Omiros Chrisopoulos (1927-2010), known as OMIROS, was born on February 26th, 1927 in Istanbul, Turkey. Having spent 40 years in Paris, he also lived—and died—in the United States (as an American citizen). But birth, nationality, and residency aside, Omiros was—and remains—universal.
Despite having lost the vision in his right eye at age three, as early as he could hold a pencil and carry a notebook, all Omiros wanted to do was color. As a boy he saw colors and shapes flying in space and landing on his notebook. He was a natural prodigy.
In 1947, 20-year-old Omiros was in Paris, pursuing his dream to paint. He became immersed in the Avant-Garde movement, and pioneered painting gouaches in an as-yet unknown style: Minimalism. Omiros began to reduce all of the shapes, forms, marks, colors, and tones of his compositions to a point of almost vanishing; so that he might “achieve the absolute minimalism of things.”
In the late 50s, Omiros became fascinated by the infinite expanses of space in the universe. At this time, he called his paintings “Mon Espace Libre”: “My Free Space.” He wondered: “what happens to perspective at the end of space?” Thus began his quest between abstraction and figuration to see perspective in and out of space like no one has done before.
At this time, he met Yves Klein, Armand Fernandez, Jean Tinguely, Nikki de Saint Phalle, and Lucio Fontana, becoming a member of the Salon des Comparaisons at the Musée d’Art Moderne, as well as the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles. Omiros’ works were shown by the most important galleries of those years, such as Gallery One in both Paris and London, Gallery Apollinaire in Milan, Gallery Taptoe in Brussels (with Ascer Jorn and Ralph Rumny), Gallery Iris Clert in Paris, and Gallery Camille Renault in Paris.
By the early 1970s, Omiros, disenchanted with the Parisian artist scene, eschewed it and began immersing himself in Abstraction. At times, these paintings seem like never-seen new art forms, suggesting the life force of nature and deep space itself. At others, they evoke a direct relation to his emotions, moods, and feelings.
By the late 1970s, Omiros, dropped Abstraction much as he had Minimalism, and found yet another passage in his pictorial journey, this time in quite the opposite direction; namely, toward the Figurative. It was as though the abstract had become too unstable, distant, fragile, and unavailable to a man who wanted more meaning. Thus, he began including forms back into his abstractions. This new passage became his own way of speaking in color, form, and abstraction—his own Figural Abstraction.
In 1979, Omiros began to paint his majestic Byzantines, wherein he captured the divine with such purity and sanctity that these paintings speak in color and spirit.
Through the 80s and into the 21st Century, his ability to express became unleashed, and all that inspired him, became. He continued the Byzantines, yet as though amassing both his own lifetime and that of humanity, he started painting different periods simultaneously, like ten artists going through time at warp speed. He painted Mythology, The Massacres, Sports, Fashion, The Four Seasons, The Masks, The Dances and much more; exploring storytelling—reveling in the folklore, rituals, hyperbole, and personification of nature, natural phenomena, and the body—the latter being where he dared to portray death and suffering.
At the carrefour of abstraction and figuration, Omiros created a new scale, a new definition of surface, a new syntax of relationships among space, pigment, edge, and figure. He was able to displace the hierarchies of figuration with an unprecedented and powerful intricate self-generating structure, forever extending the syntax of his pictorial language.
However, even more so, Omiros proves to be a master adept, at being deeply inspired by a myriad of themes and at being able to paint them in styles beguiling the juxtaposition between background and foreground, always eliminating or creating perspective in his Free Space.
In the final decade of Omiros’ life, he embarked on a period of Pure Abstraction where he abandoned the figure entirely doing a full revolution around his artistic star. Whereas in the past, the abstract played a lyrical mise-en-scène to his periods, themes and series, the abstract now became the heart of his paintings. The paintings of this period reveal the full expression of Omiros’ artistic journey and genius.
In spite of all of his remarkable contributions to modernist art, Omiros’ views of his own work always remained courageously humble. Yet, in an unexpected guise, this humility became the unlikely characteristics that came together, producing a master of modernist painting.
Omiros departed this reality on the 29th of August 2010. He left a tremendous opus that will be exhibited at Atelier Omiros & La Galleria in changing exhibitions.