Building partnerships between the words of education and culture. VASSO KATRAKI (giving life to stone)

Art and auctions, Insight, Paintings and Sculpture — By on May 31, 2019 at 4:00 PM

Dr. Maray Georgousis

Building partnerships between the words of education and culture.

VASSO KATRAKI (giving life to stone)

by Maray Georgousis*

Education through art and vice versa is very important. There are fostering values and disciplines essential for full intellectual, emotional and social development of the human being in a community. Development is not only synonymous with technological and economic gains. In fact, it is inseparable from culture. By placing culture at the heart of education we invest in the world’s future.

Through art it is possible the share of experiences, as well as the improvement of new practices. The art has the power to touch both our feelings and intellect. Art makes us think in new ways. Cooperation in education and training improves competency, cultural awareness and creativity. Arts education helps to uphold the human right to education and cultural participation, as well as develop individual capabilities, improve the quality of education, promote the expression of cultural diversity and heighten the ethical awareness.

We should examine the implications of the changes brought about by globalization and multiculturalism in education and art. In a rapidly changing world, the need for constant process, of redefining our scope and goals is imperative. Culture offers important benefits in terms of social cohesion. Art develops an appreciation and knowledge of the unique history, opens the lines of communication and teaches how to respect social structures.

Vasso Katraki (1914 – 1988)

The museums are living depositories of cultural movements and events with a scope to educate. Museums like schools can be artful, can provide with self-awareness, and help bring people together from different socio-cultural contexts. The aesthetic power of a piece of art can increase its social effect, its capacity to elicit emotions. The art can challenge positive notions. The effort to develop public awareness about artistic, aesthetic, cultural, political issues, not only at the initiate elite but also to wider audience with a progressive pedagogy is an interesting undertaking.

Furthermore the artists because of their sensitivity are often expressed by creating a piece of art, as a response to happy moments, as well as to violent, shameful moments of the history. The artists often interpret the social and political events. The art often is not abstracted (cannot be separated) from political reality. The artists can mediate between an abstract world and individual needs. So the art has the power to educate, transform, inspire but also to enrage. The involvement of professional artists in the initial training of arts could be very useful. Unfortunately professional artists are not involved often in actual teaching at a primary or even secondary level.

Vasso Katraki carving

Another aspect that should be examined is the interaction between education through art that can also provide us with healing or can alleviate the pain of troubled minds. That’s why visual art: two-dimensional art, such as painting and drawing and three-dimensional art, such as sculpture, music: musical performance, composition and music appreciation (in the critical sense), drama: dramatic performance, play-writing and dramatic appreciation, dance: dance performance, choreography and dance appreciation, Media arts: artistic and expressive elements of media such as photography, crafts: artistic and cultural  elements of crafts, such as textile arts, weaving  and jewellery making, are very effective in the development of the human being, so psychiatrists and psychologists encourage their “patients” to participate in such activities. As a matter of fact some healing programmes invest in artistic skills, knowledge and understanding. It is accepted that children’s individual expression by means of the arts is closely linked to their emotional well-being.

Not surprisingly, all countries focus on their arts curriculum to develop young people’s artistic skills, knowledge and understanding. Most also aim for their arts curricula to develop critical appreciation; an understanding of cultural heritage and cultural diversity; individual expression; and creativity (imagination, problem-solving and risk-taking). Other common aims are to enhance social skills, communication skills, enjoyment, engaging with a variety of art forms and media, performing, and environmental awareness.

These are some qualities that are achieved with the education through art. (Aims and objectives of arts and education).

  • Critical appreciation, (aesthetic judgement)
  • Cultural heritage (national identity)
  • Individual expression/identity/development
  • Cultural diversity  (European identity/world awareness)
  • Creativity (imagination, problem solving, risk-taking)
  • Social skills/group working/ socialisation/ cooperative working

Pic 1. Amazon, engraved stone, 105×73 cm

Communication skills

  • Enjoyment/pleasure/satisfaction/joy
  • Variety and diversity of arts; engaging with a variety of art forms/ media presenting
  • Environmental awareness/  conservation/sustainability /ecology
  • Self-confidence/esteem
  • Art and lifelong learning/interest
  • Identifying artistic potential (aptitude/talent)

-Katraki’s work Pic. 1. is based on the understanding of cultural heritage. Her work is inspired by Cycladic marble sculptures. She had the pleasure to see the audience follow her and praise her.

Pic. 2 Roadblock- December 1944, woodcut, 40x30cm

-As we have already mentioned because of the sensitivity of artists is often expressed by creating a piece of art, as a response to happy moments pic. 2, as well as to violent, shameful moments. Pic.3

Why engraving?

The art of engraving is perhaps the least endearing, or less “glamorous” than the so-called fine arts. This could be attributed possibly to the fact that the produced pieces are not unique, but pieces created on a wider scale and in a certain number. But they are always works of art and here lies the paradox of it.

Pic 3. Visit IV. 11979, engraved stone, 105x73cm

The engraver creates an original artwork by making a matrix, so the engraving (etching) is no different from painting, as they have the same baseline status, which is unique. Depending on the current technique of engraving that is used, a series of engravings is produced. This production, however, does not alter the originality of the matrix. The main difference of engraving from the other arts is that several people can get this artistic creation.

Various techniques such as (lithography, engraving, woodcut) can maintain, according to Benjamin, the directness of expression and also they are imprinting the psychological state that the artist wants to depict just as in sculpture and in painting. The engraving, to achieve the desired result, requires among other factors a high level of competence by the artist of various techniques. Engraving, claiming a profile of autonomy over the painting and sculpture, enhances its value and uniqueness.

Pic 4. Visit II, 11979, engraved stone 105x73cm

Katraki based on the notion that tradition serves as a compass for breaking new paths, ways and trends in art. She approached artistic expression with an authentic, truly popular way of expression. The evolutionary character of her work placed her among the emblematic figures of the past century. The anthropocentric dimension pic 4 of her art and the relevance of her engravings to the Cycladic marble sculptures pic 5 of the prehistoric Aegean, defined her work. She created woodcuts and wood engravings, engraved stones, photographic material, sketches (drawings).

Through the art of Katraki , in some degree, we can partly follow the mobility of cultures. Katraki has been inspired from the ancient Greek heritage pic 6, pic. 7 especially the Cycladic figurines pic 8, while at the same time maintained her inspiration by the use of expressionistic elements and other techniques that have reemerged in Europe. This, in the times of globalization and multiculturalism, helps her form her unique artistic identity.

Pic.6. Antigone’s duty. 1972, engraved stone, 105x103cm

Katraki in her early days, depicts scenes from everyday life  pic.9 , 10, 11  , the life of the fishermen at the nearby Messolongi lake pic 12, 13. Her homeland was the inspiration for a series of color woodcuts of landscapes of the Messolongi lagoon (Hours of Messolongi 1948-1952). The use of dark gray tones and the complete absence of black are typical of that period. In her 1940s woodcuts fishermen remained an important theme and became pivotal in her experiments with her new technique of stone carving.

Her first stone works were portraits pic. 14, 15  Material itself imposed the selection of strong form, the limiting detail, the great gesture as she herself shall confess.



Pic. 20. Gyaros 1967

In 1955, she is engraving on a sandstone block that has a relatively soft texture and can keep the ink on its surface. Because of the nature of the material and the tools that she was using, the process of drawing gets closer to the carving. This choice of material might have contributed to a change in her thematology. Expressionism and the revival of traditional techniques that occurred in Europe at that time are not leaving her artistic identity intact.

She has been greatly influenced by ancient Greek art. She used to delineate the area in accordance with the aesthetics of the classical black-figured vases and friezes of austere rhythm and she transforms key elements from Cycladic figurines.

Pic. 21. Situation I, 11970, engraved stone, 120x67cm

Her dominant theme remains the human. The human, apart from a member of a social group, is also becoming a form, a symbol. At the work of larger dimensions dynamism is imbued. Although she seems to submit a social protest she maintains a calm Doric style. Her shading is focused on the contrast of black and white. The figures are schematic; the black and white contours become loose. The white background acts as a support without the use of unnecessary elements pic.16,   17

During her exile in Giaros she expresses herself artistically on pebbles using black ink. and drawings  Pic 18, 19, 20.   Later still, her work is dominated by symbolism, through tree-shaped and cross-shaped forms pic 21, 22  that take clearly a declaratory role. Behind the simplicity and austerity of expression in the works of this period lies a sharp social critique. She is deliberately omitting their essential characteristics.


Pic 22. Cross -examination, 1972, engraved stone, 115x100cm

But after 1975, her shapes tend to recover their lost features; they become less angular and aggressive, finally getting almost emotional pic 23. Katraki gradually makes the figure of the horse more abstract, she uses it more as a symbol. The gallop or the  movement of the head can not been imagined without breaking out of the picture, creating a sense of dynamism and alluding to restrictions of freedom. The physical shape and the vigor of the horse provide the artist the possibility to move away from the static-archaic approach to her work and create wavy and curvilinear forms.

Her various stylistic approaches paired with the Doric quality of her work. The stroke of her chisel spells out admiration for her teacher however she follows solid boundaries that separated her from the word of Kefallinos.


Pic 23. Attack I , 1985, engraved stone , 200 x 150cm

Last but not least the development of individual expression and the development of creativity are crucial. This also means that the most common way of involving professional artists in art education is to encourage partnerships between schools and professional art organisations, including visits to places of cultural interest (especially museums and galleries) and projects involving artists or arts organisations working in schools, educational organisations (including museums, heritage sites, workshops, seminars, kindergartens and schools) as having the potential to support intercultural exchange, learning and dialogue through arts and cultural activities. Teaching the arts shouldn’t be optional.

We need a more sincere dialogue between scholars, practitioners and policy makers. In this regard the major challenge is to convince political decision makers and local, national and international social factors to integrate the principles of cultural diversity, and humanist values that only art can provide.

*Maray Georgousis, Dr. Art Historian, PhD University of the Aegean Rhodes, Greece, Master1 & 2 University Paris IV-Sorbonne Paris, specialised in Louvre museum Paris, Curator.



Karel Rose, Joe L. Kincheloe, Art, Culture, & Education: Artful Teaching in a Fractured Landscape, Peter Lang Pub Inc, New York, 2004.

Vasso Katraki, Giving life to stone, Museum of Cycladic Art, Athens, 2010.

Document published by the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA P9 Eurydice). L’éducation artistique et culturelle à l’école en Europe, Septembre 2009.


Pic.8. Turning inward, 1965, engraved stone, 105x73cm











Pic.9. Stafnokari, woodcut, 24x40cm







Pic.10. Inner well, woodcut, 24x15cm










Pic.11. Family-Tillers, 1948, woodcut, 34x25cm











Pic.12.Girl in yellow, woodcut, 40x26cm











Pic.13. Girl in red, woodcut, 45x30cm










Pic.14. Fishermen with hats, engraved stone, 70x62cm









Pic.15. Little fisherman, 1957-58, engraved stone, 100×75











Pic.16. Mother, 1958, engraved stone, 100x75cm











Pic. 17. Family of fishermen, engraved stone , 100x75cm











Pic. 18. Horse and rider, drawing










Pic.19. Drawing, Gyaros 1967


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