The Tinian sculptor Praxitelis Tzanoulinos does not believe that much in inspiration but in hard work. In the center of his art are the stone and marble, earthy materials with strength and soul, just like his artworks.
What does Tinos mean to you?
Roots-childhood in Falatados village; the birthplace with deep experiences which constantly feed into life and art.
Why did you be occupied with sculpture? What does it offer to you?
This happened without me realizing. I was born within this terrific environment, in this “sculpture landscape” with the dry stones (by the way, we must start protecting and preserving them) that experience, need and fatigue of our ancestors have created. Perhaps this makes me see and think in a three-dimensional way, be within “space” and “time” and not in the virtual reality that abstracts us all away from life. For me, sculpture is an experience of fulfillment, gives a meaning, rhythm and limit to my space and existence.
Human figure, sea, Odyssey.
Where do you find inspiration in?
Do not think that the most important thing in an artist’s work is inspiration. Of course, there is always something that gets you emotional but what it is really required is hard work. “Work-work-work” was the advice of the teachers. Even now, I strongly remember of the tone of their voices in what they were saying, like Giannis Pappas, Nikos Nikolaou etc.
Which messages do you pass through your artworks?
Art preserves the dimension of its mystery; otherwise it becomes obvious to everyone of us. So, our look activates unconsciously the reason and message of every artwork.
Stone or marble?
They are materials of the earth, since the beginning of the world. You have to feel that they are alive, that have strength and soul. This I am talking about becomes more obvious in our marble as it perceives the light and gives it again to us. It always calls the sculptors for touching it; from the first Cycladic artists to Phidias, Chalepas, Phillipotes and also the modern ones like Noguchi who has completed many sculptures with Greek marble and as he was saying when working “… there is nothing else but my standoff with the marble…”.
What does fascinate you in your work?
The expression of compassion and emotions through this work. No one can pretend, be disguised or make use of the savoir vivre. The way of being always yourself without being afraid.
Which sculptures are you proud of?
Someone is never proud because he has the misfortune and misfortune of knowing what has preceded before. Perhaps certain artworks have left me with a sense of satisfaction. Like a head of a little girl, the sculpture “Liberty and Peace” which was mounted in Kallithea and from the last ones, Circe, Eleni, For Elpinoras.
Which sculptors do you feel admiration for?
Auguste Rodin in his will as translated by Giannis Pappas, says: “Worship Phidias and Michael Angelo. Admire of his divine serenity of the first, the terrific agony of the second. Admiration is a generous wine for noble spirits”. I will also add the unknown sculptors of the Cycladic statuette who worked –who know where, near sea, just like sea, making the humane figure as tender as a pebble full of light; our fellow-villagers, especially Chalepas, Fillipotis, L. Sochos, Loukas Doukas etc. and the modern ones, Brancusi, Noguchi. Form the most recent generation Apartis, Zoggopoulos, Makris and Giannis Pappas, my teacher.
What are you preparing these days?
I have just finished two sculptured portraits of the painter N. Chatzikyriakos-Gkikas and the philhellenic author Patrick Leigh Fermor, tailored-made for Benaki Museum. I am now working a sculpture projct for my village, Falatados, which you will see soon as well as some personal artworks in marble.
In Greece of crisis, can anyone make a living from sculpture?
It is always hard. Now things are worse for all of us. In the country of sculpture, there is hardly any sculpture activity. So, given that no one is addressed to the sculptors, the whole process lies in lonely difficult attempts and it is almost fortunate being able to work within this ancient art, be able to make a living and call yourself a Sculptor!
Your upcoming professional plans?
A plan that concerns the future of my work, like others’ co-workers and friends, is to get out of our geographical boundaries. Sculptors, painters and other artists wish to travel and expatriate our work. I believe in modern Greek art, and I call everyone who has the ability, to be on our side. There are certain Greek collectors and art historians that are pride of only those things that come from abroad, but they do not have the strength to support, promote and give prominence to what is happening here. They have the nerve to talk about the patriotism of the Greek workers.
Which are your favorite places in Tinos? Why?
Falatados, Pyrgos, Vrekastro… Falatados because I was born and grew up there; because there I always feel my primordial identity. The stone mystic rocks that emerge behind my village have haunted me and they always expand the concept of sculpture within me. Pyrgos there I began studying my art out of school… this isolation of space summons you in a way that you feel of being within the handful of God. Vreksastro because my house and workshop are there; it is the place where my family and friends, the sea and far away Delos are gathered.
A thing that we don’t know about the island?
I will talk to you about something very familiar which quite few people know of. In a temple in Xobourgo, there was found a large earthen Jar of the first half of the 7th century b.C. that represents Athena’s birth from the head of Zeus. It is the first iconography of the description that Homer has given to us (28th Homeric hymn); just because of this artwork, a line should be formed out of our Archeological Museum. It is an exquisite piece of art which we have to know, to visit the Temple in Xobourgo and also see the magnificent excavation realized by the Archeology Professor of Athens University, Ms. Nota Kourou –if we are lucky and find her there, we will be able to learn many things.
Praxitelis Tzanoulinos was born and grew up in Falatados in Tinos. He studied sculpture in the School of Fine Arts in Panormos as well as in the Superior School of Fine Arts in Athens. Since 1989 he teaches plastic arts and conservation of sculptural artworks in the technological Educational Institution in Athens. He has made busts and artworks for public spaces, monuments and statues which he has been awarded for. He works in Athens and Vrekastro in Tinos.
“The stone mystic rocks that emerge behind my village have haunted me and they always expand the concept of sculpture within me.”