KOSTAS LOUSTAS (1933-2014)

Self Portrait

Greek fine artist, born in Athens. He was brought up in Florina (northwest of Greece), a town with a rich artistic and cultural heritage. He studied at the Athens School of Fine Arts (1953-8) with Yiannis Moralis being amongst his teachers and mentors. He first received international acclaim in New York during the early 1960s where he lived and worked for several years. His solo and group exhibitions of this period include those at Saldinger, Firehouse, Salvo Art, Chase, Chevance and Paollilo galleries in New York, and Zaydler Gallery in London. His collaboration with Galerie Internationale on Madison Avenue in New York, where he held his first solo exhibition in 1972, continued for several years following his permanent return to Thessaloniki, Greece in the early 1980s.

The Engonopoulos and Syllogi Galleries in Athens hosted solo exhibitions of his work in 1980 and 1983 respectively. In 1991, the Municipality of Thessaloniki honoured his thirty-year artistic presence in the city with a major retrospective show at the Vafopoulio Cultural Centre. In 1993, with his series of ‘80+1 Portraits of Thessaloniki Personalities’, exhibited by the Municipal Gallery in Thessaloniki, he was honoured by the mayor and the state for his contribution to the Greek Arts and Letters. In 1999, the London art gallery of Paul Hawkins in Mayfair hosted a solo exhibition of his work. Further solo exhibitions organized by the Municipal Art Gallery of Thessaloniki include the series of still-lives entitled ‘Elgar 96’, inspired by his love for classical music and the violin in particular, a series of nude paintings entitled ‘Variations 2000’, and ‘Amelia 2004’, the last of which is a tribute to his three-year old grand-daughter Amelia. In recent years, he has collaborated with the art galleries of Mihalarias, Kapopoulos Fine Arts, Aenaon, Ersis and Periplanisi in Athens. Two solo exhibitions were held at Atrion Gallery in Thessaloniki in 2010 and 2012.  A significant part of the artist’s private collection of paintings was exhibited at the Vafopoulio Cultural Center in November 2012. The Corfu Art Gallery and the Benaki Museum (N. Hadjikyriakos-Ghika Gallery) in Athens held retrospective exhibitions of his works in 2016.

He has published poetry and many articles in national newspapers as both author and critic. In 1977 he received an award from the Society of Greek Writers in Athens. He was a member of the Chamber of Fine Arts of Greece, and up to 2008, he had been on the board of directors of the Greek State Museum of Contemporary Art. His autobiographical book entitled More than one hundred rings for princes was published by Ianos Publishers in 2006.

Loustas presents fine lines blending with a geometric or Cubist influence, optical illusion, lucidity of style, suitable realism and post-Impressionism … works which glow with color and spirit… He is not an imitator … of any style. Mr Loustas is his own stylist by giving every instance its own need. Susan A. Vlam, New York World Telegraph and Sun (October 1964).

Loustas uses bold strokes but soft colors in his New York paintings … His passionate attachment to the city is apparent in every canvas he has done … He has successfully captured the heart of the city in “Childrens’ Zoo”, “The Postman”, “At Broadway” and “Children Around a Tree. Virginia Sheward, Newsday (New York, September 1964).

A poet of the brush … Charlette Willard, New York Post (November, 1964).

Not only do we see Florina in the varying seasons but through the veil of the many moods of the artist, for the balance of joy and sorrow in the spirit of Loustas is sensitive and quicksilver. One moment Florina is all colour, movement and happy action and the next empty, drained of colour, a town of melancholy and rain. His quest is for the truly artistic rather than the sensational. The casting of shadows, the catching of reflections, the spreading radiancy of an Autumn day, these more intangible things he has the ability to depict  … His line is quick, deft and assured. Lorraine Craig, Arts Review (London, December, 1969).

A highly rewarding one-man show … on display at the Galerie Internationale … 42 oils … executed in broad, self-confident strokes of subtle, integrating color.  Many, such as … a superb series “Olympias Halkidiki” are extremely exciting compositions both when viewed as abstract works and as representational, moody paintings. Betsy Powell, art newspaper Park East (New York, October 1972).

Kostas Loustas startles us with … a series of paintings which astound us not only by their number (more than eighty portraits of personages and personalities of post-war Thessaloniki) but also for the scope and the nature of his figurative expression. These are works which … attempt to go further and to portray all the dimensions of each subject – professional, social, intellectual, spiritual.’… Loustas gives us an astounding collection, a whole gallery of works which … display the characteristics of a personal expressive idiom.’ … The artist seeks and succeeds to accent the typical without sacrificing the personal, to express what is inside without adhering faithfully to the superficial. The value and the importance of this whole series of portraits … does not lie so much in the subjects portrayed … as in the artist’s endeavour to transmit something of their particular substance, as he understood it, through expressionist values. In other words, he attempts a psychological penetration which translates into optical values and expressive formulations which never leave the spectator indifferent. Chrysanthos Christou, Academician, Professor of History of Art, 80+1 Portraits of Thessaloniki Personalities (Thessaloniki, 2003).

With his incisive perception and freshness of sensitivity he offers … works employing his beautifully crafted expressive language, a language without superfluous ornament …Without repressing his own emotion, Loustas records moments from the everyday life of the little girl … endeavouring to convey the full spontaneity of her childlike innocence and the whole range of feelings still free from the rigid patterns of adult intention. In his distinctive, elliptic style, abstracting and abstracted he captures the vital essence of the subject endowing it with his own special values, using his skill to highlight the child’s psychological disposition as she finds her way through the fragile world of the adults around her. Ellie Kaplani Kokkini, Art historian, Amelia 2004, official exhibition catalogue (Thessaloniki, 2005).

What makes Loustas’ work so spectacular is the way in which he makes full use of his extraordinary skill in handling colours and shapes to portray human emotion. Paraskevi Manakou Satrazani, Curator of the Thessaloniki Municipal Art Gallery, Amelia 2004, official exhibition catalogue (Thessaloniki, 2005).

 

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