TSATSOS - ACROBATS EXHIBITION -
CARLOS FREIRE - LE MONT ATHOS - PHOTOGRAPHIC BOOK
On Monday, 7 October 2002, the artist Heloisa
Novaes www.verinhaottoni.com/heloisanovaes and
her husband, the photographer, Carlos Freire www.verinhaottoni.com/carlosfreire 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
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 previously
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 (www.verinhaottoni.com/b&wphotos).
During the evening they went to the opening of Fred
Boissonnas: Images of Greece 1900-1920 at the Hellenic
Centre in Paddington Street, London.
The next day was the vernissage of George
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
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
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 thrilling!
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' David.
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.