) in either the English (Painting) or Spanish (Pintura) language, or to buy the exhibition's luxurious catalog book.
This high quality book seems the next in line in the series of items like the Mythodea '93 program, the El Greco ('95) box set, the red El Greco box ('98) and the Mythodea box (2001), being presented as a beautiful blue clothed hard cover edition, featuring only the title "VANGELIS". The sides of the paper are gold, and a little cord can be used to mark your favorite page. The unique production is directly linked with this particular exhibition in the Almudin building, which means that this book will never be reprinted, and is only available at this one location and during this limited period of time, until 30 September 2003 at the Almudin building in Valencia.
The book depicts a total number of 74 paintings, including the 4 that are - in the end - not on display in Valencia. For those who managed to get their hands on the book, the paintings not displayed are the ones numbered 22, 33, 46 and 51. Apart from the paintings there are also a number of pictures of Vangelis, working on one of his visual creations. The book contains a number of introductions with philosophical and cultural thoughts on Vangelis' multidisciplinary talents. The paintings are well represented, but can never fully relay the details, the magnitude and the feeling as the real life, full size canvasses can, fabulously lit and displayed as they are in this inspiring little building.
The Almudin is a historical building, dating back to even before the 15th century when it was reconstructed to be in the shape it currently still retains. It was built for the purpose of storing wheat, a duty that it honored throughout most of its history until in 1908 it was turned into a paleontological museum and finally in 1996 restored to function as a museum for changing exhibitions.
So here's where we are left to wonder what's next. A "first" exhibition could mean that there will be more in the future. We can only guess and hope at this point in time. It's good to know that a first step has been set, and that it has landed well and safely.
There is some hope for another book to come out, one that was earlier mentioned in a press release. This book would contain more than just the paintings of the exhibition and would be very luxurious in production. It's said that this book will only be available as an extremely limited, unique, collectors edition, and thus might not really be for everyone to enjoy. Any such book is at least at this moment not for sale, and information on whether it will be in the near future so far is confusing and even conflicting. Time will tell, and the news section of this site will certainly keep you informed of new developments.
What's certain at this point is that the Valencia exhibition is the one perfect way to enter the world of Vangelis' paintings. The catalog can only be obtained on location, so unless you can arrange its purchase with the help of others, a trip to Valencia is the only solution. For anyone who is interested, and lucky enough to be in the circumstances to able to go and visit, do feel encouraged: even if there turn out to be other exhibitions in the future, this will still always be the first time, the first chance to meet the work of Vangelis, the painter.