Chasing Memory

Mario and Gisèle Prassinos with the surrealist group, 1934. From left to right, standing: Mario Prassinos, Henri Parisot, Benjamin Péret, René Char, Gisèle Prassinos; siting: André Breton, Paul Éluard. Photography by: Man Ray

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When André Breton wrote the Surrealist Manifesto in 1924, Prassinos was merely 8 years old; he was learning a new language and new habits in a new country. Still, it would not be long before he began chasing what was hidden in his dreams and his subconscious.
Prassinos and his poet sister Gisèle met with the Surrealists in 1934, when he was 18. In 1937, Prassinos was invited to L’Art Cruel exhibition along with Dali and Picasso. Soon after, he opened his first solo exhibition in Gallerie Billiet-Vorms.

In these small-scale works, Prassinos preferred angular forms and brought to fore lines and drawings. In addition to the angular faces that he integrated into his Warrior paintings, hands covered in metal armors, as well as linear effects representing an accompanying mist or sound also became prominent. On the whole, the paintings were laden with an implicit artistic protest against war and the rising movement of Fascism.

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In the self-portrait Mario Prassinos painted in 1936, we find a bust with a scarred face in a space without walls, a floor, a ceiling, or any physical boundaries. The shades of blue seen between the clouds hanging over the ground resembling a carpet of sand recall a dream scene. The clothes on the post of the door left ajar, on the other hand, appear to be alluding to an ancient time that explains the ruined state of the space.
This was the room of Prassinos’ grandfather in their house in İstanbul. The similarity between a photograph showing his grandfather, an artist himself, in front of the canvas and the room Prassinos depicted is quite evident. While his recollection of the door and the white enamel door handle point to the strength and depth of Prassinos’ childhood memory, the most striking aspect of the work is what he must have felt when he realized, upon seeing the photograph for the first time in 1980, that the space he depicted was from his past.

Mario and Gisèle Prassinos with the surrealist group, 1934. From left to right, standing: Mario Prassinos, Henri Parisot, Benjamin Péret, René Char, Gisèle Prassinos; siting: André Breton, Paul Éluard. Photography by: Man Ray

Mario and Gisèle Prassinos with the surrealist group, 1934. From left to right, standing: Mario Prassinos, Henri Parisot, Benjamin Péret, René Char, Gisèle Prassinos; siting: André Breton, Paul Éluard. Photography by: Man Ray

Mario Prassinos, In Pursuit of an Artist: Istanbul-Paris-Istanbul” exhibition can be seen until August 14!

 

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