Obituary - Stass Paraskos

 

I learned with great sadness that Cypriot artist Stass Paraskos passed away on Tuesday 4th March 2014.

I had the pleasure of meeting and making friends with one of the leading and perhaps most well respected of Cypriot artists, Stass Paraskos. He was a friend to everyone he met and a brilliant artist. I had studio crits with Stass at the Cyprus College of Art during which  he always spoke very highly of my art work. This made me very pleased that someone appreciated the work that I was making and it established a direct line of understanding between myself and Stass. I was also lucky enough to purchase a small painting from him personally in 2011 and this has been hanging up in my house ever since. I'm touched to have a little piece of Stass forever in the form of his painting. I will surely miss Stass.

Below, is an obituary written by David Haste and appeared on the Guardian:

'My friend Stass Paraskos, who has died aged 81, was the most significant Cypriot artist of his generation. In 1966, Stass gained notoriety in the UK when the police raided Lovers and Romances, an exhibition of his work at the Leeds Institute Gallery, following a complaint from a member of the public, and charged him with obscenity. The trial led luminaries of the art world, includig Herbert Read, Quentin Bell and Norbert Lynton, to speak in Stass's defence, but the case was still lost. This made Stass the last artist in England to be prosecuted under the Vagrancy Act of 1838 that had earlier been used against DH Lawrence.

Born in the village of Anaphotia, Stass was the son of a peasant farmer. In 1953, he emigrated to Leeds to work as a waiter, until a chance meeting with the charismatic art lecturer Harry Thubron led him to enrol at Leeds College of Art. There he met Terry Frost, who persuaded him to move to Cornwall and live among the artists of the St Ives school.

Returning to Leeds in 1962, he taught at various art schools. The fame created by his prosecution in 1966 led to further invitations to teach, as well as shows at major venues including the Institute of Contemporary Arts, where he exhibited in 1967 alongside Ian Dury. Three of Stass's reputedly obscene paintings were acquired by the Tate in 2006.

Stass Paraskos was the last artist in England to be prosecuted under the Vagrancy Act of 1838 that had been used against DH Lawrence

One of Stass's enduring ambitions was to establish an art school in Cyprus based on what he had experienced in Britain. In 1969, this led him to found a summer school for British art students in Famagusta. Relocating to Lemba in the 1980s, it evolved into the Cyprus College of Art, with Stass as its principal.

At the same time, Stass continued to teach in Britain, becoming a senior lecturer at the Canterbury College of Art in 1970. He offered inspired teaching that created a huge amount of warmth, affection and admiration from artists and students alike.

At the heart of all this was Stass the artist, deeply rooted in the history, culture and environment of Cyprus. The everyday and sometimes tragic life of its villages and towns fills his colourful work, fused with the iconography of Cypriot folk art and the Byzantine church.

Retiring from Canterbury, Stass settled in Cyprus in 1989 with his wife, Mary, whom he had married in 1957. As well as teaching and exhibiting there, he continued to show his work abroad and represented Cyprus at the 1996 São Paulo biennial. Although he joked that he was illiterate in two languages, he was a prolific writer in Greek and English, producing poetry, articles and books on contemporary politics, as well as the history and mythology of Cyprus.

Stass is survived by Mary and their five children, Stanley, Margaret, Paul, Christopher and Michael. I leave the last word to Stass: "Like religion, art is at its best when it's a simple activity but, as in religion, simplicity can lead to the experience of something incredible."