Thanks to a significant grant by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), necessary repairs have now been completed, and the House is ready to function as an educational center.
On Monday, September 23rd, 2019, ten Greek young artists participating in the ARTWORKS Stavros Niarchos Foundation Fellowship Program visited the House in Kardamyli, Mani.
Monday, September 23rd, 2019
The day begins early. My bag is packed. Without delay, I set out from home, hoping that everyone will be on time at the meeting point. Today we will be traveling to Kardamyli, along with 10 artists from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Artist Fellowship Program of ARTWORKS, to visit the house of Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor. A magical place. Renovations were recently completed by the Benaki Museum, with support from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF).
Today’s visit, I’m sure, will leave no one unmoved.
We are all here. In front of the SNF offices (on the corner of Vassilisis Sofias Avenue and Lampsakou Street). It’s remarkable that no one was late. The group seems to be getting along well. A meeting at the Benaki Museum last week also helped. People chatting in small groups, laughter, and here comes the last one who’d popped into the bakery. We have a 3.5-4 hour drive ahead of us. Let’s get going.
Orestes, who’s sitting next to me, gets a phone call. He has to move out of his apartment within the next three months; the owner wants to live in it herself. Real life is interfering with our trip, I think to myself, with art.
Stefania moves to the front seat of the bus. The turns in the road are making her carsick. We’re only a few kilometers away from the village. Mani has already spread out its lush landscape around us. We stop for a breath of fresh air and a dose of nature.
We arrive at the home of Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor. Myrto welcomes us at the door. Exclamations of wonder cannot be contained: “Incredible!” “What a view!” “This is unreal!” “There’s beauty wherever you look!”
The weather is nice. Sunlight shimmers on the transparent sea and the olive leaves. The timing couldn’t be better: as soon as we enter the yard, the smells come pouring out of the kitchen window—fresh, Greek, summer tomatoes! Something’s cooking… Just like mom’s kitchen.
A guided tour of the house. The sitting room for social gatherings, the kitchen, Paddy’s den, the large dining table (yes, where the Hollywood movie was filmed), the backyard, the path down to the beach. Excitement, and all kinds of requests pouring down: “Oh, why aren't we staying here tonight?” (It is a wish we all share. Maybe next time).
But we also have a runaway: As we tour the house, Neritan travels in the opposite direction, using his Super 8 to film “the quiet spots” as he explained later.
[14:20 – 15:30]
Time passes easily here. Hundreds of books, all over the house, certainly play a leading role. Nature, the surrounding area, the stone-built covered balconies.
We all gather for lunch. Elpida has seen to everything for us. Traditional Greek salad, local olives, pies, and pastitsio for the main course. Elpida spent 15 years with Patrick and Joan. What stories does she have to tell us? Mr. Michalis—as those who were close to him called him—never ate the same food for lunch and dinner. He was fluent in Greek. All the top celebrities of the time had been to the house. But also simple folk, villagers. In recent years, as he grew older, Paddy didn’t look after the house like he used to. He had let it go a bit. He lived alone. It wasn’t his priority...
[16:30 – 18:00]
Free time. Time to be creative. The artists are now scattered throughout the house. They move apart, they come together, they talk, they isolate themselves, they take photographs, they draw, they take notes. What will the end result be?
A click as we snap a group photo, and we’re ready to head back. Fulfilled. Filled with the images and the power one draws from beauty. But also with a thirst for more. One always wishes to return to this house.
Arrival in Athens.
Our tiredness is overwhelming but sweet. The images and the senses are all still fresh. We set our next meeting. In three days we’ll all get together again to see the Fellows’ works. And believe me—they’re extraordinary.
The landscape and objects in the house become the subject of sketches in a notebook.
“Except where their cutting edges were blurred by landslides, the mountains looked as harsh as steel. It was a dead, planetary place, a habitat for dragons. All was motionless.”
Excerpt from Patrick Leigh Fermor’s Mani
Neritan Zinxhiria _ Mythology of Blue
The sea as a bridge that unites and doesn’t divide:
an author’s many travels, presented in summary through the covers of books that kept him company.
Cacao Rocks in collaboration with Alexandros Simopoulos
Comics, ink and acrylic on Polaroids, 2019 (Notes)
A series of painted-over Polaroids taken during
our visit and processed later.
What is the distance between narrative and fact?
A fishing line links Patrick Leigh Fermor to Pausanias.
Each one holds a disposable cup to his ear.
The line has to be stretched in order for them to hear each other, but here and there
it is tangled up in prickly pears, masts, civil wars, shells, goats’ horns, olive groves, the backs of dolphins and ancient temples or cages of the gods, as they are also called.
Their speech is broken up by white noise, cicada songs, heartbeats, hookah bubbles and summer thunder.
The improvised phone becomes our memory, along with all that we now despise, having surrendered to the universal dream.
A soldier’s boot in a whale’s stomach, the sweat of a woman dressed in black at the salt lakes, a Byzantine coat of arms and the reflection of the sun on the whitewash is what stayed in my eyes.
There wasn’t time for me to swim around Merope like you did every day. The truth is I don’t even know if I can do it, but hopefully in the future I will at least try.
Thank you Michali
Stefania Strouza _ The Dark Ones
2019, digital collage
The photo collages are based on snake patterns that appear as engravings in different parts of the house and are juxtaposed with the belongings of its owners. The symbolically charged combinations hint at an introverted universe closer to the unconscious. They seem to be referring to Patrick Leigh Fermor’s mystical aspects as they ‘traverse’ an increasingly complex and ambivalent post-war world.
Keywords: snakes, found objects, unconscious, collage, interiority, darkness, ambivalence, symbols, history, post-war
Katerina Kotsala _ Walk on Me
-cotton paper, the imprint of a pebbled floor, 55x25cm
-2 watercolors, a color study of a pebbled floor, 29x20.5cm
Himself a walker, Patrick Leigh Fermor built a pebble path in his backyard.
Walk on Me reproduces the pebble floor in the yard of the Fermor house; it is the imprint of the pebble surface on cotton paper. Watercolors refer to a color study of the pebbles used on the floor and evoke the distinctive sunset of Mani in Messinia.
Pavlos Tsakonas _ Portals
A series of digitally processed photographs
First impressions of structural surfaces and details of the Fermor house, color-treated in the style of a quick sketch or note. The original stimulus that activates one’s curiosity to delve into an intensely adventurous world.
Kosmas Nikolaou _ Drowning in the Details
Ten images that act as quick notes lead one’s gaze around the house, to points that we wouldn’t usually notice on our first visit. Ten images lead us to look at the house’s modern technical infrastructure. Quick clicks in space, a quick rotation, cracks, sockets, and air ducts. Small details betray the discreet renovation, noisily attesting to the new function of the house and, ultimately, its new owners.
Keywords: Vertigo, Infrastructure, Technical Systems, New owners, Foundation, House, House/Museum, Museum
BRIGHT SPECIAL LEIGH
MINI TERES 1 SPOT
H.P. D 3W /827 40D
MADE IN GREECE ’19
Giannis Delagrammatikas _ on reflection, P.L.F.
video, 1’ 06”
In 1933 Patrick Leigh Fermor began his first journey to Constantinople. A few items of clothing and a volume of Horace’s Odes accompanied him on his wanderings.
Kardamyli was chosen as the place he returned to, the retreat where recollections of travel, intense experiences, and inner journeys would be shared in his literary universe.
Κeywords: reflection, travelogue, travel, literature, retreat, wandering, book, ode, return, fact
The SNF thanks the Benaki Museum, ARTWORKS and all participating artists for their collaboration. Participating artists in alphabetical order: Delagrammatikas Giannis, Goulema Niki, Kotsala Katerina, Mavroudis Orestis, Cacao Rocks (Megoulas Yassonas), Nikolaou Kosmas, Simopoulos Alexandros, Strouza Stefania, Tsakonas Pavlos, Zinxhiria Neritan.
Credits of the photographs that appear in the video: Benaki Museum: The Ghika Gallery-Photographic Archive, Leonidas Kourgiantakis, Vassilis Paschalis.