Born in Athens in 1958, he was an Athens School of Fine Arts student (1979-1985). Upon graduation he had his first solo show; another ten followed. He has taken part in group exhibitions as well as global events. His works are found in private and public collections in Greece and abroad. Between 1986 and 1996 he taught free-hand drawing at the Vakalo School of Arts. He has also illustrated the following books: Anti tis Siopis by Lefteris Poulios (Instead of Silence, 1993), O afanis thriamvos tis omorfias by Argyris Chionis (The Unseen Triumph of Beauty, 1995), Mikri Zoologia (The Little Book of Zoology, Collective Work, 1998) and I naftilia kyklous kanei by Philippos Begleris (Shipping goes around in circles, 2011), Ta Rebetika (5 copper engravings, 60 copies, Editions Mnimeros, 2012), Idanikoi Aftocheires (Ideal Suicides, K. G. Kariotakis - 12 Lithographs - 50 copies, Editions Mnimeros, 2013), Adam and Eva (T. Mantzavinos, Lithographs, 60 copies, Editions Mnimeros, 2015), The Raven (Edgar Allan Poe - T. Mantzavinos, Lithographs, 40 copies, Editions Mnimeros, 2016). He lives and works in Athens.
- 2015 Mnesipemona, Fokionos Negri 16, organized by Citronne Gallery (curated by Tatiana Spinari-Pollali)
- 2013 Ionos Gallery, Karditsa, Greece
- 2013 Tassos Mantzavinos - Kostas Papanikolaou, Citronne Gallery, Poros, Greece
- 2012 Tassos Mantzavinos, Theorema Art Gallery, Brussels, Belgium
- 2012 For my strength is made perfect in weakness, Benaki Museum (Pireos str. Annexe), Athens, Greece
- 2012 Skoufa Gallery, Athens, Greece
- 2010 Chess, K-art Gallery, Athens, Greece
- 2010 Zoumboulakis Galleries, Athens, Greece
- 2010 Angelo and Lito Katakouzenos Foundation, Athens, organised by the Hellenic Folklore Research Centre of the Academy of Athens, Athens, Greece (curated by Louisa Karapidaki)
- 2008 Galerie Aliquando, Paris, France
- 2008 TinT Gallery, Thessaloniki, Greece
- 2005 Ionos Gallery, Karditsa, Greece
- 2005 Nees Morfes Gallery, Athens, Greece
- 2004 TinT Gallery, Thessaloniki, Greece
- 2003 Ariadne Gallery, Heracleion, Crete, Greece
- 2003 V. Mylonogiannis Gallery, Chania, Crete, Greece
- 2003 Nees Morfes Gallery, Athens, Greece
- 2002 TinT Gallery, Thessaloniki, Greece
- 2000 Nees Morfes Gallery, Athens, Greece
- 1999 Terracotta Gallery, Thessaloniki, Greece
- 1997 Nees Morfes Gallery, Athens, Greece
- 1996 Terracotta Gallery, Thessaloniki, Greece
- 1996 Anemos Gallery, Athens, Greece
- 1994 Terracotta Gallery, Thessaloniki, Greece
- 1994 Nees Morfes Gallery, Athens, Greece
- 1993 Gallery 24, Athens, Greece (illustration of poems by Lefteris Poulios)
- 1991 Medusa Art Gallery, Athens, Greece
- 1989 Medusa Art Gallery, Athens, Greece
- 1987 Medusa Art Gallery, Athens, Greece
- 1985 Gallery 7, Athens, Greece
- 1984 Gallery 7, Athens, Greece
- 2013 The 80's Generation - Contemporary Greek Painting from the Sotiris Felios Collection, National Gallery - Alexander Soutzos Museum - Sparta Annex, (Coumantaros Art Gallery), Sparta
- 2013 Somatographies - Contemporary Greek Painting from the Sotiris Felios Collection, National Gallery - Alexander Soutzos Museum - Nafplion Annex, Nafplion
- 2013 Offerings, Art Space 24, Athens, Greece
- 2012 Ellenico Plurale - Dipinti dalla Collezione Sotiris Felios, Complesso del Vittoriano, Rome, Italy (curated by Giuliano Serafini)
- 2012 Between Reality and Fantasy. Works from the Sotiris Felios Collection, Giorgio de Chirico Art Center, Volos, Greece (curated by Irene Orati)
- 2010 Erysichthon: a contemporary reading of the myth, Cultural Centre Kanellopoulos, Elefsina, Greece (curated by Louisa Karapidaki)
- 2010 Naked Truth, Frissiras Museum, Athens, Greece
- 2010 Offerings of Europe: Christian votive practices in the East and the West, Muzeum Kresów, Lubaczowie, Poland (curated by Louisa Karapidaki)
- 2010 A world of votive offerings, organised by the Hellenic Folklore Research Centre of the Academy of Athens, Hellenic American Union, Athens, Greece (curated by Louisa Karapidaki)
- 2010 Contemporary Greek Painting from the Sotiris Felios Collection, Sismanoglio Megaro, Istanbul, Turkey
- 2009 Human and Divine, French Embassy in Athens, a collaboration of the National Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisation of France and the Hellenic Folklore Research Centre of the Academy of Athens, Athens, Greece (curated by Louisa Karapidaki)
- 2009 Nees Morfes. 50 years later, Benaki Museum, Athens, Greece
- 2009 The Perspective of Time. Pictorial Histories: Paintings from the Sotiris Felios Collection, Benaki Museum, Athens, Greece (curated by Irini Orati)
- 2009 Oli-vie-r, organised by the Hellenic Folklore Research Centre of the Academy of Athens, "Agro-pôle Olivier" National School for the Agriculture of Meknes, Morocco (curated by Louisa Karapidaki)
- 2008 Rural Heritage and Collective Identity, Muzeum Kresów, Lubaczowie, Poland (curated by Louisa Karapidaki); the exhibition travelled to Komotin, Greecei and Bulgaria
- 2008 The Sea. Four Painters, Citronne Gallery, Poros, Greece
- 2008 Christmas with Papadiamantis, Art Space 24, Athens, Greece
- 2007 Tamata & thavmata, organised by the 21st Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities and the National Museum for European and Mediterranean Culture of France, Corfu, Greece (curated by Louisa Karapidaki)
- 2007 Self Portrait of an Other. Giulio Caimi (1897-1982), Art Space 24, Athens, Greece
- 2007 Birthplace. Apha Trust 20 years, Benaki Museum, Athens, Greece (curated by Iris Kritikou)
- 2006 Humanography, works from the Christos Christofis Collection, Thracian Art and Tradition Foundation, Xanthi, Greece
- 2006 Summer, an Encounter, Art Space 24, Athens, Greece
- 2006 Disguises: Femininity, Manliness and Other Certaitnies, State Museum of Contemporary Art, Thessaloniki, Greece (curated by Syrago Tsiara)
- 2006 Once upon a Time there was Penelope Delta…, Athens College, Athens, Greece (curated by Iris Kritikou)
- 2006 Projections of Shadows and Colour. Tassos Missouras, Tassos Mantzavinos, MichalisΜadenis, from the Christos Christofis Collection, French Institute, Athens, Greece
- 2004 In praise of the Olive Tree, Academy of Athens, Athens , Greece(curated by Louisa Karapidaki)
- 2004 Art Athina 11, Athens, Greece(Nees Morfes Gallery)
- 2004 City of Games, Technopolis of the Municipality of Athens, Greece (curated by Athina Schina)
- 2004 Frontiersmen of Europe, Byzantine Museum, Athens, , Greece, in collaboration with the Academy of Athens (curated by Louisa Karapidaki)
- 2002 Athens, Single Use Gazes, a.antonopoulou.art, Athens, Greece
- 2002 Greek Painters. The Christos Christofis Collection, Triantifylli Residence, Athens, Greece
- 2002 A Visual Journey, Frissiras Museum, Athens, Greece
- 2002 Me, Myself, Rethymnon Centre of Contemporary Art, Rethymnon, Crete, Greece (curated by Eleni Kypraiou)
- 2002 450+1. The Permanent Collection, Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art, Thessaloniki, Greece
- 2002 Designing of the poster for the 44th Thessaloniki Festival “New Horizons”, Thessaloniki, Greece
- 2000 Oinousses 2000. Contemporary Greek Painting: The Christos Christofis Collection, Marine Highschool, Oinousses, Greece
- 2000 Art Athina 8, Athens, Greece(with Nees Morfes Gallery)
- 1999 Approaches to Greekness. The 80s and 90s Generations, Municipal Gallery, Athens, Greece and Greek Cultural Home, Stockholm, Dalarna Museum, Falun, Sweden, Château de Vianden, Luxemburg (curated by Nelly Kyriazi)
- 1999 Forty, Nees Morfes Gallery, Athens, Greece (curated by Eleni Kypraiou)
- 1998 Greek Landscape Painting in the 19th-20th Centuries, National Gallery & Alexandros Soutzos Museum, Athens, Greece (curated by Angela Tamvaki)
- 1998 Art Athina 6, Athens, Greece (Terracotta Gallery)
- 1998 Original Replica, Nees Morfes Gallery, Athens, Greece (curated by Eleni Kypraiou)
- 1998 Designing of the poster and invitation for the IX European Signal Processing Conference, organised by the Athens University –Computer Technology Instisute, Greece
- 1997 Physiognomy of an Industrial Landscape, BIS Factory, Athens, Greece (curated by Flavia Nessi and Iris Kritikou)
- 1997 Comments and References, Pierides Museum, Glyfada, Greece (curated by Olga Danilopoulou)
- 1997 42ème Salon de Montrouge, Paris, France
- 1996 Riparte 3, Rome, Italy
- 1996 Group Show, Selini Gallery, Kifissia, Greece
- 1994 Art Athina 2, Athens, Greece (Terracotta Gallery)
- 1994 The Loss of Form in Space, Nees Morfes Gallery, Athens, Greece (on the occasion of the homonymous essay by Eleni Vakalo)
- 1991 Contemporary Greek Painting. Vlassis Frissiras Collection, Pierides Museum, Glyfada, Athens, Greece. The exhibition was transferred to the Cultural Centre of the Municipality of Athens, Greece (1992), the Municipal Gallery of Rhodes, Greece (1992), the Arts and Concerts Hall, Hydra (1992), the Byzantine Museum, Zanythos (1993), the Neoria, Chania Crete, Greece (1994), the Yeni Tzami and the Vellideion Cultural Centre- Port Organisation of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki, Greece (1994) (curated by Takis Mavrotas)
- 1989 17+1, Medusa Art Gallery, Athens, Greece
- 1988 Encounters – Pinpointing – Juxtapositions, Athens Municipal Gallery, Greece (curator Kostas Stavropoulos)
- 1987 3rd European Mediterranean Biennale for Young Artists, Barcelona, Spain
- 1987 16th Biennale of Alexandria, Egypt
- 1986 2nd European Mediterranean Biennale for Young Artists, Thessaloniki, Greece
The work of Tassos Mantzavinos cannot be included in trends or movements; the artist does not follow a “school”. What attracts him is historical continuity as expressed in Byzantine iconography, popular art, Karagiozis and Kontoglou. Mantzavinos creates a distinct expressionist idiom in which any naturalistic tendency is rejected: forms are distorted, colours dissipate. The final result conveys an emotionally-laden, frequently mystical atmosphere.
Memory dominates, personal and collective. It appears and is analyzed at times as a historical event, at others as a myth, yet others as a bequeathed tradition. These discrete manifestations of memory are painted as representations of anniversaries,
figures of myth, scenes from fairy tales, reconstructions of folk paintings and icons. The subject matter is historical events and folk narratives. Mantzavinos does not differentiate between myth, history or tradition: on the contrary, he combines and transforms events and legends, times and spaces. Castles, warriors, pennants, mottos, mythical figures and saints of the Orthodox faith are depicted as elements/symbols. Often, figures are celebratory, laudatory or festive, but at the same time, the paintings are resonant with fear, awe, and grieving. Mantzavinos does not even hesitate to “paint” language: proverbs, lyrics from demotic songs. At times he uses phrases/symbols from foreign languages, French for example, but the words are “grecified” through misspellings that recall external influences on the history of this country. The clear or confused manner with which language is “drawn” means that it cannot be isolated from the rest of the painting. The written word becomes absorbed, becomes an element of art, a part of the composition.
The paintings and constructions being presented in the “Mnesipemon” exhibition are the latest development of Mantzavinos’ artistic creation. Both in the paintings and the constructions forms are moulded by repeated thick layers of colour: the oils become almost a sculptural material whose surface is thickly engraved with a sharp object, giving the work an almost relief texture. A sense of horror vacui emanates and becomes more intense when densely worked forms are placed on a monochromatic background of black, blue or red hues. His paintings have warriors in besieged castles, in fortified ships, soldiers, Aeneus with the statue of Artemis on his shoulders, Pegasus, the saint battling the dragon, the sirens. These figures from mythology or Christian tradition reflect good and evil as defined by imagination and the collective unconscious where lies the fear of death. The atmosphere is one of a continuous battle, an eternal war, palpable or metaphysical.
The lithographs-comments on the poem “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe are along the same lines.
With this artistic baggage, Mantzavinos, who carries painful memories of calamities, deals with historical and cultural continuity.
Dr. Tatiana Spinari-Pollalis Art historian
*From the exhibition catalogue “Mnesipemona” that took place at 16 Fokionos Negri, Athens in 2015, organized by the Citronne Gallery, curated by Tatiana Spinari-Pollalis.
The permanent oblation of the tattoo
There always comes a moment when every true painter has become his or her own painting. The question whether it is the painter who has resembled the works or if they have resembled the painter will remain unanswered.
On a high, old armchair, as handsome as a strange prince sitting on a bizarre throne, Tassos Mantzavinos rests for a brief while inside his kingdom. He paints incessantly in his new studio, going from room to room, working on one canvas, leaving another aside, engaging upon a wooden construction and immediately afterwards setting about a new drawing. Surrounded by toys, masks, dolls, showcases overflowing with countless strange objects he has found in secondhand shops and markets, he lives inside his own cabinet de curiosites, in the midst of “all this together”, as he says, which haunts him and his works.
If for Mantzavinos’ paintings the first word which comes to mind is tension, it is because he declares: “There is nothing else but to paint”. Everything he tries to fit onto his canvas, and whatever flows out of it – the canvas will never be large enough to hold it all – is depicted through the iconography of a paganistic universe governed by symbols of a highly personal and specific mythology.
Once more we see the familiar obsessions of Mantzavinos with ships, trees, ex votos, shoes, with horse riders, lovers and dragons, and, above all, with his own figure and studio, all painted here with his fondness for strong thickly applied colours and his everlasting passion for drawing. The sea’s blue of the father he lost, love’s red troubling him and death’s black casting its shadow on him are dominated and shaped by frenzied lines that swirl and embrace, unfold and wrap, define and liberate the objects, the faces, the figures. Nevertheless, this is not painting about gestures but, rather, an intensely expressive painting which, although rooted in the West, loves primitivism, is not interested in perspective’s depth and looks the viewer in the eye.
Now some important new elements or, rather, some new obsessions appear, which are not, though, tinged with anxiety or concern for being different and novel, but come across with the naturalness and continuity with which children, the mentally ill and all outsider artists paint.
Mantzavinos’ recent works show an abundance of exuberant painterliness, which he had put aside for a while, although it is as always subjected to the sovereignty of his drawing. Now we see contemporary caryatids with mask-like faces wearing hats carrying the weight of ships, flowers and little men; bird-like women, seeming allegories of the psyche unconsciously echoing ancient images; gigantic trees with uterus-like hollows protecting the painter’s figure; and others which on their trunk bear the immaterial outline of a standing nude woman often accompanied by the loneliness of a naked light bulb.
“Tattoo on the tree” or “The widow’s tattoo”, is how Mantzavinos names this female figure which, sometimes like a female Saint Sebastian patiently bears the arrows while at other times, faraway echo of faded lines, seems to be the soul of the tree upon whose bark she is engraved. Like the archetype of a woman carved out on an ex voto, the figure of the nude widow has become here an ineffaceable tattoo on the tree, because Mantzavinos believes that “widowhood is permanent”. Frontal and static, totem-like trunks, his transparent widows confirm that he, too, is oblated to the lines of the drawings which he ‘applies’ indelibly on the surface of each of his works.
Likewise, his familiar and torturing self also appears as an apparition on a tree, only to come back in other works standing erect on the usually oppressive desk-like table of his studio. With crossed and lifted arms, branches of a tree impersonated by his very own body, but also with open, embarrassed hands, Mantzavinos steps triumphant and defeated among his tools and his phantoms. Straight and upright or a small curved mass, he sits mighty and frightened inside the exquisite void of background and existence: “I believe that through fear we enter the essence of things”.
* From the catalogue of Tassos Mantzavinos’ solo exhibition at the Zoumboulakis Galleries in Athens in February 2010
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