As a primary school student Hambis used to carve into raw potatoes, adding ink to them and tirelessly printing images using the “potato-screen” method. Today, he is considered the most acclaimed printmaker in Cyprus and beyond.
Text: Romina Xyda
Photography: Panagiotis Mina
He is not sure whether an artist is born an artist or becomes one with time, whether raw talent is enough or if it turns into success only through hard work: “I always remember the words shared by the dean of the ‘Sourikov’ Academy of Fine Arts in Moscow, from which I graduated in 1982: ‘Well done, you were remarkable students. Now you need to forget everything that you were taught here and become artists’. That was the path I chose to follow”.
The highly accomplished printmaker, had learned, even as a child, to forget about the hardships he faced in life, in order to sustain the idea that he would one day become an artist: “It was always my wish to study, but my financial situation was far from ideal. I worked as a construction worker, and eventually tried to move to England in order to simultaneously work and study but I was denied a visa. In my desperation, I found a job as an editor for a newspaper, where I occasionally wrote some articles. Whatever my job might have been, I never stopped painting and printmaking. When luck brought me to Moscow for work, I joined the Arts Academy at the age of 29 and finished by 35, feeling utterly content”. Over the course of his career, he had a lot important moments, yet he can’t single out one in particular. His art work has been featured in numerous exhibitions in Cyprus and abroad to great acclaim. Which experience does Hambis feel defined his course in art? “My encounter with Tassos, the acclaimed Greek printmaker in 1971, as well as my studies in his workshop were defining moments. Tassos was the determining factor in my life...”.
Hambis started working as a graphic arts teacher in 1987, passing on his love for the art to thousands of children. The relationships that he developed with his pupils went far beyond the typical teacher-student connection and transformed into life-long bonds. In 1989 he moved back to Plataniskia, a once derelict village “in order to have more time for work, far from the city’s temptations”. There, he renovated a dilapidated building turning it into “Hambis Printmaking School and Museum”; a museum which is the first of its kind in Cyprus. Etched into the history of Cypriot art, one will always find his name...
If Cyprus was a work of art...
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