the instance of grievance when confronted with the falsehood of truth. oil on canvas. 1980-81 © demetrios vakras

The painting above is based on the drawing from the beginning of 1978 below

What follows is the essay that accompanied this painting/drawing. The essay had undergone various revisions since it was first written in 1978. The version that appears is the 1980 revision (with some amendments).


Perched precariously on a cliff-top remain the last vestiges of man's civilization -buildings symbolic of man's 'higher' intelligence, his ability to construct, to create - his material obsessions. In the immediate foreground are scattered the abandoned relics of his past - abandoned to the solitude and desolation of the dessert wilderness, to the extremities of nature, left to crumble under a scorching sun, ... Here the grass is beginning to reclaim what once belonged to nature, the statues sculpted from stone slowly being reintegrated from whence they were extracted.

These statues, remnants of past civilizations, are signposts of the path man has taken in history. In the bottom left hand corner is a sculpted head of the Olmec people of Mexico. And in the immediate centre of the painting the dominant figure fuses the joint features of the Statue of Liberty with a statue of the Buddha. Both are ideals of civilization. Grandiosely they were created by man to glorify his civilization, to symbolise the delusory concept of 'civilization' and symbolise the accomplishments of the people who created them. Behind the Statue of Liberty are the sculpted heads from Easter Island, receding into the distance still shrouded by the mystery of their creators.
The Buddha-Statue-of-Liberty figure, which dominates the painting was chosen for the fact that its presence in the centre offers the viewer something that he (or she) can relate to. The fusion of both is incongruous: one the creation of a people obsessed with material gain (the Statue of Liberty)[**see note below], the other symbolic of a man (Gottama) who chose to enlighten man against the pursuit of material gain. The Statue of Liberty although erected with the hope of the emergence of a new, better society is the American delusion...
Entombed within the stone drapery of the statue though is a figure composed of, as are we: flesh. The human soul caught within the dilemma of the spiritual as opposed to the material. The face is calm, serene, unperturbed by the dilemma. It has stood the test of time but possesses no eyes, thus blind to the reality extraneous of itself, denied vision and unable to see beyond. Blood seeps from the corner of the mouth , and may be seen as symbolic of rotting from within. Healthy in appearance it displays disturbing symptoms of disease, hidden on the surface. This it is apparent, is the state and nature of our Western civilization - with its proud displays of material accomplishment in the face of poverty, starvation, death in the rest of the world. The boastful buildings, architecture, bright lights eclipse the flaws of this world. Its ills are hidden by a fraudulent, healthy facade, which is on the imminent verge of collapse.
In front of the statue lies a corpse, sprawled in the foreground. It has been abandoned, left to rot under the desert sun, the product of the absurdities that 'civilization' is capable of cultivating, the soldier the product of man's brutality against his fellow man. Perhaps this is a vision of nuclear destruction, although lacking the depiction of its brutalities. It possesses a quality of undeniable endlessness and serenity. The imminent silence evokes an atmosphere of mystery, the scene overcome by a silence never to be disturbed. The corpse though is intended to shock the viewer that some terrible calamity has befallen the scene depicted. All that remain are man's achievements, hollow and meaningless, in the midst ot desert sands, perched upon desolate cliff-tops. And there they remain, evidence of man's hypocrisy. slowly decaying, crumbling..."

**(Of course, the Statue of Liberty was made in France and given as a gift to the fledgling democracy of the United States.)