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NAUSICA PASTRA: THE VIENNA YEARS (1956 – 1963)

2022-03-09
Nausica Pastra, Vienna, 1963 Courtesy archive of the artist and Kalfayan Galleries
Nausica Pastra, Vienna, 1963 Courtesy archive of the artist and Kalfayan Galleries

Kalfayan Galleries (Haritos 11, Kolonaki, Athens) present an exhibition of works by Nausika Pastra from the period in Vienna (1957 - 1963). The opening will take place on Thursday, March 17, 2022, 18.00 - 21.00. The exhibition is held under the auspices of the Austrian Embassy in Athens.

The exhibition at Kalfayan Galleries focuses on a specific period in the work of Nausica Pastra in Vienna between 1956 and 1963, which the artist describes as 'the period of innocence'. It sheds light on this creative period of research and experimentation, when the foundations of the rational development of Pastra's artistic process were laid: decisive beliefs were the idea of Necessity and Nature. Nausica Pastra (1921 - 2011) is one of the most important Greek artists with exhibitions and works in public spaces in Greece and abroad. She developed a personal plastic language which focuses on mathematical relations and the intersections of the square and the circle.


Text by Emmanuel Mavrommatis:

Following the two major retrospective exhibitions after the death of sculptor Nausika Pastra (1921-2011), at the State Museum of Contemporary Art (Thessaloniki) and the Museum of Modern Greek Art in Rhodes, in 2014 and after the solo exhibition at the Kalfayan Galleries in 2018, the current exhibition at Kalfayan Galleries focuses on the years when the artist lived and workd in Vienna (Austria), between 1956 and 1963. The previous exhibition at the Kalfayan Galleries presented selected works from the period 1981-1992. Titled "The surface as origin, the reasoning as foresight in the work of Nausica Pastra (1921-2011)" the exhibition examined the systems of Analogue 1 and 2, that is, a large part of the artist's work in Paris where she settled permanently since 1964. She went to Paris from Vienna, where she studied sculpture (1957-1962) at the School of Fine Arts (Akademie der Bildenden Künste) in the sculpture workshop of Professor Fritz Wotruba, a pioneer of post-war European sculpture. In 1963, when Pastra completed her studies, Wotruba organized her first solo exhibition at one of the then most important galleries in Austria, gallery Würthle.

Referring to her Vienna years, Nausica Pastra wrote in her latest text published in the Art Newspaper Greece in 2010: [...] I think that this period of studies is important for every artist. I call it 'the period of innosence'. Nothing seems to be completely concrete inside us except for the wish to express our concern in some artistic way. Some learning, some reading, some knowledge, a limited previous work, but still nothing absolutely conscious. It is actually the period of making the effort to find an artistic way to express our torturing feelings. I had the imperative and conscious certainty that I wanted to express myself artistically as a sculptress. I consider the works I created during those years important and revealing because they already "carry", potentially , all that which later, after a long-standing and great artistic course of experience, thought and realizations, became a conscious and responsible attitude and source for sustained progress. [...].

The exhibition at Kalfayan Galleries highlights the period when the artist lived and worked in Vienna, having as a reference Pastra's first sculpture created according to the earliest method of pottery in which the artist was trained by the sculptor Ewald Mataré in 1956 during the Summer academy (Sommerakademie) in Salzburg. In contrast to clay shaping, this technique consists of [...]

adding clay rings one on top of the other [...] according to the text by Otto Breicha's introductory text in the Vienna exhibition catalogue in 1963 . It is also the technique according which Pastra, as Alexandra Goulaki-Voutira writes in 1992, [...] a torso-amphora that impressed Wotruba and that was the beginning of a fertile and creative schooling with him. Equally important is also the sculpture in the form of a 'vase' (the first sculpture which Pastra created during the Sommerakademie). The documentation photographs of Ewald Mataré presenting Pastra's sculpture to his students were published in the catalogue of his retrospective exhibition in Salzburg in 2007.

Alexandra Goulaki - Voutura while examining Pastra's pre-eminently anthropocentric sculptural style during the period she works in Vienna from 1957 writes: [...] Nausica studies the human body, its laws and hidden principles. She observes the oscillation of the torso that is based on two lines that intersect, like the letter x. She builds her first sculptures as a mounting made of stripes-lines that originate from certain points of reference, especially evident in the drawings. Her forms are shaped by vertical and horizontal axes, as she tries to perceive simultaneously the twist of the volumes and to work from the inside towards the outside.[...]

Nausica Pastra Torso, 1960 cement bronze Courtesy the artist’s estate and Kalfayan Galleries, Athens - Thessaloniki
Nausica Pastra Torso, 1960 cement bronze Courtesy the artist’s estate and Kalfayan Galleries, Athens - Thessaloniki

The great success of Pastra's first solo exhibition in Vienna, about which extensive and encouraging critical essays were published (Otto Breicha, Kurier, 22 February 1963; Maria Buchsbaum, Wiener Zeitung, 20 February 1963; Harald Sterk, Az Kultur, February 28, 1963; Manfred Vogel, Echo, 3 March 1963; Johann Muschik, Neues Österreich, 22 February 1963), was also echoed in Greece, throuh a publication in 'Zygos' (Ζυγός, issue 83, April 1963). The latter publication translates part of an excerpt from Breicha's prologue. There was further international press coverage referring to Pastra's Vienna scultures: Das Kunstwerk (December 1964), published an extensive text of Otto Breicha's on Pastra titled 'The new Austrian sculpture: An attempt at a survey' (pp. 11-17). The same text was republished in the December 1965 issue of Studio International (pp. 220-227).

It is of great importance that two books on Austrian sculpture, published in 1965 and 1966, refer to the work of Nausica Pastra of that period in Vienna. The first is by Feuerstein, Hutter, Köller, Mrazek, Moderne Kunst in Österreich, published by Forum Verlag, in which Pastra's work is presented (p. 92) as well as a full-page photograph of a head-sculture of 1964. The second book is by Johann Muschik, Österreichische Plastik seit 1945 (published by Verlag G. Grasl, 1966), with a presentation of the artist's work on page 24, and the full-page illustration of three sculptures from the years 1960, 1961 and 1962. To these texts Alexia Fahr's master thesis should be added (University of Paris IV, 1994) , with the title "Fritz Wotruba et le renouveau de la sculpture Autrichienne". The latter refers to the generations of sculptors-students of Wotruba who were recognizably influence by their teatcher since 1946 -1948 with a special reference in the years between 1951-1954 and artists Avramidis, Oberhuber, Urteil and others, to end with examples of students from the years 1956-1958 naming Roland Göschl and the Nausica Pastra as [...] the last students whose work was shaped by the personality of their teacher. [...].

The bilingual exhibition catalogue includes among others the text of Otto Breicha which presents Nautical Pastra's solo exhibition at Würthle Gallery, the texts of Maria Buchsbaum, Harald Sterk, Manfred Vogel, Johann Muschik, excerpt of the study by professor Alexandra Goulaki-Voutira regarding Pastra's sculptures created in Vienna as well as an excerpt of the doctoral thesis of Vicky Karaiskou and texts by Emmanouel Mavrommatis along with an excerpt from his book titled "The Prevision and the Memory. The drawings, the scultures and the theoretical texts of Nausica pastra (1921-2011).

Detailed presentation of the work of Nausica Pastra is to be found as well in five doctoral dissertations of: Dorothea Konteletzidou, Viki Karaiskou, Iordanis Roumeliotis, Eleni Polychronatou and Klea Charitou.


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