Rudy Zacharia – When the Ikarian stones are calling you and you have to paint their story

Rudy Zacharia – When the Ikarian stones are calling you and you have to paint their story

Rudy puts on her swimming goggles and dives into the water. There, just behind that rock, she has spotted a beautiful grey stone, which she would really like to take back to the shore. But this one is well stuck between other stones and it takes several attempts to take it up to the surface.

A stone before it is painted

And now, there it is: a grey pebble in the shape of a triangle, half the size of your hand, with protruding edges. Rudy turns it round carefully, assessing it from all sides and then a broad smile appears on her face. Yes, this is it! This is exactly the size and the shape she had expected when she first spotted it flickering under the water … and in her mind’s eye she can already see the finished picture of the traditional Ikarian stone house that she will paint on this piece of rock.

Same stone – after Rudy carved out his story

But before she can start on it, she has to dive another time into the waves, because a bit further down, she spotted another pebble … a different shape, this time more rounded, but perhaps that one would be a good basis for a painting of the church in Agios Kirikos? After two further attempts to “free” that other stone, Rudy is satisfied with today’s harvest. She meticulously puts the pebbles in her basket and carefully carries it home, always making sure that the fragile edges of the stones are not damaged. When she gets there, she puts the basket directly into her workshop, where she will start to work on them a little after.

In the meantime, she will go down to the platia of Agios Kirikos, where old childhood friends are already waiting for her for morning coffee.
It is summer and Rudy loves to be back on “her” island, Ikaria. She has Ikarian roots as she is part of the big “Malachias and Kratsas ” family, and even though she was born and raised in Athens, Rudy has the island in her DNA. Since she was little, she not only spent all her summer holidays on Ikaria, with all her family, cousins and friends, but she also developed a deep empathy for this rocky island, its nature, its history and traditional architecture. And maybe it’s her dad’s fault that Rudy has developed such a keen sense of the beauty of the stones on Ikaria, because it was  him who took little Rudy every day to shores of this island, teaching her  snorkle diving in the Ikarian sea, and introducing her to the different shapes and colours of the rocks they could find …. and it was her dad, who made her “listen” to the stories these stones were telling.

Rudy’s stones – waiting next at the entrance of her art-studio that finally their story will be painted

By coincidence, a book “Painting on stones” fell into her hands when she was little and having an artistic and creative mind already, Rudy started experimenting with painting on stones, not knowing, that this love and curiosity about stones would later become somehow the baseline of her work.

In Athens she studied history and literature at the Deree American College. She also had a chance to continue her studies in London, where – besides language courses – Rudy signed up for different art seminars, such as painting, drawing, silk screen painting and pottery , which fed her appetite for creativity and artistic expression. Back in Athens she consequently enrolled at the Fernando Fenes School of Art in Piraeus, where she was introduced to classical painting.  But already at that time, it became pretty clear to her that she didn’t want to follow the path of the classics. Even when she was young, her mind was full of new ideas, nourishing the wish to create something new, something different – she was dedicated to find and to paint her subject!

It has to be noted, that during all these years of studying and learning, Rudy never gave up the Ikarian stones. With all the techniques and knowledge she gained, she dug deeper into the structure of the different stones, carving out their stories in different colours.

And then other ‘stones’ came into her life, challenging her even more – the white marble. It was calling her into a workshop, as she was cycling through Athens, and she couldn’t resist but touch and caress this smooth, shiny material on all sides. The workshop owner was fascinated by her sensitivity for this difficult stone and agreed to cut a marble block for her so that she could start experimenting with this new material. And this is how it happened. With compassion and dedication Rudy learned from scratch how to deal with this challenging material. In the end, watercolour became her answer, finally giving her the chance to create something new, something special. It is a challenging work, which needs a lot of sensitivity and concentration, because Rudy has to sketch her design in one go. But the results are worth the effort: the white of the marble shines through the watercolour, so that the designs come through with delicacy and a high level of transparency. And over time the marble also gave her the chance to combine her dedication for this wonderful material with her love for her homeland Ikaria, because it works very well with the Ikarian motifs of churches, sailing boats or sea landscapes.

Contemporary art

Rudy had finally found a way to express herself as a multi-talented and in many ways self-taught artist and little by little she was also able to make a living from it. In Athens she was able to develop her love for contemporary art, may it be in form of jewelry or paintings using different techniques. Her artworks found their way into exhibitions, art galleries and they are frequently requested by companies as high-quality art gifts.

But on Ikaria, in the small art studio in her family home, it’s a different story. Here she is still focusing on Ikarian motifs, may it be by painting on the stones, marble and nowadays also on canvas and wood.
And then all her painted “beauties” are displayed on the shelves of her art studio, offering visitors not only their story from Ikaria, but also Rudy’s love for this rough island. She still loves being part of this big group of friends and family members, introducing her own family to the places where she can still find her treasures.

Rudy’s art-studio in Agios Kirikos/Ikaria

But even the stones are becoming witnesses of the changes happening on her beloved island. As more and more traditional Ikarian stone houses are disappearing, because they are no longer looked after, Rudy can only paint them from memory. Some of the landscapes she liked to paint have turned into tourist attractions and have changed their character forever. Observing these changes, she becomes more and more concerned about the possible future of this island. Will it turn into a faceless tourist destination or is there still a chance to preserve and develop the cultural heritage that Ikaria is so rich in? Thinking about it, Rudy sees her Ikarian art also as a kind of “preservation” of the Ikarian cultural landscape …. even if “only” in the form of a painted stone picturing the traditional kafeneion in Akamatra. But as the stones are good story tellers, Rudy is optimistic that “someone” may listen to them and may get a wake-up-call. “This island deserves it”, Rudy says with a twinkle in her eye …

(@ Birgit_Urban)

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