The photos of the icons are from the article Η εικονογράφηση του Ελληνορθόδοξου Ναού στο Μαπούτο της Μοζαμβίκης δια χειρός Helen Lieros / A Igreja Ortodoxa Grega no Maputo by fr Panayiotis Kapodistrias (in Greek).
Stephen Garan’anga : Visual Art
When we took up our artistic arms decades ago to venture into professional visual art through the then famous BAT Visual Arts Studios of the National Gallery of Zimbabwe we knew there existed a local venerate artist Helen Lieros and Gallery Delta. But we had not yet grasped what it is that makes one an exceptional artist and be widely recognised as a referral point in society. She was the first established artist to descend to the BAT Studios at the beginning of our foundation period and embraced us with her career art talk.
From that moment we were equipped with determination and genuine insight of the artistic journey that exterminate short cuts we had embarked on. We became highly inquisitive to perceive what she does and never missed out on most of her local participation in exhibitions especially at her confounded Gallery Delta.
Over the years what we have known on the surface of Helen locally is that she is a multifaceted no nonsense senior artist of high talent who expresses herself mostly in highly textural abstract painting work of rich colour from self-made pigments.
Her handmade paper too is a highly exploited surface of her work as a painter, drafts person and master printmaker and above all a generous warm-hearted and God fearing individual. Having highlighted the above few there are other critical attributes which need to be understood that uplifted her to reach the dizzy heights of creativity that we are accustomed to today.
This has a history, a tale of conquered obstacles through sheer hard work and resilience. Her recently launched art book at Gallery Delta Foundation for Art and the Humanities titled “Helen Lieros Mural Paintings” authored by her husband and co-founder of Gallery Delta, publisher Derek Huggins reveals she is a painter of the old masters’ calibre who executed great frescos of centuries still withstanding, appreciated and enjoyed by millions the world over by executing her own in Maputo, Mozambique.
The high definition images of her “Fresco Secco” which she locally first showed at Hellenic School in Harare when she gave her talk about the work now in a compact thick volume book illustrate magnificent human and animal anatomy with sublime flow of linear work of the drapery entailing what hard work and artistic talent is.
It is a rarity in this modern era to have an individual painter of one nation to be invited to another to partake such a mammoth task of furnishing the entirety of interior walls of an enormous iconic holly chapel with biblical events. She had to be the one fearless and capable to take us back to painting as we have known it.
The Panagia and Child (Moder of God the "The widest of the skies" / "more spacious than the heavens" with Jesus Christ)
The project was conceived in 1996 when she was approached by the Honorary Greek Consul of Mozambique, George Tsihlakis, to paint murals in the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Maputo. He had seen murals done just shy of three decades earlier by Helen in Harare’s Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Trinity. He furnished her with images of the naked interior walls and invited her to visit the holy space. She accepted to do justice to the call and with her typical whole painting kit from Zimbabwe she embarked on the execution of the “Apocalypse”, her first work of the fresco, with reference from the biblical book of Revelations. With the subject her intention was to have something which the general populace and worshippers would relate to and realise the necessity of peace.
Now as then, we are confronted by natural disasters, civil unrest, conflicts and wars, and the search for justice and peace. In reality these events become apocalyptic as predicted.
Her thoughts are portrayed by archetypes in their battles, flights and migrations in their search for freedom and as related to the African continent.
Then I put in the white ram and the “Alpha and Omega”, and surrounded by the four symbols of the winged lion, human, bird and bull. Further down lies Saint John who dreams as God tells him what to write. In the background are the seven churches and the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. Below, in the foreground lie dead figures, depicting wars, and illness by fling frogs as stated in the Book of Revelations that the people vomited”.
Her interpretations were created taking into account that it was a Greek Orthodox cathedral in Africa and necessity dictated figurative work. Encompassing narratives she has forsaken the traditional Byzantine style feeling that the essence should be vivid colour, impact and power. However, she respected the Orthodox tradition by the execution of such paintings as “The Panagia and Child” in a sanctuary behind the altar and “The Pantocrator” in a five-meter wide dome twenty five metres from the floor.
Hats off to the local star and may her work continue to be of great inspiration to many.
Helen Lieros - Biography (from the article of fr Panayiotis Kapodistrias)
1958/62 Studied at Ecole des Beaux Arts, Geneva * 1960 First Prize, Association of Women Artists, awarded by the Swiss Government * 1961/62 Prix de Holzer & Bursary - State Scholarship * 1962 Diploma and Arts Degree with Honours, Geneva * 1962/3 Scholarship to the Institute da Statale d’Arte, Florence, awarded by the Italian Government * 1964 Returned home and taught at Chaplin School, Gweru for three years * 1985/86 Perfectionment Artistique, Ecole Superieure D’Art Visuel, Geneva: Awarded for improvisation of materials, pigments, colour and painting * 1967/2009 Lives and works in Harare
1977/79/84/85/89 Attended Centre des Gravure Contemporaine, Geneva. Etching with D. Diovorne, Ecole Superieure D’Art Visual, Geneva. 1990 Invited Artist in Residence, Wanganui Summer Workshop, New Zealand.
1967 Executed four large murals at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Harare. 1996-2002 Executed murals (fresco secco) for the entire Greek Orthodox Cathedral at Maputo, Mozambique. 2008 Invited to return to Maputo to undertake new wall paintings in Greek Orthodox Cathederal.
Permanent Collection, National Gallery of Zimbabwe * The Cabinet des Estamps and Centre de la Gravure, Geneva. Museum of African Arts, Paris * Wilfredo Lam Museum, Cuba. Mini-Print International, Cadaques, Spain * Pinakothiki Sophia Laskaridou, Athens
1966 Naikes’ Gallery, Bulawayo. 1968 Polworth’s Galleries, Harare. 1970 Barbour’s Gallery, Harare. 1970 Stoa Texnis Gallery, Athens. 1972/75 Tara Arts & Seven Arts, Harare. 1973 Diogenes International Galleries, Athens. 1979 Exhibition, Gallery Delta, Harare. 1983 Selected works, PG Gallery, National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Harare. 1985 Galerie Chausse Coqs, Geneva. 1991 Major Retrospective Exhibition, National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Harare. 1995 “Diary of an Inheritance” Gallery Delta, Harare 1995 “Antithesis”, Mayfair Gallery, London. 1998 “Logos - The Word - Gallery Delta, Harare. 2004 Retrospective Exhibition - a selection of paintings and graphics over three decades 1974 -2004, Gallery Delta, Harare. 2004 “Diaspora” Sophia Laskaridou Pinakothiki (State Gallery) Athens, Greece. 2005 ‘Aeons,’ National Gallery of Zimbabwe. 2007 ‘Antithesis,’Sophia Laskaridou Pinakothiki, Athens, Greece.
1967 Federation of British Artists, London. 1971 Rhodesian Art, Beira, Mozambique. 1971 The National Annual Exhibition, National Gallery of Zimbabwe and frequently in ensuing years to present. 1972 American Embassy, Athens. 1974 Young Artists of Promise, Athens. 1974 The First Circle Exhibition, Harare. 1975 Rhodesian Select Exhibition, Ned-Art Gallery, Johannesburg. 1975 Graphics and Drawing Exhibition, Gallery Delta, Harare. 1975 Art Exhibition, Gallery Delta, Harare. 1976 Exhibition Arta, Gallery Delta, Harare. 1976 Select Rhodesian Artist’s Exhibition, Rand Show. 1977 Art Exhibition, Gallery Delta,, Harare. 1977 Aspects from Geneva, Gallery Delta, Harare. 1977 Summer Exhibition, Gallery Delta, Harare. 1977 Environmental and Experimental Exhibition, National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Harare. 1978 Emergent Art, Gallery Delta, Harare. 1979 International Etching Exhibition, Centre de la Gravure,
Illustrated catalogues: National Gallery of Zimbabwe. * Arts Rhodesia, National Arts Foundation of Rhodesia, 1978 * Arts Zimbabwe, National Arts Foundation of Zimbabwe 1982 * Insight (Jan 1983) and other Newsletters of the National Gallery of Zimbabwe * Inflight Air Zimbabwe Magazine - cover.* Le Soleil, Dakar, 1983 * Africa Asia, Encyclopaedia Zimbabwe,1986 * Zimbabwean Stone Sculpture, Celia Winter-Irving, 1990 * Zimbabwe Heritage Catalogue 1990 - cover * 10 Jahre Zimbabwe Emotion and Kunst, Marie and Christian Schlaga, 1990 * Helen of Gweru, Fiona Lloyd, South Africa, 1991.* Article by the Artist, Southern African Art 1992 * Zimbabwean Women in Contemporary Culture, Diary, 1992 * Greek Artists Abroad, produced and published by the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Athens * Africa World Art Review, Arts and Culture, 1993 * Gallery Magazine No. 4, and others in the series, Gallery Publications, 1995 * Zimbabwe: Legacies of Stone, Past and Present volumne II, Geert G. Bourgois, Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, Belgium, 1997 * Gallery Magazine No 20 ,“Painting the Self”, Gallery Publications, 1999 * Gallery Magazine No 30, “Helen Lieros at Home”, Gallery Publications 2001.
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