Carlos Freire - Le Mont Athos - Photographic book
George Tsatsos - Acrobats Exhibition
On Monday, 7 October 2002,
the artist Heloisa Novaes
and her husband, the photographer, Carlos Freire
arrived from Paris. Their entire conversation
concerned Greece and it took me a few
moments before I could discover why. I
later understood as Carlos Freire gave
me his latest work, a huge magnificent
book called LE MONT ATHOS, containing
his photographs and with text by Jacques
Lacarriere. He wrote to me in the book:
"Le Mont Athos que eu vi, para voce
Vera, com a minha amizade e o carinho
pela pessoa que voce e. Amitre. Toujours.
Carlos Freire - Londres 10.2002."
Which translated reads: "Le Mont
Athos that I saw, for you Vera, with my
friendship and affection for the person
you are. Amitre. Toujours." AHHHHHH!!!!!
What a lovely dedication!
Carlos originally left Brazil
intending to stay in Paris for only four
months. But apparently he forgot his way
back. So, he has remained in Paris for
the last 34 years. His book, which I have
concerns the sacred mountain in Greece
call Mont Athos, where no female animal
- including myself - is allowed. This
photographic work is fantastic. Because
I am not permitted go there to see it
for myself, I am grateful for his photos
through I can visualise the sacred mountain.
It is as am seeing through his eyes: the
atmosphere of the place with its twenty
monasteries and the monk giving a welcome
with a small glass of water. The streets
on the mountain leading from one monastery
to another caught my eye with the large
paving stones along with similar stones
are used for the houses. The stones come
directly from this Le Mont Athos, which
lies in the middle of the sea. Some skulls
can be seen around the place showing life
was there at some stage in time. The insides
of the churches are full of breathtaking
icons and incenses that - having been
to Greece - I can still smell when looking
at Carlos' photos. His best photos are
the Priests of the Orthodox Greek Monastery
of Mont Athos, all with beards and with
their heads covered in black, their faces
are tranquil - without stress- but their
hands show hard work. Some hands hold
a rosary; some are holding icons, sticks
and candles. They have a hard, reclusive
and solitary life; but above all a mystical
life. A portion of the photos are dedicated
to Easter time around the mountain and
some photos to the restoration of the
frescoes and the icons. One monastery
name that caught my eye is Monastere de
Xenophotos, the name of my grandfather.
The Brazilians love Greek names, my sister's
name is Grecia - Greece - so you can see
our love for that country, cultural and
civilisation. There is a huge colony of
Greek in Brazil.
Darlings, the book is magnificent
and can be purchased at Imprimerie National
Editions, Paris 2002 ISBN 2-7433-0432-4.
So, with his work of Le Mont Athos, Carlos
has become a Greek by adoption - at least
with heart and camera.
As I have said, Heloisa
and Carlos arrived on Monday morning,
bearing gifts of food, chocolates, cheeses
and wine (all for me, of course). They
also brought me a copy of a photograph
that Carlos took of me last year.
During the evening they went to the opening
of Fred Boissonnas: Images of Greece 1900-1920
at the Hellenic Centre in Paddington Street,
The next day was the vernissage
of George Tsatsos
at the Robert Bowman Gallery in Duke Street,
St James's. Heloisa sent me the invitation
direct from Paris. I am saying this because
I found it ironic to be invited from Paris
to a London exhibition. How posh!!! The
envelope - like the invitation - was decorated
with the artist's designs. I was delighted
to be going with Heloisa and Carlos. The
exhibition was called Acrobats - in fact,
the artist is like an acrobat himself,
going from engineering to painting. George
comes from a famous intellectual and artistic
family; his uncle was one of the most
important Greek painters of the 20th century.
George has been painting for the last
20 years but it's only been after much
thought and preparation that he has decided
to have his paintings on exhibition for
the first time. As I arrived at the exhibition,
I greeted George with the words: "Your
painting are beautifully coloured."
Heloisa told me that George's
painting has a lot of forms from his work
in engineering: tube forms, geometric
forms, mosaics, spanners and acrobats
around the painting, with some animals
such as bulls and birds. He paints in
acrylic, very colourful, and contemporary,
using a lot of red and full colour doodles.
His artistic combination of colour and
shapes is visually stimulating and extremely
interesting. I had stopped at the desk
of the Gallery and noticed some T-shirts
with George's design of letters of the
alphabet printed on them. Which reminded
me that George has also produced a wonderful
children's book, An Alphabet for Analphabe.
All book and T-shirts sales went to George's
favourite charity, KIDS, which is a charity
for children with disabilities the UK.
I really loved George's work for the children
- the alphabet in its many forms and colours
Soon after, I met George's
wife Zoe, his very nice children and some
of his friends, most of them beautiful
Greeks. Which made me a bit self-conscious
despite that fact that Heloisa did my
make-up and my hair. It still felt like
a "bad hair day". Anyway, I
went on to have a pleasant evening; the
food was to die for! We were served delightful
juice cocktails, champagne and delicious
decorated canapés of all sorts
from salmon to pates. I loved the flower
decoration of the trays; one was a flower
from South Africa. (Before I left it was
actually given to me. I still have it
- it looks like an artichoke but with
some pink in it.)
I also met an interesting
couple, Loula and Michael Kailas; they
taught Greek dance. Heloisa had previously
spent an evening at their school of dance,
very much in "Zorba the Greek"
style! She said that she arrived home
feeling like a true Greek Goddess Dancer
and went on to show me how they dance
- they don't move their hips, just arms
and feet. Michael, professor of dance,
said, "the first thing I look at
in a woman is the feet
I am a dancer
so the woman has to have the right feet."
Hah! Those fetish feet!!! Michael is also
is in the business of icon and painting
restoration, he has even restored works
for the British Museum. They have a niece
called Antigone - she is an artist too,
lives in Munich and has a strong sculptured
Antigone face with large eyebrows. I will
never forget her very Greek name, every
time I go to see this Greek piece, I will
be reminded of her.
Later I met John Michell
- he introduced himself as a painter of
watercolours. Searching the Internet I
found that he has written Who Wrote Shakespeare.
(Perhaps in future he will tell me who
really did write it). A very lovely man
- I thought we had some "chemistry"
but he left me for a blonde!!! On his
Internet site, I also saw his paintings,
which I found very geometric. Heloisa
told me they are Mandalas (circular figures
as religious symbols of the universe).
I also discovered that he was educated
at Eton and Cambridge. He seemed quite
a bizarre Englishman with a strange-smelling
cigarette - very "Ladbroke Grove".
I later saw him from my bus in Ladbroke
Grove while visiting my mother who is
in hospital there. What a small world!
After John had left and
I was feeling almost dead, David arrived.
I didn't get the surname, but I could
tell he was an Englishman, a very charming
Englishman, at that - blue eyes, great
detail as regards to his dress, brown
shoes and, above all, for me coming from
Italy, long socks. He had an electrifying
confidence, an almost conceited persona.
"Oh, God" I said to myself,
"he is talking to me." I became
very alive and surprised at all the attention
he was offering my direction. But just
a few moments later he left me and was
throwing about the same charm to all the
women in the Gallery. I found him on bender
knee to all the women in Duke Street -
a serial seducer if ever there was one.
Amazing - poor Istanbul "Penelope"
left there waiting for her man - I hope
she doesn't have to wait 20 years. Now,
I too have discovered that Englishmen
Carlos introduced me to
another very, very charming man, Laurent
Baudou. He was a Frenchman and was the
director of the very famous shop in Mayfair
"By Royal Appointment" to all
the Royal Family: Thomas Goode. I've never
been in that shop because I am intimidated
by it. After we were introduced I said:
"Carlos and I are of the same generation.
We have been friends since teenagers in
Brazil." Then I looked at Carlos
and I found him a little too old with
his head of white hair. Looking at Laurent
I said: "not really, I am younger
than Carlos, a generation after!"
(I later told this story to Carlos and
Heloisa and we laughed like crazy.) I
also jokingly said to Laurent: "Carlos
brought me here because he is trying to
marry me off to a rich man." After
I said that he left (as the saying goes
"he left the building").
Anyway, believe it or not,
being in Duke Street - in the heart of
Mayfair - at the George Tsatsos opening
was really something: a real 'happening'
of a variety of people. I was then privileged
to meet the Bishop Theodoritos from the
Orthodox Greek Church - he was the first
and only Orthodox Bishop that I have ever
met. We had our photo taken together.
I showed the photo to my platonic Greek
neighbour and I told him that I asked
the Bishop to marry us and he fainted,
because his brother is already married
to a Brazilian girl and his mother said,
"not another Brazilian in this Greek
family." So I suppose there is not
a chance for another Big Fat Greek Wedding.
What a shame for me!!!
Returning to George Tsatsos's
opening, the Greek singer Elena Kelessidi
arrived straight from her success in Turandot
at the Royal Opera House, which I had
seen only days before. I nearly died when
we kissed and had our photo taken together.
Gosh! Rubbing shoulders with the cast
of Turandot at Covent Garden and being
with all these amazing people, I was unable
to sleep all night - it was absolutely
To my surprise, we were
invited to Zoe and George's house in Hamilton
Terrace, St John's Wood for dinner. The
house's enormous existence and perfectly
designed gardened lined with rich greenery
left me without words. It is difficult
to describe such glorious architecture
and elegant decorative taste with words.
Michael - the icon specialist - was also
at dinner; he showed Heloisa and I the
work of restoration he had done to the
icons on the wall. They were simply DIVINE!
I found it all to be very overwhelming
and I said, "I have two icons but
it has nothing to do with those, my icons
are on wood and silver." Michael
said, "Icons are always painted on
wood." I said, "Mine are from
Poland but really those are another story".
I looked around and found that George
had painted something that looked like
Easter Eggs: smooth, oval shapes in a
plethora of colours and sizes. They were
placed on top of the fireplace, around
each room. In every corner of the house
was a piece of his work. I saw a large
limousine painted with his trademark motifs.
As I was having dinner in
this Greek household, I told my favourite
story of my trip to Greece with my lovely
daughter, who had done classical studies
in Rome; there she studied Greek and Latin,
- we went in the middle of all these classicism
studies. We arrived in Greece by ship
from Brindisi, Italy. I had brought her
along with me in attempt to cheer her
up; she failed in her Greek studies that
year at college. On 24 September, by coincidence,
we were in Epidaurus Theatre. She went
on the top of the Theatre to test the
Theatre's acoustics, for which it is famous.
I stayed at the bottom, in the middle
of the arena and when she reached the
top, I was so inspired by the place that
I began acting, pretending as if I was
Greek performing on this infamous stage
for a listening audience. I whispered,
"Today my lovely daughter Francesca,
who is 15 years old, can everybody wish
her Happy Birthday, please." My small
whisper was transformed and was carried
through the Theatre so that everyone could
hear - even my darling Francecsa, who
had climbed so high up to the top. After
I spoke all the tourists in the Theatre
went "Happy Birthday Francecsa".
Being 15-years old she was mortified and
never forgave me. She didn't talk to me
for the rest of the day; I must have embarrassed
her again! (she will tell you that I have
embarrassed her so many times that she
could not recite them all). I found it
liberating to be acting on that Theatre
stage - like the Greeks of old time. For
me, Epidaurus Theatre is the most impressive
one, the most acoustically perfect theatre
that I have been in. Anyway, after eating
a gorgeous dinner, I left Zoe and George's
house, but not before kissing 'seducer'
In the afternoon of the
very next day, I had an appointment with
Carlos and Heloisa at the Thomas Goode
shop with Laurent. I arrived there excited
to be actually going inside the famous
shop. I love things for the house. I said
to Laurent: "Are you making money
with this beautiful place?" He answered
"I am trying to get rich for you!!!"
God! You have to be French to be so charming.
It made my day. Then we went to have a
drink next door in an amazing, very English,
traditional old place in the heart of
Mayfair, with the old English décor.
Laurent was next to me and I kept touching
him while Carlos was destroying me with
horrible things like a brother would say;
it was really just an excuse to touch
this charming Frenchman. OUI! OUI! OUI!
I went saying all my way home.
Later my cousin called.
I began talking about these men that I
had met but in which had no luck with
and she said I sounded very desperate!
I said with all those men talking to me
that my hormones must still be there somewhere
and that they could smell them. She said:
"But Vera, we are young!"
Oh! Dear! Like my cousin, I am looking
for romance, even if I am happily divorced.