Matheo Yamalakis

A Journey

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." After a youth in Greece, my journey began in the 1960s when I headed for West Germany to work and study, like thousands of Greeks at that time. I had taught myself to draw and I was accepted at the School of Art in Offenbach. My mother helped me financially. I worked at night, went to school by day. Finally I got a scholarship. Later I started working for the German television, as assistant director, as graphics artist.

In the late 1960s, I found myself in Sweden. I worked at the Swedish television, again as graphics artist. The new country both attracted and frightened me. It was a time of spiritual and human loneliness. A year without links to other places, times or people. A time of searching which gradually led me to turn inwards and discover the Minotaur - my alter ego. There is an eternal animal in all of us. Some name it the wolf, the dove, the hawk. I called it Minotaur. This figure of tragedy and absurdity can be found in many of my paintings.

When I graduated from Art School I wanted to make films. And so I did. But I kept painting. Painting let me express my inner world in ways impossible for the film.

The 1960s were intense for the whole world. Europe, Viet Nam, Latin America and Asia were shaken by political, social - even armed - conflict. Student movements, mainly in France and Germany, drove visions of a more just social policy in the West. In my own country, Greece, a dictatorship was imposed. Fired by the belief that it was my duty to react, I took my camera and threw myself into documentary-making. Informing people that fascism was again rearing its ugly head, and not only in Europe. My themes were political and social. I began in Central Europe, Germany, France and Switzerland and continued on to the Middle East, North America, South America.

Since then, I have made 53 documentaries, both short and feature-length, for television and cinema. I continued roaming the world with my camera. The films functioned as a break from the intensity of painting and drawing. And they gave me the opportunity to get to know new people and places. Finally, film-making completely had the upper hand. I stopped painting.

It was not before the late 1980s that painting returned into the centre of the life. The moments of inspiration and creativity make me tremble with the yearning to give them a face, to capture them with a stroke of my brush. To give them colour before the chaos of existence swallows them. The erotic is present everywhere in my work, whether the subject be a human figure or a landscape.

Love and eroticism go hand in hand with the beauty of the soul and of nature. Who has not quivered with emotion and love at the sight of a sunset, a sunrise or a powerful human presence? Our very existence is the result of romantic and physical love.

The little money I make from my films allowed me to paint without thinking of profiting from my art. I took a position against selling my paintings - it is both a personal standpoint and a cry of opposition to the philosophy of our times. A society that adapts its spiritual needs to chequebooks of technocrats and merchants is doomed to lose its soul and get stuck in eternal consumption.

I once read that in ancient China, painting was not a profession but a way of life. The artist who cannot express the rhythm of life and the harmony of nature through his work is as useless as a plugged flute.

Matheo's journey ended on March 5, 2021.