Panayiotis Kalorkoti

Picture This: The Imperial War Museum Published by Imperial War Museum, London, 1990
Panayiotis Kalorkoti: Events Published by 12 Star Gallery, London, 2007
Panayiotis Kalorkoti: Fathers of Modern Art 1988
Panayiotis Kalorkoti: National Garden Festival Commission, 1990 Published by Portcullis Press, 1990
Panayiotis Kalorkoti: An Exhibition of Acrylics, Watercolours & Etchings Published by Design Works, 1997
Kalorkoti, Panayiotis: A Retrospective of Etchings and Screen 1978-89 Published by Imperial War Museum, 1990
Panayiotis Kalorkoti: A Retrospective View 1985-91 Published by Design Works, 1992
Panayiotis Kalorkoti: Etchings and drawings Published by Cleveland County Council, 1992
Panayiotis Kalorkoti: Heads, Faces and Figures Published by Tyne and Wear Museums, 1998
Panayiotis Kalorkoti: Acrylics, Watercolours and Etchings Published by Noth Tyneside Arts, 2000
Panayiotis Kalorkoti: Moving Figures Published by Gwynedd Museum & Art Gallery, Bangor, 2002
Panayiotis Kalorkoti: In a Movement Published by BIC, Sunderland (North East Business & Innovation Centre), 2007
Panayiotis Kalorkoti: In Motion Published by The Biscuit Factory, 2005
Panayiotis Kalorkoti: Flowers in Watercolour Published by Gallery K, London, 2001
Panayiotis Kaloroti: Reflections of Grizedale (Acrylics, Watercolours, Etchings) Published by The Grizedale Society, 1995
Panayiotis Kalorkoti: Retrospective (Etchings 1983-93) Published by Gallery K, London, 1994
Panayiotis Kalorkoti: Kalorkoti Published by Hatton Gallery, 1988
Panayiotis Kalorkoti: Four Nations Capitals Published by Northern Print, 2014
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  • Panayiotis Kalorkoti: Moving Figures

  • Author: Judith Bumpus
  • Page(s): 40
  • Publication Date: 2002
  • Description: Paperback
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Gwynedd Museum & Art Gallery, Bangor
  • Related Galleries: Gwynedd Museum & Art Gallery, Bangor and tour: Usher Gallery, Lincoln
  • Related Nationality: British; Greek Cypriot
book detailsCopyright Panayiotis Kalorkoti

Panayiotis Kalorkoti: Moving Figures


Panayiotis Kalorkoti has created a new light and colour spectacular: a gallery of theatrical encounters with figures from stage, cabaret and night club, together with their onlookers.  There is a buzz of occasion about his paintings, although he might well have caught his effects in more mundane circumstances, under a street lamp, for example, or in a lighted doorway at night, in a tube or on a bus.  Whatever their source, these are, unmistakably, pictures of the city, in which Kalorkoti attempts to fix a stream of constantly shifting impressions and memories.  In the city life moves fast.  Everyone is on the go.  Expressions and gestures are only half-glimpsed, yet leave an indelible trace in the mind.  But we should not look for literal descriptions in Kalorkoti.  He paints in poetry, not prose, interpreting his perception of urban life, of the individual and the crowd, in colourful designs and patterns. 


The title "Moving Figures" is a useful catch-all for a theme which suggests unending variations.  We follow Kalorkoti from one group of paintings to the next, from the exuberant movement of dancing figures, twisting and turning in a sparkle of lights, to moments of suspended animation in which banks of faces, looming out of the dark, watch and wait.  Some of his paintings called Study or the large ‘collages’ titled Composition Study form collections of facial features or limbs.  Gathered together the pictures are like photos taken off-guard at rehearsal, like details snatched from their scene and context.  We seem to recognize the plot, but will never see it all through on one, or any, visit.  We don’t need to, for Kalorkoti’s work succeeds by psychological hints and nudges.  His intention is to communicate a sense of shared humanity pulsing through his cast of unknown and unnamed figures.  He hopes we will respond and take the story on for ourselves.  What he offers us in his pictures are proposals, half-serious, half-playful, for making sense of a chaotic world.  ‘My pictures are not about modern life any more’, he says.  ‘They’re about humanity, about being alive.  Viewers will approach my work with their own history’.


Kalorkoti describes the work prepared for each exhibition in terms of a new chapter.  The movement of figures in space represents the theme he has chosen to exploit since his last ‘chapter’, his paintings of "Flowers in Watercolour" exhibited in 2001.  To some extent the new work supplies a diary, though not in chronological order, of his recent thinking and activity.  In fact he has been exploring the idea of movement obsessively for many years, and the new work has its roots in earlier paintings such as the Figures, Unknown Portraits, Groupings, and Studies of the mid-1990s.  Most of the paintings selected for "Moving Figures" were made in 2000 and 2001 and are a natural development and an integral part of work already catalogued in his previous exhibitions, especially those in 1998 and 2000.  The series Watching looks back to Waiting and to Figures, both of 1994, later developed as an idea in Shadows of 1997.  Cry I and Cry II started from images of faces, his Cast of Characters of 1985. 


The current exhibition focuses his concern with movement, both the movement of his performing figures and the movement of paint on the surface of the paper.  Kalorkoti likes to ensnare his elusive encounters in a haze or flicker of light and shadow.  A glare of lights playing over a revolving club dancer, or bleaching the gaunt, skull-like heads of a crowd waiting in the dark, become fields for a decorative performance with paint.  In his pictures of schematic faces, Type and Contrast, he reminds us of the ornamental origin of painted faces and masks in European and non-European cultures, and of what he calls a ‘primitive or innocent essence’, although he also acknowledges their satiric use.


Kalorkoti is himself both watcher and performer.  His reputation as an observer, or collector, of human behaviour derives from his figurative work of the mid-1980s.  The naturalistic treatment of those early figures is still apparent in the more traditional compositions in this exhibition, paintings such as Youth and Listener, both of 1995 and the earliest work in the show.  ‘Youth grew’, he says, ‘from my observation of a youth, but then took off’.  For some years now it has been evident that Kalorkoti’s imagination increasingly fuels his work.  Although he still takes photographs, which he uses as a resource, he no longer draws from nature.  He can now rely on a fund of ideas, refreshed by the experience of walking around, or visiting the National Gallery, where the sight of a detail may intrigue him with ‘the way another artist has dealt with a problem’.  Occasionally he jots down ideas for a picture, but these are notations rather than preparatory sketches.  He prefers the spontaneity of composing directly on to paper in paint.


Kalorkoti works with a basic palette of primaries, seven or eight different reds, a range of yellows from cadmium to lemon, and several blues.  He always uses pure colour, mostly acrylic or, as in Moving Figure, 1-10, thickly applied watercolour.  His dislike of muddying his colours, or of subduing their direct visual impact, in any way by mixing them gives his painting its remarkable brilliance and immediacy.  It often has the intensity of a spatter of fireworks.  A close look at the surface of any of Kalorkoti’s pictures reveals the complex means by which he attains this effect.  By laying on veil after veil of pure colour, building up the pigment to achieve gradations of tone and hue, he achieves both texture and depth on a flat surface.  There are many instances in which his fiery, or conversely molten, effects enhance the impression that his imagery is undergoing some mysterious transformation.  The figurative element in his work is really only a starting point for exploring aesthetic ideas.  While retaining his reference to the real world, Kalorkoti indulges his play with paint, letting the brush dance in a now characteristic manner.  He is a master at exploiting glimpses of the everyday to provoke and stir emotions, which he manipulates increasingly through the sensations of light and colour.


Some commentators attribute Kalorkoti’s handling of colour to his Cypriot origins.  He came to Britain when he was almost nine, in 1966.  But, as he acknowledges, his early memories are coloured by poverty, not art.  He was born and spent his early years in Ayios Amvrossios, a small agricultural town of olive and citrus groves in North Cyprus, which lacked all modern services, such as gas, electricity and running water.  There daily life had nothing, apart from sunshine, to compare with the brilliant colours of, say, India.  Since emigrating he has never returned to Cyprus.  Legally British, he feels no sense of Englishness, and, in particular, no sympathy with the English tradition of landscape painting, saying adamantly:  ‘I don’t paint green.  It’s a boring colour.  I’m a city person’.  An admirer of Matisse’s handling of colour, he thinks of himself rather as a European modernist, or even, he adds, ‘a world modernist’.



Judith Bumpus