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Cacao Rocks Athens is in a deep crisis, but this hasn’t affected creativity at all

When you think about Greece and in particular its capital city Athens, the first things that come to mind are probably the Greek gods and their age-old temples. However, when you move away from the touristy parts of the city and allow yourself to aimlessly wander around, you’re likely to find some hidden treasures nothing to do with Greek antiquity – street art.

Athens has a vibrant graffiti scene and one of the artists who is very active in this world is painter and street artist known as Cacao Rocks. “At this moment, Athens is in a deep crisis, but this hasn’t affected creativity at all. Rather, it has turned into a contemporary culture center,” he says.

Cacao’s paintings are easy to recognize because he uses a curious combination of the colors gold, blue, black and white. Discovered by coincidence (while studying photography he decided to reverse his photos to negatives), he mainly uses this palette because it reminds him of Greece.

“In 2014 I left for some months to go to Germany. I was feeling very homesick and started to experiment with this mixture of colors,” Cacao explains.

Out of curiosity he took photos of the canvases he was exhibiting at the time and reversed the colors again. “I realized they suddenly changed positions, as if they were dancing on the canvas. Blue turned into gold, black into white and neutral grey remained grey.”

His paintings simultaneously borrow elements from New York street artists like Basquiat and Keith Haring, modern painters such as Dalí, Picasso and Jean Cocteau and Athens’ age-old temples, statues and vases.

In this way Cacao beautifully incorporates the several faces his city has. Or, as he describes it: “Athens belongs to Europe and the East at the same time, it is both ancient and contemporary.”

His canvases give you a glimpse of what you could discover when you look beyond Athens’ regular image – a city that is rich with both ancient architecture and present-day cultural expressions like street art.

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