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SKETCHBOOK BY ELIAS MESSINAS Excerpts from travel sketchbooks in Greece exhibited at the Jerusalem Theater in 2002. To view the installation here Enjoy!

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Santorini 14/8/1990 Fira

Fira because of the smallness of its buildings, seems like a big town from any point, but when walked through, it is actually a very small one!

A very picturesque island; very pretty. Something we noticed is the impression the island gives us versus the actual reality... places that seem distant are really close... the perspective confuses us, because the buildings are actually small... seen from afar they seem small, not because of the great distance, but because of their actual small size.


Santorini 15/8/1990 Fira and Oia The whole town descends the steep topography of the island, forming houses, terraces, stairs, balconies, roofs, walls and courtyards... a brilliant creative moment of architecture, in the hands of the indigenous builder. While I was drawing the sunset, a waiter came to see the drawing and was quite pleased... he then asked me to draw a quick portrait to send to his girl-friend... we ended up having two coffees for free!

Sunset at Fira. A magnificent symphony of colors and forms. Very sculptural.


Athens 18/7/1993 Plaka Sunday walk in the Plaka. I look at the carved marbles scattered on the ground near the Tower of the Winds... stones carved by a craftsman that has long past away together with his craft‌

... I keep on walking and I constantly find myself under the Acropolis. I am in love with this part of Athens; the part of the ghosts; the part of nostalgia; the part of daydreaming. The Acropolis has become like a point of reference to my explorations.


Folegandros 31/8/1993 Chora

In Chora some churches have doors and windows with elaborately carved marble frames and jambs; do they belong to older churches, or where they made for these buildings? They are very picturesque and pretty. I drew in detail the doorway to the church of Agia Aikaterini (Sta. Catherine);

Christian and decorative symbols all mixed in the same surface. To build a wall is easy. To make an opening in the wall is where architecture begins; skill and culture join together to express the ability of the builder to create an opening in a load bearing wall. What a triumph!


Folegegandros 1/9/1993 Chora All the churches, the numerous churches of the island, are very similar: a room with vaulted ceiling... outside the bell-tower and an external form that reflects the interior.

All plastered, like one body, as if born like that. Without a sense of material, without joints... all one body, all one material.


Folegegandros 1/9/1993 Karavostasi Touring Folegandros one realizes how dry the land of the Cyclades islands is. Rocks and dry earth and the horizon in the distance. The contrast between the dryness and solidity of the land versus the softly moving waves of the sea is mind blowing. Such contrast yet, they blend together; the former cannot exist without the latter; a perfect match!

Folegandros 31/8/1993 Abeli


In the sketch of the Erechtheion and the Caryatides I saw the sky through the building, through the transparent components of the building; it is both a building and a screen, a series of layers; it is rich, diverse and surprising.

Athens 7/9/2001 and 4/9/2002 The Acropolis Back to the Acropolis sketching the Erechtheion and a year later the Caryatides. I couldn’t resist using my soft pencil instead of the sharp pen. I am tired of the accuracy of the pen. I want the feeling of the pencil, the tones, thickness and lightness, corresponding to my expression and sensitivity.


Athens 9/9/2001 Plaka Next to Kidathineon street I “discovered� Piranesi (Giovanni Battista Piranesi, one of the greatest Italian artists of the eighteenth century). I sketched this street having in mind a composition by Piranesi. The result was unexpected, exciting, and quite dramatic. The dark foreground and scenic dark frame, opens up to a bright background, where the subject of the drawing is located.


Athens 10/9/2001 National Technical University

Studying inside an amazing neo-Classical setting; what a priviledge! A beautifully detailed complex of neo-Classical pearls. The overall composition is axial, formal and imposing; however, the composition is made of loosely organized buildings, open, airy, moving, inviting, inspiring. Light and shade are dramatically captured in a summer afternoon, as they play with the rich architecture of the Doric order.


Meteora 13/9/2001 Russako monastery chapel In this drawing I am discovering the Piranesi interior (Giovanni Battista Piranesi, one of the greatest Italian artists of the eighteenth century). Layers of light and shade, of darkness and light, of sharp contrasts. As soon as I walked into the chapel, I realized that this was the space that my eyes were looking for to draw, to investigate, to learn, to get to know.


Athens 28/8/2002 Panepistimiou street and 10/9/2001 The Library Many tourists tell me that they hate Athens. How can one hate a city with buildings like the Academy, the Library, and the University, all built in the nineteenth century in the best of the neo-Classical style: fine details inspired from the Temples of the Acropolis, carved by skilled hands on the best of Pentelic marble. I guess they simply don’t know. When one comes to spend a few hours in Athens, or any city, with a camera in his/her hands, they are probably so insensitive to the beauties the city has to offer that they leave frustrated. This reminds me of a saying by Le Corbusier: “The camera is a tool for idlers, who use a machine to do their seeing for them.� This also reminds me of an observation I made while spending several days sketching in the Alhambra Moorish palace in Granada, Spain:

tourists with a camera in their hands, would hurriedly walk in the magnificent Hall of the Ambassadors with the stucco mucarnaces on the domes, would look around them 360 degrees, would leave the hall, without even bothering to lift their head to look at the amazing dome... What a waste...


Athens 4/9/2002 Stoa of Attalos, Ancient Agora An amazing space: a stoa; a covered street. The whole space follows a very rhythmical order: the first layer of columns in Doric order run in short intervals; the second layer in Ionic order, runs at double the intervals of the Doric columns; the beams follow the columns, and the doors appear every second Ionic column. All follow this strict system, like a music symphony in perfect tempo. A space of movement, rhythm, light and shadows.


Athens 4/9/2002 and 7/9/2001 The Acropolis I walked through the Plaka with great sorrow. The Plaka, with the beautiful neoClassical buildings and the open courtyards, the Classical ruins scattered all over, and the Acropolis seen from anywhere in Plaka, speak to me of an Athens that belongs to the past.

Time and the rain have smoothened the sharp edges of carved marble. Marble now follows the laws of nature, as it lies on the ground with all the grandeur of its carved details. The marble does not obey anymore to the commands of the daring hand of the craftsman; the Temple has bowed to the theft and vandalism of the conqueror and of history.


SKETCHBOOK BY ELIAS MESSINAS More at EliasBlue.com

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Travel Sketchbook : Greece  

Elias' travel sketchbook with sketches and texts from Greece (1990-2002)

Travel Sketchbook : Greece  

Elias' travel sketchbook with sketches and texts from Greece (1990-2002)

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