Umbrellas, 01.12.1997

Umbrellas, 01.12.1997

George Zongolopoulos ''Umbrellas''

From January the 12 (Thessaloniki Seaside)


Thessaloniki is 'equipped' not only with cultural constructions but also with artistic constructions, like Zongolopoulos' ''Umbrellas'', which were installed on the new promenade. The big scale artwork that is made from stainless steel, is located close to the hotel ''Macedonia Pallas'' and will remain there not only for the year 1997, in which Thessaloniki is the Cultural Capital of Europe, but permanently, creating a reference point for the city.

A poetic construction, expressing the infinite vividness of its creator, attracts the interest of Thessaloniki's visitors and citizens; many people take pictures in front of the 13-meters high sculpture. In combination with the changes in the seasons it creates a different perspective in space each time.

''Umbrellas'' caused great excitement in Venice citizens, where the artwork was presented at the 46th Biennale for the celebration of the 100 years of the institution.

Also, Zongolopoulos was excited by the location of the installation of his artwork and said that the place was ideal. ''In Venice the 'Umbrellas' were in the sea, under the terrain , while here there is a large space and horizon that seem that the sculpture was meant to be here. The artwork is located in that area of the city without any obstacle in front of it, creating different feelings to the visitor each time because it combines the grey cloudy sky, with the winter rain, the fog that covers everything, the bright sunny sky and the sunset when the sun is lost in the Thermaikos sea.

The strong wind, a common weather phenomenon, was something that troubled the artist. Finally, the solution was to install some metal lines that look like rain but also support the sculpture. Another novelty offered by the installation is that for the first time it is lit up, something which demanded special design. The result satisfied the artist who saw it for the first time like that. ''There is something magical that makes me feel astonishment and satisfaction. The 'Umbrellas' seem like they are swinging on a black background'' he stated. For that purpose special white projectors with vertical beams were used which when they reach nine meters, they illuminate the umbrellas only and make the vertical masses seem like pouring rain. ''There is always a vision for the artist who loves his artwork; To see it installed in the position he wishes. The artwork always needs its own living space. It can't exist everywhere. The first phase of that living space was the Venice Biennale under the sea and indeed it lived there and it was noticed. Here in Thessaloniki, it is much better. I don’t know what it is. Is it because of the wide horizon, the perspective, the cobbled coast? There is something here that I like very much''.

''At night the lighting creates a magical image, which when I looked at it for the first time I was astonished. The 'Umbrellas' on the black background were like a dream. This is an extra element. We have a night version of the artwork, incredibly magical, and a second element being the horizontal lines that help the sculpture's better support and create a plasticity. ''

As for the special works needed for the construction, Zongolopoulos stated: ''This sculpture exceeds the scale of human construction. A sculptor can work on a sculpture which is up to three meters tall. Afterwards, a kind of co-operation in needed in order to enlarge the sculpture. In Thessaloniki I co-operated with the technical staff of the Organization of the Cultural Capital, all of whom were very active and within few days had installed the artwork. They made some improvements, mainly to support it and to protect it. I should, therefore, recognize the contribution of these people who worked so hard to complete the installation." Also, Zongolopoulos said regarding ''Umbrellas'': ''It is a random work. There is a rhythm with these vertical columns and the umbrellas. There is a composition. There are certain things that have to do with numbers. People must see it again and again. They must imagine it.''

As far as what triggered his inspiration for the artwork is concerned, it was, as he said ''the art''. ''Sculpting can be done with masses but also with simple lines. Sculpting is nowadays a shadow. Itisnotdefinedonlybythemass. Thereisarevolution. It does not only depend on the mass'' . He brought as an example Giacometti's work who uses with simple lines.

Zongolopoulos' work, which is installed on the coast of Thessaloniki, completes the life circle of a sculptor, bearing in mind that 30 years ago his first sculpture was installed in our city at the National Exhibition of Thessaloniki.