Can you tell us about your artistic background?
I was born and raised in Athens, Greece. When I decided to pursue an artistic pathway, during my first year of studies I did graphic design and illustration at Central Saint Martin’s College in London. I soon realized that illustration was not the correct route for me, so I decided to shift to Fine Arts and therefore found myself in New York City at School of Visual Arts, where I studied painting. During that time I took part in the exchange program of Ecole des Beaux Arts de Paris (Paris, France), which was truly the most significant point of my studies and enriched the future of my painting visions importantly. I moved back to Athens in 2017 to create my studio base there and spend a few years working with painting and as a creative director for cinema and theatre, parallel to my own practice. Working in these fields fueled my painterly vision with a closer view of figuration and a more cinematic approach to my visual language. In my painting process, I tend to work in themes or series which helps me create several versions or divisions of specific themes I work around. This allows me to test and experiment with different versions of compositions that interest me.
How would you describe your artistic style and the themes that you often explore in your paintings?
I would describe my artistic style as theatrical, for I am very interested in telling stories through my work. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I am referencing a specific narrative, however, I am intrigued by the idea of offering a kind of visual mystery -to be discovered- by the viewer. On that note, I am highly interested in surrealism as it allows me to be playful with the subject I aim to reveal. I really appreciate the humor in painting because it allows a type of “easing-in” to what may appear as a heavy visual structure or a “shocking” subject. A lot of the themes in my work have to do with faith, spirituality, racism, and equality. None of my work is “realistic” in the sense that I paint from life, however, I produce works that suggest life in an idealized world, a world that I would like to live in, in which there is no discrimination and the subject is equal with nature. I see no point in painting the horrors of the world we live in, I prefer to create my own oneiric situations for nature has given us the gift of imagination, and therefore I try to expand on it as much as possible.
Can you elaborate on how your divergent backgrounds between Greece and the United States influence your work and how they manifest in your paintings?
I grew up as a bilingual child and therefore my thought process has always been split in two ways of seeing. Language for me is the key to understanding any culture and speaking several languages has most certainly broadened my notions of life. Having been raised in Greece in the 90s, in a very homogenous environment felt limiting at times. On top of that during my teenage years living through a severe economic crisis that changed a lot of things in my generation’s upbringing, I felt an even bigger need for change. Having traveled to New York to visit family from a young age, I always had a feeling that the world is too small for me. It is one of the reasons I also pursued an artistic practice, as I always had the need to expand to “other worlds”. Only during my studies when living in New York City permanently for the first time, and metaphorically growing up there as an artist, I was able to appreciate the dualities of my identity and research in depth from another spectrum, the riches of my Greek heritage and the power of refuge.
Youth 2022 Oil on linen 24 x 19 cm From the series “Spectators” 2023 Courtesy of NEVVEN Gallery and the Artist When I Look them in the Eye 2022 Oil on linen 30 x 24 cm From the series “Spectators” 2023 Courtesy of Ciaccia-Levi Gallery Paris-Milan and the Artist
How do you handle creative blocks or challenges during the artistic process?
Depending on what I’m working on my process varies. I tend to produce a lot in one big batch, and then destroy about half of it before it turns into something else. I highly trust in the power of “destroying” a painting, for it allows me to detach and re-experiment. The more “mistakes” I make, the merrier for new ideas and variations.
Describe your feelings before an exhibition.
I love setting up and anticipating an exhibition because I love working with space. It is very important for me to know where the work is going, and what the space is/looks like, as I see the curation as a kind of set design. I will often work on paintings for site-specific purposes for that reason. An architectural landscape changes many things in the way we see a work so I try to enrich that relationship as much as possible. I am more touched at the end of an exhibition when the sharing process is over and you have to part from your creations.
You are the founder of KYAN Athens. How did it come about?
KYAN is a project space and residency I founded in 2021. It is a result of an opportunity for available space and the need for a -further from my studio- creative playground. As a project, it was initiated after the first quarantine, through an incredible need to socialize and see art. I run the project independently, on the second floor of my studio building. KYAN now serves as a creative platform for many local artists but also as a residency for invited international artists. KYAN has so far produced 6 exhibitions (three solo shows and three group exhibitions), as well as 6 residencies. As the space is located in the historic district of Exarheia (Athens), its fundamental aim is that the curated exhibitions have a directed social commentary and that the residents are given freedom and trust to create. The space is about enriching the local artistic community and serving as a safe space for artists and other creatives. www.kyanathens.com
Are there any specific projects or themes you would like to explore in the future through your art?
In the future, I am interested in creating very large-scale works. I have many times, through commission projects or theatre sets, made very large-scale works and have absolutely loved them, it is the type of work that is more difficult to produce in my studio. As I often regard painting as a type of direction, in this case, the painter being a director of a stylized set, in the future, I would be interested in creating a film or play that I have designed. Until then though, I am sticking with my greatest passion, painting.