CONFERENCE - GREETINGS
From the pioneering dances of Sergei Diaghilev (Ballets Russes) to Ted Shaw, from the Minotaur by William Blake to the pioneering works of art by Pablo Picasso inspired by the mythical monster of antiquity and the famous “Knossos Scarf” by Mariano Fortuny to Karl Lagerfeld’s creations Inspired by Minoan frescoes, the Minoan civilisation, the first advanced European civilisation, has for years continued to inspire artists and scientists around the world. Academics, creators and archaeologists met in London to unravel the thread connecting Greek cultural heritage with modern creation. The meeting was applauded by the founder of Branding Heritage, journalist Katerina Frentzou, president of GNTO Angela Gerekou and general secretary Dimitris Fragakis as well as the authorized tourism consultant of the Region of Crete, Kyriakos Kotsoglou. The meeting was coordinated by Olga Stavropoulou, managing partner of Militos Consulting. The event was honoured by the presence of painter and conservator of the Palace of Knossos, Yiannis Politis.
SPEECHES BY DISTINCTED ACADEMICS AND ARTISTS
Of exceptional interest were the interventions regarding the timeless influence of Minoan civilisation on contemporary creation worldwide by academics and creators, including Nicoletta Momigliano, Professor of Aegean Studies, Classical and Ancient History at the University of Bristol, who expatiated to the audience that the Minoan civilisation is transferred to the present through architecture, dance, music, fashion, etc. Adrian Fisher, a British designer who has designed 700 labyrinths around the world, explained how exciting it is for a contemporary artist to be inspired by Daedalus, while Ilaria Caloi, a Lecturer in Aegean Prehistory at Ca ‘Foscari University in Venice, referring to Mariano Fortuny and the famous “Knossos Scarf” analysed how the Minoan symbols have been a source of inspiration for the world of fashion centuries ago. Diana Wardle, a researcher archaeologist at the University of Birmingham, talked about how fashion was expressed in the Minoan era, while Jerolyn Morisson, archaeologist and founder of “Minoan Tastes” (Minoan Tastes), spoke about the Minoan diet and her sources of information about the contemporary rendering of its Minoan recipes. Guest speaker was ceramicist Lilah Clarke, granddaughter of British architect Theodore Fyfe, who worked on Sir Arthur Evans’ team during the first years of the Knossos excavations. Clarke referred to her grandfather’s important archive, which is one of her sources of inspiration. The event was honoured by the presence of painter and conservator of the Palace of Knossos, Yiannis Politis, who moved the audience by stating that he serves the monument of the first European culture as a priest and every day, for 25 years now, he prays to be worthy of his role.
Professor of Aegean Studies, University of Bristol
“The Minoan Past in Contemporary Times”
Nicoletta Momigliano has devoted an important part of her university research and her writing interest to Minoan archeology, as well as its influence on contemporary times. In her very interesting speech at the “Modern Minoan” conference at the Museum of London, she explained to the public how the Minoan past inspired a wide variety of contemporary cultural practices from the early 20th century to the present day internationally. She cited examples in fields such as architecture, painting, opera, literature, fashion, contemporary ballet, etc. “For over a century, Minoan Crete has been the inspiration for works by great artists such as Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau and Paul Klee” Her latest book entitled “In search of the Labyrinth” cites numerous cases of creators, artists and scientists who were inspired by the Minoan symbols, as well as the Branding Heritage event “Contemporary Minoans” that took place at the Heraklion Archaeological Museum in Crete, May 2018.
Lecturer in Aegean Prehistory, Ca’ Foscari University, Venice
“The Knossos Scarves”
The Italian archaeologist’s research on the Bronze Age focuses on three areas: ceramic production, burial archeology and the uptake of Aegean art from 20th century art, with a special interest in the Spanish artist Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo, to whom she has extensively referred during her speech at the Museum of London. Ilaria Caloi explained to the public how the Minoan symbols have been a source of inspiration for the world of fashion centuries ago, citing the case of Mariano Fortuny, one of the first European designers inspired by Minoan Crete as in 1906 he created the famous “Knossos Scarves” with drawings of pottery, larnaxes and other excavation findings. “Fortuny was inspired neither by Paris nor Vienna, but by the island of Minoas. This mystifying island, where Angelo Mosso discovered the roots of European culture” were her distinctive words. More information on the subject can be read in her book titled: Modernità Minoica. L’Arte Egea e l’Art Nouveau: il Caso di Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo (Minoan Modernism, Aegean Art and Art Nouveau: The case of Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo).
“In the Footsteps of Daedalus”
“Mazes are among the most exciting things. We are all looking for hidden secrets, for what we do not see at first glance” said British designer Adrian Fisher at the “Contemporary Minoans” conference at the Museum of London. Fisher, considered to be one of the world’s leading maze designers, having already designed 700 different types of mazes in 40 countries, including Alnwick Castle and Blenheim Palace. He has also published 12 books and created tracks and puzzles for theme parks around the world. Besides the creation of traditional fence and wood mazes, he has constructed mazes using mirrors and water. The “butterfly maze” in Ningbo, China, secured him a world record for the largest permanent maze in the world with a total acreage of 33,565 sq.m. and total route length 5.20 miles. The videos that follow feature how exciting it is for a contemporary creator to be inspired by Daedalus, as he himself attests.
Archaeologist and Research Fellow, University of Birmingham
“Fashion in the Minoan Era”
A Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham specialising in prehistoric archeology and costume design, Diane Wardle has been reviving ancient Greek clothing for years. During her speech at the Museum of London, she referred to her research on Minoan clothing, mainly from Knossos and Petsofas. For the exhibition of Branding Heritage showcasing the conference “Contemporary Minoans”, she created two experimental copies of clothes (photo) by studying murals and construction materials of that particular era and rendering a comprehensive picture of the clothing customs of Minoan society. “The colours I chose for these creations are often found in the Bronze Age. Unfortunately we have very few fabrics and yarns at our disposal, or more often imprints on pieces of copper; not the case in Egypt where there is plenty of material. That’s why we make an effort to work in other ways. We know that in Knossos they used wool, linen and leather, while silk has been found in Thera”, said the British creator who has participated in numerous exhibitions and costume reconstructions in documentaries such as “Helen of Troy”.
Archaeologist and Founder of Minoan Tastes
"Μαγειρεύοντας όπως οι Μινωίτες"
Dr Jerolyn Morisson spoke about the diet of the Minoans and where she draws her material from for the contemporary rendering of her Minoan recipes in her speech at the Museum of London. Although there are no surviving written records that provide evidence for the eating habits of the people of the Minoan era, the American archaeologist composes her own interpretation of Minoan flavours. Having researched numerous archaeological findings such as food remains found in storage jars of the Minoan palaces, she mentioned we have evidence of the use of legumes and herbs, of the use of coriander, oil, honey but also of the collection of sea salt. In addition to cooking, Dr. Morisson is also involved in creating copies of Minoan cooking pots. “Cooking is an element of culture and pottery has been a part of the Cretans from the Minoan era to this day. It serves people’s needs for cooking and storage.” In 2018, Jerolyn Morisson participated in the event organized by the Branding Heritage organization entitled “Cooking Like Minoans”, an interesting experiential representation of Minoan gastronomy which was curated by herself and took place in the Garden of the Knossos Research Centre of the British School at Athens, in the presence of the Prince of Wales Charles.
“Minoan Pottery and Theodore Fyfe”
The granddaughter of British architect Theodore Fyfe, who worked on Sir Arthur Evans’s team during the early years of the Knossos excavations, Lilah Clarke is a distinguished ceramicist. She was born in Scotland and studied Ceramics at the Hammersmith College of Art. For several years she has been teaching ceramics in schools, workshops and art galleries. In her speech at the Museum of London, she referred to her grandfather’s important archive, which was the main source of inspiration for her substantial involvement with ceramics and the creation of contemporary objects with Minoan references. “My grandfather unexpectedly found himself in front of fascinating discoveries. His drawing skills were excellent. He was also a good photographer. It is to him that we owe the visual material from the initial stages of the excavation of the palace of Knossos. Theodore Fyfe worked in Knossos for the first five seasons and then returned to his homeland. In 1926 he became the first Rector of Architecture in Cambridge”.
YANNIS POLITIS - Painter and conservator at the Palace of Knossos
The event was honoured by the presence of the Knossos palace painter, Yannis Politis, who has been continuing the tradition of maintaining and restoring the monument for years, guided by the valuable knowledge he has received from his father. Read his moving speech.
“Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, thank you for being here tonight. I was born through my father’s gaze.” He was a tireless conservator at the Palace of Knossos. As a child, I remember my father showing me the crimson colour high up the columns. “This comes out of a shell, my son”” he would say, beaming with joy.” “Do you see the sunken stairs? This is due to King Minos’ heavy steps”. In his workshop he would make the colours, the tools and the designs that I still preserve up to this day. So I have learnt everything from the man I have admired my whole life. The colours of Knossos haunt me even in my sleep. Like a priest, I minister to the monument of the first ever European civilisation and each day, for 25 years, I pray to be worthy of my role. History and myths dwell in the parts of the building that have been damaged by time, in the frescoes glorifying the proud figures of the prince with the lilies, of the bull with the acrobats. The King’s unscathed marble throne, the queen’s unbroken earthen bathtub… The history of global civilization teaches us to respect our ancestors and their works. The poets, representatives of the gods, speak of love as the only path to the teachings of the beauty and virtue that the future holds. Knossos owes so much to the great explorer and excavator Arthur Evans, Crete honours his name, and our gratitude towards the country that gave birth to him is immense”.
ΜESSAGE BY CLAUDE PICASSO
The son of the great Pablo Picasso, Claude, attended the conference with a written letter, who is today at the helm of the Picasso Administration institution, (an organisation responsible for verifying the authenticity of the artist’s works), and was invited to the event in London. In the letter and photographic material he sent, he referred to his father’s works inspired by the Minotaur, but also to his personal experience in Crete, an island, as he mentioned, with culture and history of centuries, which he had visited years ago with his mother, Françoise Gilot. Read his message below:
“First of all, I would like to thank the Region of Crete and Branding Heritage for their kind invitation. I am sorry I could not be with you today, but the attending speakers are better suited to talk about Crete. I personally visited Crete for the first time in 1962. I still have wonderful memories from that thrilling trip. That first visit, however, was not the last. Many more visits to this island full of centuries-old culture and history would follow, accompanied by my mother, Françoise Gilot. I have vivid memories from a trip we took with our friends Yiannis and Efi Sakellarakis. We visited their excavation site in Archanes and then ended up in a secluded area in the south-eastern part of the island, where I felt at home. I also remember that on the Lassithi Plateau we had tasted the most delightful food, the most delicious “patatoules” in the whole world! The archaeological sites of astonishing beauty, the cordial hospitality of the kind and energetic Cretans, the ubiquitous ancient civilisation have been forever etched in my memory. I would like for you to see some of the artwork of my father, Pablo Picasso. Although Picasso never visited Greece nor Crete, he was inspired by the Minoan civilisation. These are some of his creations, where the Minotaur in particular is depicted in paintings and engravings, along with some ceramic pieces that have been a kind of connecting link over the centuries.”
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