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Athanasios Kalamaras: A fusion of cultures and ancient inspiration in Western Australia

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Athanasios (Arthur) Kalamaras, a Greek Australian artist known as one of West Australia’s foremost figurative sculptors, has a rich artistic heritage in both Greek and Australian culture.

Born in Florina, Greece in 1950, he emigrated with his family to Western Australia at the age of one. His father Leonidas, a celebrated Greek artist, and his mother Vasso, poet and writer, instilled in him a profound love for art. Surrounded by sculptors like his uncle Dimitris Kalamaras, he found inspiration in family.

His artistic exploration began with extensive travels across Europe from 1968 to 1972. He later pursued formal studies in sculpture, graduating from W.A.I.T (Curtin University) in Perth in 1974, simultaneously obtaining a diploma from the Pedagogic Academy. His study and travel to museums and archaeological sites across Bulgaria, Poland, Italy, and Greece, introduced him to diverse sculptural styles and techniques.

As a sculptor, he delved into modern abstract experimentation inspired by Renaissance and Classical Greek aesthetics. His craftsmanship spans various mediums, mastering the art of stone and marble carving, reviving ancient techniques in his creations. Kalamaras also played an important role in establishing the “J Shed Art Studio” in Fremantle, WA, fostering an artistic precinct of creativity and cultural enrichment.

One of his notable works, the “Minmarra – Gun Gun” memorial, unveiled in 1979, stands as a testament to his reverence for history and culture. This homage to pioneer women of Western Australia, blended Aboriginal symbolism, highlighting the fusion of diverse cultural elements.

His monumental stone sculptures, such as the “Goddess of Athena” and “The Mel of the Wargle,” stand proudly at Bathers Beach, Fremantle. His works are showcased in various Australian states. Canberra hosts two of his bronze sculptures commissioned by the Ministry for Ethnic Affairs.

Amongst his commissions is the 1978 life-size wood carving sculpture of Christ on the Cross, towering at 6 meters in height, and the accompanying 14 panels of wood carving reliefs for the New Catholic Church in City Beach, Perth. Another striking piece, the 1979 sandstone relief titled “Yorkas Nyinning,” measuring 2 meters in height and 16 meters in length, situated in the Botanical Gardens Kings Park.

Other works include includes the four stone carving sculptures, “Caryatios,” at the Wittenoom Apartments in Kings Park. His works also extend globally, from New Zealand’s wood carving sculpture to Greece’s Church in Attica.

Kalamaras’ contribution to art, his significant commissions and international representations are featured in an extensive bibliography. References in renowned publications like “Hellenic Sculpture” by Stelios Lydakis and “Greek Artists Abroad” by Niki Loizidi, serve as a testament to his recognition.

Kalamaras’ 2006 exhibition at the Vafopouleio Cultural Centre in Thessaloniki marked a significant homecoming to his birthplace in Greece, where he was welcomed with many accolades and appreciation. 

At the exhibition launch, Xeni Milara Vlachaki, President of the Supervisory Committee of Vafopouleio Cultural Centre of Thessaloniki stated, “The Vafopouleio Cultural Centre pays homage to the artist with a retrospective exhibition, the first held in Greece, so that the people of our city will have the opportunity to get to know this artist from the Diaspora.”

“I hope that such initiatives, which promote the creations of Greek living and working abroad, will continue with the same fervour; they contribute to research and the recording of our country’s artistic resources throughout the world, while offering new cultural and aesthetic experiences to the general public,” Vasilios Papageorgopoulos, Mayor of Thessaloniki, added in 2006.

The legacy of Athanasios Kalamaras lives through his sculptures and exhibitions, blending cultural narratives and solidifying his stature as a renowned Greek Australian artist.

Athanasios Kalamaras is amongst many Greek Australian artists who are registered in the GAAD (Greek Australian Artist Directory). An initiative by the Greek Australian Cultural League (GACL), the GAAD celebrates Greek Australian visual and performing artists by showcasing their works and contributions to the Australian arts landscape. 

By preserving and promoting the artistic legacy of Greek Australian artists, the directory ensures that their talents are duly acknowledged and cherished, cementing their place in Australia’s artistic narrative.

Interested artists can register their profiles by visiting www.gacl.com.au and clicking on the dedicated GAAD section. 
For any inquiries related to the GAAD, individuals can either email GACL President Cathy Alexopoulos infogaclm@gmail.com or contact GAAD Co-ordinator Vasy Petros on 0412 242 557.

*Written by Vasy Petros. This is a Greek Australian Cultural League Initiative supported by The Greek Herald.

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