5 November – 7 December 2018
AT MONET’S STUDIO
Thraki Rossidou Jones
Christodoulos Panayiotou: There are various aspects of your mother’s work that interest me. The one thing that absolutely fascinates me though is the freedom she took to reinvent her subject matter and liberate her style from the oppressing tradition of ‘Cypriot folklore’ on which her career was based up to the 90s. One could hastily canonise her work in the history of Cypriot Art, placing it alongside that of Michael Kassialos, as it offered the kind of imagery that the then newly established Republic of Cyprus needed for the formulation of a national iconography. What I find incredible about Thraki Rossidou Jones is that having founded an entire career on those premises, she then went on to seemingly effortlessly paint autumn in New Hampshire or Monet’s garden in Giverny. I have been truly enchanted by that series of Monet’s garden at Giverny since I first saw the paintings in a book many years ago. I find them audacious and extremely sensitive.
Gavin Jones: In 1990, I rang my mother and said, “Let’s do France!” – and off we went. During our trip, I said, “Right mother, I’m going to take you to Monet’s house!” She was enthralled and that’s what started her ‘Monet period’. She did a lot of paintings based on our visit. She loved the garden which she thought was wonderful and took many photos from which, once back at her studio, she would paint. I was always very blunt with my mother and told her that I didn’t particularly like the style of her paintings which I found strange and not to my taste. We had so many battles!
CP: Another thing that also surprises me is that even though her life was dramatically influenced by war, it was never a subject in her paintings. There is no trauma, no violence in her paintings.
GJ: Yes, that surprises me as well. She was from a political family and she was active in Cypriot politics. But painting was part of another process in her life, I guess.
CP: This must be you holding the sign saying ‘Monet’s Studio’. And this would be you again on the Japanese footbridge. Both are painted in 1991. On this painting from 2003 though, the style is very different, much simpler I would say. Is this young boy you again?
GJ: Yes, that’s me again. She had been suffering from dementia for a couple of years by the time she painted this one. This is what I meant when I spoke of a regression in her style during that period, when she would often paint from old photographs.
CP: It is truly moving to see these two paintings next to each other reproducing exactly the same view. This might just be my own projection but on this second painting you are much younger, a child really. And Merlin, her favourite cat, appears now as well. Even though Merlin was a recurrent subject in her landscape paintings, he rarely appeared in the Giverny circle. There seems to be a tension between memory and loss of control in this painting, which I find very poignant.
GJ: She’s quite a girl, my mother! Isn’t she?
(Extracts from a conversation with Gavin Jones on 28 July at Lemba, Paphos)
The Island Club presents At Monet’s Studio, a solo exhibition of paintings by Thraki Rossidou Jones, focusing on her series of works resulting from her visit to Monet’s house and gardens in Giverny as well as other lesser known works produced in the latter part of her life, during which she suffered from dementia.
Thraki Rossidou Jones (1920 – 2007) was born and raised in Famagusta. In 1938, she moved to the UK to study English; however, her studies were cut short just prior to the beginning of WWII. Upon her return to Cyprus she enrolled in the WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force) and served as a plotter in the operations room in Athalassa. There she met her husband Keith Jones who was Deputy Controller at the time. Following their marriage in the summer of 1945 and the end of the war, they moved to Bilston, Wolverhampton, in the UK where they had a son, Gavin. In 1953, for a brief time, she studied at the Bilston College of Art and by 1968, the family moved back to Famagusta and opened up a travel agency. Following the events of the summer of 1974, Thraki and her husband fled to the Anzio Refugee Camp in Dhekelia and spent ten months there, while their son, Gavin, returned to England. After multiple relocations, they finally settled in Lemba, Paphos, where they built a home overlooking an orchard, wild fields and the sea. The next three decades of her life proved to be the most productive and defining years of her career as a painter.
Thraki Rossidou Jones passed away in July 2007. Although she suffered from dementia during the last six years of her life, she never stopped painting and would often revisit older works depicting places that were dear to her.
Her first solo exhibition took place at Curium Palace, Limassol (1980) and was followed by other solo and group shows in Cyprus and abroad. Selected solo exhibitions include: Gloria Gallery, Nicosia (1984); Wood Green, London (1988); Gallery of Naïve Art, Kovacica (1989); Cyprus Cultural Centre, New York (1994); Museum of Naïve Art, Jagodina, Yugoslavia (1995); MIAN International Museum of Naive Art of Brazil, Rio de Janeiro (1996); House of Friendship, Moscow (1996); Cyprus House, Athens (1997); Peter’s Gallery, Nicosia (2005).
All works courtesy of Gavin Jones, Diachroniki Gallery and private collections.
With special thanks to Gavin Jones.
Photos: © Mirka K. / The Island Club