Spiridon's first American exhibit, 44 paintings, is on display through August 24 at the International Monetary Fund Building, 19th and G Streets NW.
Yugoslavia-born painter and poet Mitic Spiridon was blind until the age of five. "I have often thought that in the first few years of my life I must have lived out there, in the nameless place," he says."I strive to recover the meaning of that lost world."
With a personal technique, he creates fabled monsters and delicate pastel-like faces. He uses his fingers to feel the canvas and spread the color. "My fingers are like dancers on the painting," he said in a recent interview. He uses a cotton Q-tip for every touch of color: "This I do when I draw the idealized faces of the woman. It must be beautiful, ethereal, and only the ends of my fingers and the cotton tips are fine enough to render the idealized forms I seek."
As a neophyte painter in Yugoslavia, Spiridon was fascinated by the infinite possibilities of color. His experimentation recalls the Middle Ages' passion for alchemy: "I took a butterfly, and with the liquid extraction from the butterfly's belly, I made a mixture of beautiful and yet unborn colors," he says. "People called me crazy I knew I was on to something."
Following what he calls "the traditional path of Slavic intellectuals, who have always been drawn to Paris as by a magnet," he went to Paris in 1970. He was in his early 30s. By day, he worked as a manual laborer in factories. At night, he painted. "It was a lonely time," he says. "I experimented with colors and forms, and studied the works of Max Ernst, Jackson Pollock, Williem de Kooning, Mark Rothko and Mark Chagall."
But in 1973, Spiridon met Salvador Dali. The Spanish master took to the artist and volunteered to sponsor his first European show. From then on, Spiridon was off and flying. Critics hailed the painter's "fantastic mythical universe inhabited by creatures of the imagination, and carrying mysterious signs and symbols," reminiscent of the works of Hieronymus Bosch and Chagall. Like theirs, Spiridon's paintings shout at the viewer: The interplay of wild, forceful colors, and distorted forms of birds, trees and moving spheres draws the viewer's eye to all points of the canvas. Strangely enough, the seeming mass confusion of forms and colors gives a feeling of peace.