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Eleni Pitari-Pangalou

The Unknown Drawings

Curator: Anna Mykoniati

EMΣΤ is pleased to present a never-before-seen series of drawings by Greek modernist painter Eleni Pitari-Pangalou (1905–1995). With this presentation, the museum revisits the case of a female artist who, though active in her day, fell into obscurity after her demise, thus eluding the attention of a wider public longer-term.

From 1939 on Eleni Pitari-Pangalou actively participates in groups shows organised by various collectives and associations while also holding solo exhibitions in galleries. The body of work she is most known for consists mainly of oil paintings landscapes, still lives, portraits and allegorical depictions. Inspired by the teachings of Parthenis, these are mostly attempts to use the language of abstract expressionism, then a dominant trend. However, during the 1960s and 1970s and alongside her more “formal” exhibited work, Pitari-Pangalou, by now well into middle age, created a body of uniquely original black-and-white drawings, using ink on paper, that have little in common with the rest of her oeuvre. These drawings navigate the realms of fantasy, clairvoyance and metaphysical concerns, where the legacy of Parthenis is activated in earnest, linking the experimental spirit of abstraction to the fundamental premises of symbolism. Through these drawings Pangalou appears to give shape to the theoretical principles that informed her painting over the years; perhaps even her own beliefs about the meaning of art in general. These intuitive, enigmatic, highly insightful drawings recall, for example, Edith Rimmington’s surrealist visions of organic decomposition, the unsettling forms that populate Catherine Yarrow’s prints or the dream-like autobiographical work of Leonora Carrington. Together, they serve to underscore the often overlooked yet crucial contribution of women artists to the surrealist movement.

 

In these drawings, Pangalou meticulously, even obsessively covers every inch of the paper’s white surface almost to the point of horror vacui, creating a central theme and then enclosing it in a cluster of forms that seem to multiply ad infinitum. Recalling a Blakean cast of characters, her emaciated, androgynous figures, part-human, part-demon or insect, appear to hover in space. Sometimes placed within geometrical frameworks (circles, triangles) or against Constructivist urbanscapes, or seemingly lost amidst anonymous crowds of people or animals, they almost always are seen facing a glowing source, presumably of light or energy, that serves as either a gravitational centre or, occasionally, a centrifugal force in the composition at large. Showing no interest in accurately depicting specific features and nonchalantly leaving out all references to topography and place, Pitari-Pangalou’s enigmatic drawings manage to transcend time as they probe the ephemerality that is the lot of humanity, the burden of loss, the tragic nature of memory and the transcendental quality of magic.

The artist has expressed herself with absolute freedom, articulating her spiritual preoccupations, interpreting the world through the intimate lens of her own conscience and simultaneously reclaiming it, allowing viewers, sixty years later, to share a furtive glimpse.

EMΣT would especially like to thank Alessandra Maioletti, the artist’s niece, for generously permitting access to the
painter’s work and archive.

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