Kessanlis Nikos (1930 – 2004) He was born in 1930 in Thessaloniki. He studied near Yiannis Spyropoulos (who was an apparent influence) and Nikos Nikolaou (1944-1948) in his teens. He studied at the Athens School of Fine Arts with Yannis Moralis (1950-1955) and presented his first exhibition in Athens, with painter Panos Sarafianos (ADEL gallery, 1955). The same year, he went to Rome to study a (fully funded) programme on mural and restoration at the Instituto Centrale del Restauro. He stayed in Italy until 1959. In his first solo exhibition in Rome (L’Obelisco gallery, 1957) he presented works which were approaching the abstract and gestural trends of informel.
After 1961, he moved to Paris and joined the pioneering art group Nouveaux Realistes. He started using textiles and objects in compositions-Gestures, culminating in the Great White Gesture presented at the exhibition, Three proposals for a new Greek sculpture, (along with Danil and Caniaris), which was curated by Pierre Restany (in the context of the 1964 Venice Biennale parallel events). Soon his research focused on the use of photomechanical media which intervene in the structure and production process of the image. He participated in the exhibition Hommage à Nicéphore Niepce (J gallery, Paris, 1965), presenting works like the Phantasmagorias, being in the vanguard of Mec-Art’s creation. His experimentations in this area, using various techniques in two or three dimensions, lasted the entire ‘70s and constitute one of the key aspects of his work.
Until his first solo exhibition in Athens (Zoumboulakis gallery, 1976) his connections with Greece were minimal. However, he would soon play a major part in the Greek artistic developments after his return to Greece and his election as Professor at the Athens School of Fine Arts (1981), where he taught until 1997 (Chancellor and Vice Chancellor 1991-1997). His teachings, as well as his dynamic interventions regarding the School’s relocation, contributed significantly to the modernization of the Greek artistic reality. His artistic activity continued until the end of his life. His work Queue, placed at the ‘Omonia’ station of the Athens Metro, was created in 2003.
He presented numerous solo exhibitions and participated in many group ones in Greece and abroad. He received the Modigliani award (Livorno, 1959), the Premio Lissone award and an honorary distinction at the Sao Paulo Biennale (1961), as well as the 1st prize at the Salon de Montrouge (1997). In 1988, he and Caniaris represented Greece at the Venice Biennale.
His first retrospective exhibition was held at the Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art (Thessaloniki, 1997).
After his death (Athens, 2004), several retrospective presentations of his work were organized (AD gallery, 2006, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens, 2007, etc.) and a monograph on his work was published (2009).
Photo by Adrianna Calvo