Vasso Katraki grew up in Aitoliko, a lagoon in West Greece, part of Messolonghi. She graduated from the Athens School of Art in 1940, having begun her studies in 1936 under instructors Constantinos Parthenis (painting) and Giannis Kefallinos (engraving). During her university career, she won a three month scholarship thanks to her excellence in painting and one prize and two commendations for her engraving work. At the time of the Occupation, she became a member of the organised Resistance, designing and printing many illegal pamphlets and flyers. Among these works are two albums: ‘The Struggles of the Greek People’ (1943) and ‘The Sacrifice of Liberty’ (1945), both containing woodcuts.
Concerning technique, her creations can be divided into two periods. The firstperiod, being the most dominant, began in the 1950s. In the beginning and until the middle of the 50s, Katraki mostly made woodcuts; afterwards, she began to carve on sandstone, in the original technique conceived thirty-five years prior. This technique was known for giving the engraver ‘absolute artistic skill’ and ‘prudent freedom’. Her choice to follow along these lines freed her engraved artworks from their typographic and advertisement-like constraints and brought the artist, in terms of overall look and style, closer to prehistoric, primitive configurations and compositions. The first fifteen years of her artistic progression see the artist acquiring figurative representations in her work, the human form becoming ubiquitous. Creative paradigms include woodcuts from the lagoon, the landscape form Messolonghi, themed woodcuts featuring the tragic years of the Occupation and the Resistance.
A year after winning the first prize at the 33rd Venice Biennale in 1966, Katraki was exiled to Giaros Island by the ruling junta in Greece. While there, she expressed her feelings artistically, painting pebbles she found with black ink and arranging them into different forms. Later, after her exile, her engraving work becomes full of symbolism; shapes resembling trees and crosses are prevalent, used as declarative objects – not at all as mere documented materials. The latter is obvious, seen in the deliberate omission of their basic characteristics and essence. The second period of style evolution for Katraki happened after 1975, when her engravings gained a sense of sentimentality, becoming less angular and aggressive; her designs recapturing uniquely personal aspects.
Vaso Katraki, Expectation I, 1969, Lithograph, 68.5 x 48.5 cm