Vlassis Caniaris


Vlassis Caniaris (b. 1928, d. 2011, Athens, Greece) is one of the most prominent figures of Modern Greek art.


He studied at the School of Fine Arts, in Athens, and shortly afterward spent time in Rome where he began to experiment with abstraction and the use of everyday materials and objects. His body of work developed from a direct, personal response to post-war Greek history, from the civil war of 1944–49 to the military dictatorship of the late 60s.


Caniaris’ Homage to the Walls of Athens series, using successive, gestural applications of thick layers of matière in plaster, paper and cloth, echoed the surfaces of the city walls of Athens. Fragments of public discourse, inscriptions, faded manuscripts and slogans, buried beneath the whitewash plaster, revealed his social and political concerns.


Caniaris’ themes antagonised the dictatorship in Greece, with his demonstration of political resistance and the struggle for liberation, and he was eventually forced to leave Athens, moving to Paris and later Berlin where he created his Immigrants series, highlighting the displacement of migrant workers to northern Europe. He returned to Athens in 1976 and combining mannequins with ‘wallscapes’, he staged ‘Hélas-Hellas’, 1979–80, in the disused Fix brewery, a representation and comment on daily life in modern Greece.


In 1988, Caniaris represented Greece at the Venice Biennale and, in 1999, the National Gallery of Athens held a large retrospective exhibition dedicated to him.

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