Sunday 25 November 2018


In my third post in this series of four celebrating Louise Donovan's textile art exhibition in the Crypt Gallery, St Ives (November 10-16), the focus is on two pieces that have been inspired by the Greek island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea.

Louise and I first discovered Patmos in the summer of 1988 when we spent two weeks staying in the Patmian Hotel (now the Patmian Cultural Centre) by the waterfront. We loved the peace of this holy island with its important Greek Orthodox monastery at Chora (Hora), overlooking all. Next year we returned for three weeks. Since then, whenever we could afford the time and money for a vacation overseas, we have come back to Patmos for rest and recovery - and reinvigoration. Our privilege has been to savour nineteen Patmosian summers in the thirty-one years between 1988 and 2018. We have seen the island's bus driver grow old and retire, his hands no longer on the wheel. Instead, the two little children who joined him for the rides in the late 80s and 90s are now the island's bus drivers. By the 90s, the Patmian Hotel had closed and our vacations were spent in the Skala Hotel, a few metres away, where we enjoyed the perfection of being welcomed and looked after and respected, year in and year out.

The view from Chora downhill towards Skala on the island of Patmos

As a couple, we have travelled less widely than many others - but the opportunity to know local people over such a time-span has been such a gift. Michael and Elvira Kessetzis became the jewellers we always went to for a holiday purchase and soon they became our friends. The battering that the Greeks have taken from their northern European Community members has left so many people ruined; Michael has moved his business to Kos to make ends meet. Elvira and Michael's permanent

home is now in Athens. Theo, our Skala Hotel owner, has grown a little greyer but otherwise seems remarkably unchanged. Three years ago, he gave us a gift.

'I know you love the island and you respect our ways', he said to us, a day before we were due to leave. 'We would like you to have this picture. It is not great art but for some years it was on our walls here and then we changed the display. It will be a good memory of Patmos for you. It is the view of Hora from your bedroom window.' A moment to treasure. That picture now hangs in our main room.

A view of Chora (Hora) - a Greek gift to us

And for one week this November, during Louise's exhibition, it graced the Crypt Gallery.

Crypt Gallery - November 2018 - Louise Donovan's textile art exhibition - on the far door is our Greek painting 

On either side of the Greek piece of art were hung Louise's two pieces of textile art, inspired by the experience of Patmos. On the left, Hora by Day:

Hora by Day - Louise Donovan (2016)

And on the right, Hora by Night:

Hora by Night - Louise Donovan (2016)

Here's the view of the three pieces of art, together, at the far end of the Crypt Gallery:

Looking down the gallery towards the far wall and door - and the Greek-inspired art

This, in Louise's words taken from the exhibition catalogue, is the story of Hora by Day:

'Patmos has been an important part of our life, mine and Rob's, since 1988 when we first visited - it is a magic and healing place and we return as often as we can. located in the northern Aegean Sea, not many miles from the Turkish coast, Patmos owes its spiritual significance to the historical fact that the author of the last book of the Christian Bible - the Apocalypse - had his revelations in a cave on the island.

"I John, your brother … was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus."

The island is dominated by the monastery, an important one in the Greek Orthodox Church. Its spirituality has an impact on my thoughts and the sense I make of my life. 'Hora by Day' (2016) is my response to these influences.'

Chora by day

And this the story of Hora by Night:

'Day becomes night very quickly on Patmos. A quietness falls over much of the island with the setting of the sun. The influence of the Church is such that the excesses of modern consumerism and tourism remain untapped. Locals and visitors wine and dine in Skala in the evening but there is a gentle quality to the night.

Above us all, there is the presence of the fortress-type monastery that has stood in witness to faith for 930 years. When the moon is full and bright, there is a natural illumination to the night view that is awesome. The wonders of man-made electricity provide a more than adequate substitute when the moon is asleep. 'Hora by Night' (2016) is my abstract response.

Below is an image on another inspirational postcard. We look out and up from the hotel balcony window. The Hotel Skala is next to the harbour. The monastery is five kilometres away, high on the hill in the distance - the focal point for the whole island. When there is no floodlit illumination, there is a sigh: "The holy Fathers have run out of euros!".

The monastery of Chora on the island of Patmos

The fourth and last blog-post in this series will feature the comments of local artists who visited Louise's exhibition. In case you missed either of the first two in the series, here are the links to access them:


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