The other week I attended a retrospective exhibition at the OSO Centre in Barnes Green, London, of the paintings and drawings of Hilary Gialerakis (1924-2003). Curated by her vivacious daughter Antonia, the works are best described as a fusion of Cubism, Surrealism and other modernist 'isms with a distinct Dali-esque influence, elevated by a highly original and impactive use of colour, and in some instances, by wood carving-like surfaces - the paintings reproduced here, by kind permission, suggest a flavour of her work as a whole.
Hilary's life has been described as "Sylvia Plath-like", poor thing. A Plath-like life, as we all know, is the soapy rotten one of a talent repaid with a cult appreciation in life and a too-late posthumous acclamation. Antonia has edited Hilary's diaries into book form, Hilary: An Unquiet Spirit - and what a story it is, written in a spare, dry style whatever the drama. See below to buy.
I opened the book at random and naturally my eye fell on the time she and her war hero husband Vere Holden-White couldn't have sex. A psychiatrist diagnosed an Oedipal problem, that he loved his mummy too much. But Hilary's good sense lighted on another likely cause: his cock was too big. Problem solved with Vaseline. Let this be entered into the Book of Parables against Psychiatry and other Modern Religions.
Hilary was born in Dorset and studied at the Chelsea Art School before moving to South Africa. She married twice and later in life took a female lover. A couple of her paintings bear bullet holes (repaired), the results of misaimed shots at a loved one or two. She enjoyed professional recognition but not on the significant scale she deserves.
The Lotus Eaters
I asked Antonia at the exhibition party whether the Standard's art critic Brian Sewell had expressed interest. She tells me: "I went to his paper's offices in Derry Street (South Kensington) with samples of my mother's work, because I'd heard he doesn't like to attend exhibitions, he prefers to go through catalogues and portfolios. This rather grand woman said that Mr Sewell would like to read the book so I handed her a copy and that's where we left it. I hope he writes about the paintings."
A number of the paintings were sold at the showing; a pity really. I am confident Hilary Gialerakis' work will gain in international recognition with a consequent uplift in value. Among her best works, The Lotus Eaters was up for £3,000 and Ash Wednesday for £2,200 (both oils on canvas). Perhaps in a year's time these will be worth ten times as much. As her friend Roger Smith says: "I do believe Hilary's work is original and strong enough to stand in its own right."
To order a copy of Hilary: An Unquiet Spirit click here.
For further information write to: Antoniagialerakis@yahoo.co.uk