Within the framework of the European Capital of Culture Pafos2017, an exhibition dedicated to the late artist Stass Paraskos will open on Friday at the Paphos Municipal Gallery at 7pm.
Described in The Guardian as “the most significant Cypriot artist of his generation,” Stass was born in 1933 in Larnaca. He was the second of six sons, born to a peasant farmer. He moved to England in 1953 to work as a waiter in London. Moving to Leeds in 1956 to work as a cook in his brother’s Greek restaurant, he befriended some of the most radical artists of the time, including Terry Frost, Patrick Heron, Anthony Caro, Norbert Lynton and Herbert Read. His friends encouraged him to enroll for classes at Leeds College of Art. Although he didn’t have the necessary qualifications to be accepted, the head of fine arts at the time, Harry Thubron, let him start classes.
In 1961 the internationally acclaimed artist started teaching at Leeds College of Art. His dream of opening an art school in Cyprus based on what he had learnt and his experiences in Britain began to see some light in 1969, when he ran a summer school for British art students in Famagusta. The school was later relocated to Lemba, Paphos in the 1980s and is now known as the Cyprus College of Art. The school hosts a remarkable sculpture garden, created by Stass and numerous visiting artists to the College over a period of 20 years, called the Great Wall of Lempa.
He continued to teach in Britain and his teaching, both at the Canterbury College of Art and in Cyprus, inspired – and still does inspire – young artists to follow their calling and use their talent to create masterpieces.
He became a significant artist who showed at prestigious venues including the Institute of Contemporary Arts, the Hayward Gallery and the Sao Paulo Biennial. Today his paintings can be found in major collections, including those of the Arts Council and Tate Gallery.
Stass could be a painter of idyllic pastoral scenes, with paintings showing village life in Cyprus, and an illustrator of the stories from ancient Greek mythology. But he could also be a passionate maker of political paintings, showing the abuse of human rights, the mistreatment of women by men, and the impact of war in Cyprus and other parts of the Middle East. At times his art could be controversial, including in 1966 when he was arrested by the police in Leeds for an exhibition of paintings showing male nudes. As a result, he became the last artist in Britain to be prosecuted.
The exhibition at the Paphos Municipal Gallery is a retrospective of his work from 1960 until his death in 2014 and will present some of his works that are part of national and international collections, including the Tate Gallery of London. The exhibition is curated by his children Michael and Margaret Paraskos, who invite visitors to discover a pioneering Cypriot artist who is very much responsible for the cosmopolitan art world in Cyprus today.
There will also be a free guided tour of the exhibition on Friday.
Tribute exhibition to Stass Paraskos. Opens March 17 at 7pm until April 30. Municipal Gallery, Paphos. 10am-3pm. Tel: 26-930653