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Creating a sense of home and rejoicing in reconnection

For Tony Kastanos, there have been many life changing moments in the recent years, but he never expected to find his true homeland in the heart of Adelaide’s city when he moved from Sydney after a career in business, as a musician and film maker.

Tony was in Paris, on his way to Italy, Cyprus and Greece – his grandparents’ homeland – when the pandemic was declared, and he had to abort the mission and return to Australia.

“My trip to homeland was aborted and I found home here in a sense,” Tony said as he reflected on moving to Adelaide and retiring early by finding a city apartment in Spence on Light. In fact, Tony was one the first residents to move into ACH Group’s city retirement living offering. The urban design and lifestyle appealed to him.

”Living in the city has been considered in many ways – the apartment was designed for the people, not property developers. I could live the life I enjoyed in Sydney, walking and being part of the community,” Tony said.

One day when walking around the Adelaide urban area, Tony discovered the parkland just off West Terrace with a wetland that looks like a countryside – without having to travel distances. Tony found that quite remarkable and this discovery inspired him to explore it in paintings, realising his homeland is in Australia because that’s where Tony’s parents chose to live.

Painting 'A Winter's Day by Tony Kastanos
Tony Kastanos, A Winter’s Day (Submission to ACH Group SALA 2022)

Tony is familiar with French painters and when he came back from Paris he thought, “What’s the point of going to Europe to see European landscape paintings? I’ve been painting all my life but I reserved this part of my life to paint.

Monet had waterlilies and he used to own that land. I realised I didn’t have to own the land to paint it all the time, that the wetlands were like having my own waterlilies and I can go there,” he said.

“I do them all in a day, painting them really quickly. I try to finish them all before they dry, so it’s all oil paint, the whole thing is painted wet, – in a style of Van Gogh.

It’s important to paint quickly so, you’re not rethinking it, it’s all immediate, it’s like I am just a messenger, I am just translating it.

All I am doing is I am not intervening with my own thoughts. This one is painted on a winter’s day, so I am basically painting the light.”

Tony had an exhibition at The Joinery in April 2022, trying to “get people close to the gumtrees”.

But what happened after that was quite remarkable. Tony was introduced to people who showed him photographs of the wetland and what it was 30 years ago – previously a rubbish dam, now transformed.

“It was emotional for them that I have decided to celebrate what they have done 30 years ago. They have inspired me to create these paintings, I find this very beautiful. It’s about how people that regenerated this space contribute to the space. It always was that reconnection is part of Australia in which we can rejoice in.

Tony also discovered that in the 1920s his grandparents helped to build the Greek church on the corner of Franklin Street, not too far away from where he now lives. The church has now been rebuilt but Tony created a painting of the original photo. The reconnection goes back to leaving a legacy and making his parents proud.

When you meet Tony in person, you start to understand the growth and forgiveness through the dignity he carries.

It’s all about finding sense of peace and calm in that.

You can see Tony’s two paintings at the Glenelg Library throughout August as part of SALA 2022, with more exhibitions to come.

Tony also recently completed composing the music for a documentary about Auslan sign language titled The Silent World of Barry Priori which will be screened on the ABC’s Compass program on 28 August.

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