Manousos Chalkiadakis welcomed me in his yard, along with his cat friends who proudly follow him everywhere.
He lives in the village of Paidohori, in a Venetian house from the 18th century that he renovated and made an artistic nest. Each room is dedicated to a certain theme, memory, or life event, or a space where he exhibits his works.
Manousos and his three-dimensional world are the bright stars of Crete that casts miraculous lights right above Lefka Ori (White Mountain).
He dedicated his whole life to the creation and the island of Crete. Inspiration is at every step because Crete has always been a place of great events, and today the gods are the ones who tell the stories in his works dedicated to family, childhood, origin, creation, nature, and its miraculous movements.
Manousos tells captivating stories about his ancestors, about his grandparents’ immigration to Brooklyn in 1912. In the room where he keeps the bed where he was born, there is a painting he created based on a black and white photograph, the only trace of distant relatives. They all went to America and stayed there, as did many families in Crete.
He often finds inspiration for his works in nature itself. His next exhibition will be called “The Forest of Cypressus” (over 40 sculptures representing cypress trees, symbols of the island, which were used as a foundation in the construction of palaces in Minoan times).
Manousos has so many stories about Greece and Crete, both personal and mirrored in his works, that it would be a shame not to write a screenplay for the film.
I liked the provocative story full of symbols in today’s moment. It is a myth about Europe and the god Zeus. Zeus was crazy about Europe. To win her over (and avoid the jealousy of his wife Hera), he came up with the idea of turning himself into a beautiful white bull. Europe was delighted by the bull’s beauty and kindness, so she gently caressed him. Zeus took advantage of the moment and ” raped” Europe.
That’s how Manousos named his painting after this myth (“The Rape of Europe”), and while he was telling me this story, he smiled boyishly.
Manousos is considered the greatest Greek ceramist, and his works are in private collections worldwide.