“I simply found a way in the middle of these suffocating times of blowing a kiss” says Ilias Papailiakis with a smile to the Athens and Macedonia News Agency, obviously satisfied with his finished mural in Avdi Square, Metaxourgeio, opposite the Municipal Gallery of Athens.

It is no small matter that in the middle of a pandemic with kisses strictly forbidden due to Covid he has drawn a huge 22 m high “Kiss” in simple red lines on the ochre coloured wall of an apartment block in his own neighbourhood. A real ode by the well known artist to love, life and the city.  

“The Kiss” opens the series “On Athens” by the Onassis Foundation with interventions in public spaces where paintings escape the narrow confines of a frame and are displayed as murals in Athens. In collaboration with the Culture, Sports & Youth Organization of the Municipality of Athens (OPANDA).

As a spectator of the world what is the painter Ilias Papailiakis observing with his poetic “ Kiss”?

“I made it because I consider it to be the best moment in human history when people get so close,” says the artist to the AMNA. “That’s why I cannot answer whether it is an erotic kiss, passionate or tender. But I believe that you play the game of life through companionship, together with another person. These things did not concern me in the past and I do not know if they will concern me in the future. But in this extreme moment we are experiencing, in the middle of a quarantine and certainly for all of us who wish to live in an open society, not being loners by nature or even if so living our loneliness in different ways, I wanted to react to this exclusion through my work. Maybe at another time “The Kiss” would not have been made. I am very interested in how it will be seen by each individual, i.e., for the work to become meaningful through the viewer’s point of view and emotions. It is in a public place, one of the works you let travel, hoping of course that it will fare well”.

How did Ilias Papailiakis, with his densely painted images full of references to the great masters of Art History,his symbolism, gagged masked faces, angry faces asserting their rights, the painter of the work “ Portrait of P.P. Pasolini “presented in the permanent collections of the National Museum of Contemporary Art, turn to the abstraction and austerity of a line drawing ?

“Pasolini’s portrait is the work that seals my twenty-five years in art and I consciously wanted to leave it. I felt that a door was closing and in order to survive I had to move on. I think the lines, which came unexpectedly to my work without having planned it, show just that. Do you know what happened? I think I play the art game with my cards on the table, so I can also play a wild card. Of course I lose as well. There may be periods when the system does not work but on the whole, over the years, I think that I have started to gain from what I have put into the game, in the study of form, shape, design, in understanding myself, in understanding  art “says Ilias Papailiakis to the AMNA.

Last year, in an exhibition of his more recent works at the Municipal Gallery of Athens, among his studies and research in theoretical matters of art was a pencil drawing of “The Kiss” on paper. Here it has been adapted to the proportions and colours of the mural. In actual fact, how simple is the seemingly simple line of this drawing?

“Not at all. It’s the line of a surgeon . That is, if you cut it off a little further along, the game’s up; that’s the way a line works “.

“The Kiss” was commissioned and produced by the Onassis Foundation, curated by art historian Christoforos Marinos, curator of exhibitions and activities of OPANDA.

The work was completed in three days “with an extremely well-coordinated team of real ” magicians”, so we could work on it properly” adds Ilias Papailiakis. The preparation lasted eight months, “… institutions, services, permits, agreement from the tenants of the apartment building, who welcomed the project with great pleasure”.