My good friends Dave and Anghelika Maddalena have been a big artistic support to the band in the past, and in a very different way than you would expect.
Anghelika’s grandfather, Spiros Vassiliou was an amazing artist who gained recognition starting in the 1930’s for his work. Spiros worked primarily with paints, along with set and prop design for theaters, and even some Greek film in the early 60’s, but when World War II hit previous, and paint was pretty much impossible to come by he turned to engravings and woodcuts. Dave showed me some of the woodcut works, and I was floored. There was so much detail in these little blocks of wood (basically used as ink-stamps) and the imagery and posturing was powerful and almost fantastical. One particular piece caught my eye.
It was of a monk, reciting prayer and blessing over a ship beset by demons. The image was so perfect in my mind, and it stuck out to me. At the time we were looking for art for our album ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’ and I took the leap of faith and asked Dave if he could check in with Anghelika’s family about getting permission to use the piece. Spiro’s family was so gracious and kind, and said yes, and it became our album artwork for that EP.
Tonight I was at Dave’s house with Brian and my girlfriend, and as we sat in the living room, something caught my eye. It was a wooden frame/stand with Ikonography painted in the center, and in the fold out panels. It was incredibly beautiful, and I could see that it was painted by hand, and one of them wasn’t completely finished. I asked Dave what it was, and immediately begged a picture of the artwork.
For those who don’t know what Ikonography is, Dave explained it in greater detail to me. Ikonography is the artwork of the Greek Orthodox church, and depicts stories from the Bible, as well as religious figures. One cool detail he pointed out, is that at the center-bottom of each center panel, is the image of a Bishop. This was to remind faithful during prayer, to pray for the well being of their particular churches Bishop or elder.
I asked Dave after we took the pictures “So was Spiros well known in his day?”. Dave replied rather nonchalantly and matter of fact “Oh yes, he was”. Little did I know how well known. When I read about him further last night, I found out that he received The Benaki Prize from The Athens Academy (which lead to his initial recognition), The Guggenheim Prize for Greece in 1960, and has even had his work shown IN the Guggenheim, and The National Gallery and Alexandros Soutzos Museum. His home is now a museum which is open to the public. The list goes on though.
At the start, in my brain, when I conceived of doing this blog post, it was mainly to share some really killer art that I thought was fantastic. Now, I think it also takes the tone of being humbled. Initially I just loved Spiros’ art (which is why it’s not surprising that I was so immediately drawn into his Ikon work without knowing initially who had painted it), and was hoping that it could be a part of what I do with music. Now to know that even in the most remote, fringe, distant way, we were blessed by his family, and allowed to use his art, feels pretty galactic. Meaning, it really makes you think how big our crazy world is, and the strange six degrees of separation that can occur.
A big thank you to Anghelika and her family, and a huge thank you to Spiros for his amazing art. Rest in Peace.