The Estate of Vlassis Caniaris
Arrivederci - Willkommen - 1976
26 February - 28 March, 2009
A solo exhibition of Vlassis Caniaris with an installation titled “Arrivederci – Willkommen”.
Created in 1976 and exhibited in Hanover and Warsaw, this landmark work has never before been shown in Greece. Focusing primarily on the sociological aspect of immigration, Caniaris, in this work, captures the faceless, anonymous emigrants that poured into Germany in the 1960s looking for work and the promise of a better life.
Caniaris' interest in the plight of man in his everyday life has been evident in his work from the beginning. The terrible mining accident in 1957 in Marcinelle in Belgium, where approximately 400 Italian coal miners lost their lives, affected Caniaris so deeply that he responded by painting a series of abstract works in which he tried to convey the deep emotion this event had triggered in him. Three years later, in a series titled “Walls”, he tried to reconstruct the images and atmosphere of Athens during the German occupation.
In the early 60s he began to use everyday objects in his works and the human figure gradually began to enter his thematic explorations. The first environments were created in 1971 as he turned his attention fully on the problem of the influx of economic emigrants in Germany. In these environments, the artist included all the ordinary objects that people acquire and use to shape their lives –chairs and toys, bicycles and suitcases- attempting through personal observation to reconstruct individual histories, dreams and realities, the burden of economic hardship. And, although there is a strong feeling of alienation in this installation, Caniaris, at the same time, evokes the resilience of the human spirit when confronted with life's broken dreams and disappointments.
His work today is as timely as ever. As the artist has said about this specific work, “It is not a question of an individual or a country; it is a question of a mechanism which still holds true today. Of course, I must add the irony that at that time we were a country that exported a migrant dynamic and now we are a country that imports. But the situation is the same, it is not new. The problem of migration is age-old and is not encountered in isolated cases but in every country.”