The Modernist horizons of Adamantios Diamantis : visual politics and cultural narratives in twentieth-century Cyprus

Lambrou, Christina (2022) The Modernist horizons of Adamantios Diamantis : visual politics and cultural narratives in twentieth-century Cyprus. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


This thesis examines the multifaceted practice of Adamantios Diamantis (1900–1994), the ‘father of modern art in Cyprus’, and his role in the articulation of official Greek-Cypriot cultural narratives. Understanding art-making as a social and historical practice, the study generates connections between Diamantis’s diverse roles (painter, intellectual, folklorist) and examines his canonical position in Cypriot modern art, his relevance as a modernist pioneer, and his involvement in the evolution of modern Greek-Cypriot culture. Structured as a collection of microhistorical episodes that provide close readings of Diamantis’s painting, writing, and exhibition-making in the arena of folk art, as well as the relevant literature and historiography, this study analyses and interprets Diamantis’s cultural output in light of the ideological currents, as well as the social, political, and cultural developments that unfolded in the island’s transition period from the colonial to the post-colonial. Examining his practice in relation to the importance of representation, the thesis considers the process of composition of symbolically charged elements, and approaches his work as a complex mechanism tied to the construction of cultural identity. In response to a limited historiography of Cypriot art and reflecting the way in which Diamantis’s work draws upon and converses with multiple frameworks, the study deploys diverse approaches and methodologies. Through a close analysis of material such as original artwork, archival material, artists’ writing, exhibition-making, film and photography, an interdependent development of readings is created that enables the production of new meanings. At the same time, the work draws on the social history of art, analytical practices from art history, and anthropological theory perspectives. Further, postcolonial theory, decolonial perspectives and recent developments in the iii historiography of global modernism are central to the theoretical position of the project, especially in relation to thinking around the formation and decentring of canons. Interrogating and interpreting the understanding of Diamantis’s position as a patriarch of Cypriot modern art, this thesis adds to an emerging field of critical engagement with art history practice and art historiography in Cyprus. It also develops within and contributes to a growing field of re-thinking and broadening of the understanding of both the history and the historiography of modernism that challenges the idea of a singular, centralised European modernism.

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