Composition, c. 1960
Kanellis studied for two years at the School of Medicine of the University of Athens, but then abandoned it to go to settle in Paris, where he studied at free academies and particularly that of the Grande Chaumière. During his stay in the French capital, he made a study of the movements of Fauvists, particularly of Derain, and of Cubism. He also made the acquaintance of the art critic Tériade and of Yorgos Gounaropoulos, who initiated him in effect into painting. Actually self-taught, he was sensitively receptive to the movements and messages of his age. In his paintings, the freedom of the colour is often synchronised with the object and the form, and allows recognition of a spontaneous nobility which is expressed both in the landscapes and in the human figures. Preciousness and ostentatious renewal are avoided in his oeuvre, while emotion is discerned through the innocent eyes of children, the hard work of farmers, and the melancholy of the landscapes. His artistic creation, without distancing itself from the object, suggests its essence, which it touches upon with emotion and respect, and so is never carried to extreme solutions. His experiences on his beloved Mytilene, where he spent his childhood, occupy a central position in the painting of Kanellis. Olive trees in boundless olive groves are a motif which is dominant, and he never ceased to paint this during the 40 years of his artistic career.
Composition is an attempt, somewhat rare in the case of Kanellis, to conquer the object through purely structural features, matching colours and shapes which lead to abstract expression, which also has a limited range of colours in low tones – characteristic of the artist's poetic sensibility.