Xanthi – Step into the Marvellous House of Shadow

One of the top things to do when in Xanthi is visit the House of Shadow. It sits right in the heart of the Old Town so you can’t miss it, especially with its two muppet-style characters taking pride of place at the front of the building. When I say building, I mean art gallery and studio. Here you will see some truly incredible pieces of artwork created by artist Triantafyllos Vaitsis.

It may help to explain that a little about what I am about to see. Greek born Triantafyllos Vaitsis was an engineer before turning to the art profession. He is a self-taught artist and initially experimented with several different art forms including wood carving, complicated constructions with wire and metal, painting, theatre and poetry. It wasn’t until 2008 that he discovered the art of shadows using some of the techniques he’d experimented with but his engineering skills can also be seen in his creations.

Each piece is a complicated structure made from a range of different types of materials, that when constructed in such a way they project with light a shadow of a particular subject or topic. Maybe I haven’t explained that very succinctly so I will show you what I mean.

Once through the entrance, I’m greeted enthusiastically by a gentleman who tells me that his name is Triantafyllos, “You know, like the flower” he says. I know immediately that he is the artist himself. He explains the direction of travel in the gallery and then guides me to the first piece of work. It is entitled A Cause of War and Triantafyllos invites me to tell him what I can see.

I think that if he is putting me to the test then this is an easy start. I tell Triantafyllos that I can see a woman dressed in red. She is standing in a field surrounded by trees and there is a raging sea beyond. There – nailed it!

“Ah, but what you can see is the obvious,” he tells me. “If you look a little closer you will see two kings in profile”. Now he tells me that I can see it! The woman is of course Helen who was said to have been the most beautiful woman in Greece. She had many suitors but she married Menelaus the king of Sparta. When the king’s back was turned, Paris whisked the beautiful Helen away to Troy. King Menelaus was having none of it and thus saw the beginning of the Trojan War.

Triantafyllos leaves me to explore the other exhibits in this first room.

The next exhibit was a commission by Nickelodeon as part of their social media campaign to commemorate Earth Day. Here you can see how waste materials have been used to create Sponge Bob holding the planet Earth in his hand. It’s really incredible.

Not all of the exhibits are static. As if to see if the boundaries of the imagination can be pushed any further, the next exhibit completely blows my mind. I just can’t fathom how you would begin to create a piece like this.

As I move from one room to the next, Triantafyllos joins me and demonstrates some of more complicated pieces to me, keen to ensure that I understand the hidden meaning behind the pieces. Some are self-explanatory such as the portraits of Einstein and Maralyn Monroe. There is even a family portrait of the artist and his family. In all there are about 40 exhibits laid out across several rooms. The experience feels really intimate and personal. How often to you view an exhibition with a personal guide from the artist!

The opening times are 10:00- 14:00 every day but also 18:00-20:30 every day except Monday and Wednesday. Entry is free of charge but you can make a donation at the end of your visit. Triantafyllos allows me to choose a complimentary butterfly made from recycled tins. I highly recommend a visit to this incredible and unique gallery!


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