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Platon Rivellis’s interview to Despina Ladi for “Vima-Men” (October 2010)

I have the feeling that my childhood was idyllic. This may be a fact or it may be due to the function of my memory, which tends to erase all the bad memories. I owe a great deal to my parents and to a governess from Corfu, who in the vital early years balanced and complemented my mother’s influence.

My parents were not scholars, scientists or artists. But they managed to create a homely atmosphere of serenity, security and spirituality. Books, classical music and nice conversations were present in a self-evident and natural way. I learned a lot from them, but what I retain above all is the love and respect for others. “It takes many different people to create a world”, my father said repeatedly. “Always put yourself in the other person’s shoes”, my mother added.

My contact with cinema started when I was very young. From the age of thirteen I was a regular customer at the Mitropoulos Sisters’ Cinema Club. I understood little, but admired a lot. The first film I saw was Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland”, when I was five years old, but the one that affected me the most was George Sidney’s “Scaramouche”. For days after I was fencing furiously, standing on top of all the furniture in our house.

I believe that the values one adopts in life apply also, even if slightly differently, to art. If, for example, someone believes that excess drowns the essence or that simplicity is the greatest virtue for composing the essence, he should be able to apply this to art too. If someone does not respect the mystery in life, then logically his art will be simplistic and unambiguous.

The most important decisions in life are almost always made under the threat that they may be completely wrong. For example, when I abandoned the legal profession, I would not be talking about a major important decision if it were the outcome of a rational and balanced thought, which could weigh up all the consequences and probabilities in advance. Similarly, when I got divorced from my first wife, and when I left Athens to go and live on Syros. In all these cases, my decisions concealed threats and implicated fears. In the end, however, in our lives we may have taken very important decisions without having realized it – small and everyday, with incalculable consequences.

My involvement in photography started off as a reaction, as a way out and a comfort from my profession at the time, that of a lawyer. It seemed then to be the most accessible tool for dealing with art, which to me was the most spiritual way of concentrating the joy of life. What I did not expect is that what would become the centre of my life, enjoyment and occupation would be teaching, and that it would take primacy over creation itself.

I do not believe that art is destined to record necessarily happy moments. But I do believe that a work of art, even when referring to the direst of circumstances, should fill the recipient’s eyes with tears of joy. How this is achieved is part of the artist’s vision and talent.

It is difficult for me to clarify what balanced or happy means. Nonetheless, I never feel unsatisfied. I may be content with a continuous headlong thrust, covering my doubts and my hesitations.

I don’t like dreaming of the Cyclades for eleven months and enjoying them only in August. I decided to live permanently on Syros for many different reasons. Athens has all the evils of a megalopolis and none of the benefits. What’s best in Greece I think is in the Aegean. My wife cannot live away from nature and I can not live away from my wife. A mortgage loan would barely cover the purchase of a medium-size apartment in central Athens, whereas it enabled me to acquire a large and beautiful house on a hilltop and increased the joys of my life. In Syros I drink my coffee looking towards Paros and Naxos, and not the block of flats across the road.

I do not know if the final account of my life will be positive, at least as positive as I would like my memories to be. But I can repeat and adopt my photography teacher Garry Winogrand’s words: “If life is a battle against boredom, then I have won”.