I have been in Cyprus a week now and it has been a very busy time indeed as well as very hot and humid. It is a tad too hot for me and I don’t do as well as I used to in the heat and humidity but it is a few degrees cooler here down in Polis where I have come for some rest and relaxation. I have been to Larnaca, Nicosia and Treis Elies, in the Troodos mountains, there it is the most comfortable temperatures for me, where it is at least ten degrees cooler than anywhere else.
Yesterday I was very fortunate to meet Hambis o’ Haractis the engraver-printmaker or to give him his proper name Hambis Tsangaris. My first introduction to his work was when on visiting a house with my sister-in-law Angela I saw a print of his on the wall which I thought was very beautiful and asked the owner who the artists was. She kindly wrote down his name and village for me and when I visited my cousin Androula later I asked her if she knew of him. Not only did she know of him she knew him very well and even had a collection of his prints which he had given her some years earlier. There was no time to organise a visit at that time but this visit Androula very kindly made arrangements for me to meet him at his house. So on my way from Larnaca to Polis I met her just after Limassol where she directed me to Platanisteia. Here we were welcomed into a beautifully relaxing garden on several levels with paving made from the local stone throughout and shade provided by lemon and pomegranate trees and a pergola covered in gently perfumed jasmine shaded us while we chatted. Hambis comes from the Famagusta area and is a refugee after the Turkish invasion and now rents a house that is in an area that was exclusively Turkish before the invasion.
Hambis graciously welcomed us and showed us around the complex of buildings that house a museum of prints of all kinds through the ages, his own and other printmakers from around the world as well as the tools used. There is also a workshop of course and every year in August he holds a summer school for whoever wants to come and learn printmaking. He teaches the students free of charge in memory of his Greek teacher and master printer A. Tassos.
Hambis started with wood cuts but he now prefers to do screenprints but has practised many forms of printmaking including lino cut, etching and lithograph. After his studies with Tassos in Greece he went to The Sourikov Institute in Moscow for six years to study Graphic Art with a special interest in printmaking. On his return to Cyprus he taught Graphic Art for many years until 2008. His works include many styles and subjects, including illustrations of Cypriot life and folk traditions as well as the struggles of the people. He has exhibited in solo exhibitions around the world and produced several illustrated books one of which I am lucky enough to now own with many delightful images of goblins, it tells the folkloric tales of these little devils and their mischief-making.
I really enjoyed my visit to meet this most interesting and gentle artist and learn of his work. Printmaking is not a common art form in Cyprus but with the help of Hambis’ summer school, young Cypriot artists are becoming acquainted with it and recently a link has been formed with the Larnaca School of Art to enable their students to have instruction in printmaking.