Life Stories- Agia Paraskevi and Australia

 Panagiotis Konstandellis (1923- 2006)

Peter Constant

Narrated by Eni Saraga (nee:Girelli)

to Vasilis Vasilas

My uncle, Panagiotis, was always interested in painting; he went onto become one of Goulburn’s most popular artists. Noticing he had a talent in drawing, he began to take painting slightly serious after his father, Giorgos, gave two tubes of paint. Giorgos was a man-of-the-world as he had spent many years in the United States.

Above: Giorgos Konstantellis in the United States of America.

 His growing passion for painting gained him a scholarship at the University of Fine Arts in Athens. However, his studies were interrupted by his decision to migrate to Australia; at the time, other Agia-paraskevotes such as his cousin, Giorgos Konstantellis.

 Having arrived in Australia, it was not long before the outbreak of the Second World War; for five years, he served in the Australian Army (1941-46). It was during this period that he spent some time in Goulburn (or near there), and probably fell in love with the country city. It was during his army service that he studied art through correspondence. After his discharge, he spent a short time in Sydney as a commercial artist; however, a business opportunity arose in Goulburn when the Blue and White Café went up for sale. With his cousin, Giorgos, and compatriot, Kostas Tsakiris, he went into partnership in the Café. He always spoke of the Café fondly.


Above: A portrait.

Over the next twenty years, he owned the Café at three separate times; if the Cafe was a local institution, his name was associated with it. In 1949, he sold his share of the Café and moved to Adelaide where a business opportunity arose to buy a Peter’s Ice Cream franchise arose. However, things did not work out and he bought into sandwich bar, he did attend Adelaide College of Fine Arts to refine his artistic skills and techniques- studying portraiture. During this time he married Goulburn-born, Valerie, and they returned to Goulburn after three years, and bought the Blue and White a second time and worked it for the next ten years.

The only time he returned to Agia Paraskevi was in 1967; he also travelled to other countries such as Britain, France, Italy and (of course) Greece where he continued to paint landscapes and cityscapes. He returned to Goulburn, and bought his beloved Blue and White one last time, but only held onto it for one year. In the 1970’s he began teaching painting at adult classes at Goulburn’s Technical College but, after five years, realised this commitment was actually impeding on his own artistic work- and resigned. A balance was struck when he was able to teach Painting at the MitchellCollege in Bathurst during Summer and Winter schools and pursue his own inspiration. He taught at the MitchellCollege for twelve years.

Below: At his beloved work.

He continued to paint, using many of the rooms above the shop as his studios. One thing he enjoyed- as well as many of his patrons- was his works displayed on the walls of the Café. His paintings were oil and watercolours of the local buildings and landscapes, which made him very popular with the local community. It was actually another Australian artist, Albert Rydge, who convinced him to do landscape painting. When he sold the Café, he decided to pursue painting on a full time basis; he even joined the Royal Art Society, later becoming an Associate.

His works were displayed in several exhibitions and he achieved many awards. Throughout his career, he had many one-person exhibitions in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Wagga Wagga and (of course) Goulburn. Some of the awards he received were:

  • The Fishers Ghost Open prize- 1972, 1973, 1978
  • The Griffith Caltex Award- 1973, 1978, 1986
  • The Bega Caltex Award- 1973
  • The Lachlan Valley Caltex Award- 1974, 1976 and for watercolour 1978
  • The Shoalhaven Watercolour Prize- 1974
  • The Goulburn Peter Stuyvesant Cultural Award- 1968, 1976, 1984
  • The Goulburn Rothmans Cultural Award- 1988

All Photographs courtesy of Eni Saraga (nee: Girelli)