Artwork’s Title: Bathtub aftermath
Materials Used: Oil on Linen
Studio-based: London, UK
Can you tell us about the process of making your work?
K.A: My work develops as an urge to create and imagine visual compositions that have the capacity to encapsulate a series of images, thoughts, senses and voids. I start from flicking through old photo-albums and going through boxes of memorabilia that relate to my childhood, in search of imagery that triggers feelings or thoughts, the selection of which derives from pure instinct and sentimental drive. Photographs, toys, old clothes and sentimental objects become stepping stones based on which I create hybrid-narratives that fuse past and current moments of a fluid nature which are then materialized into ink and water colour drawings. I make a lot of these drawings, trying to work with colours, shapes, portraiture and composition. My oil and watercolours paintings are mainly based on these drawing experimentations and studies, yet as they develop, they follow a path of their own. I work a lot with multiple layers of thin washes, which I overlap to create a dreamy essence, where the elements of the paintings are constantly on the edge of vanishing or appearing, creating a settle push and pull.
How would you define your work in a few words (ideally in 3 words)?
K.A: Sentimental, intimate and reparative.
Could you share with us some insights on your painting diptych ‘Bathtub aftermath’, (2022)? Is there any particular story behind this new work?
K.A: ‘Bathtub aftermath’ is a diptych which was one of the first works to explore the possibilities of the bathtub. During my childhood years and especially throughout my early school years, the bubble bath had always felt as an escape, a safety zone which I was always looking forward to while experiencing intense situations of stress, anxiety and vulnerability in the classroom. The bathroom is a space that fuses intimacy and vulnerability; a private sphere where the element of water plays an intrinsic role. Water is pivotal to my work, as it allows me to develop a rich painting language that involves layers, washes, thinned oil paint and slight marks with watercolours, being inspired by the various misty and fluid materialities that occur within the bathroom. Going back to the diptych ‘Bathtub aftermath’, this is a work that evokes a sense of an exit, a vanished presence, a leftover of a bubble bath, as if a bubble bath took place a few minutes ago and the person just left the steamy room, actually an after-image of escape and rebirth.
You are currently presenting some new works at Eve Leibe in London. Could you talk about your new works that you’re showing at that Summer Group Show?
K.A: Yes indeed I participated at the Summer Group Show this August at the Eve Leibe in London with my painting titled ‘Waterpockets II’, amongst amazing works by fellow artists. ‘Waterpockets II’ is a very special painting for me as it was the one where I first tackled the notion of memory as a network, by network I mean a combination of visual and immaterial data in a non-fixed or dis-ordered state/way but rather as a situation in flux. More specifically, this large vertical painting is based on a series of photographs that depict similar moments of the same setting, myself as a child swimming in a swimming pool during my summer holidays in Crete. This element of seriality and of slight changes in the imagery intrigued me as it evoked an ambiguous sense of fragmented movement, something which I perceive as pockets, pockets of time that allow space. This idea of the pocket, has become an integral element of my recent work, as in a way I see it as a break, an opportunity to pause for a bit and reflect, something which is also translated in the way that I work with the various layers of oil paint. Washes of thinned blue oil hues overlap with each other to create small pockets within which elements of a vanishing portraiture emerges. ‘Waterpockets II’ is for me a vertical frieze, a non-linear memory lane.
In your bio you point out that you are ‘exploring ways of revisiting his childhood memories both physical and emotional, providing an economy of care in the field of learning difficulties and dyslexia’; being inspired by these learning difficulties, do you treat your canvases as a sort of an immediate therapy? If so, is it more a creative and personal journey projecting your thoughts in your work or are you also trying to communicate these difficulties with a broader audience that is not familiar with dyslexia, for instance?
K.A: Through my work, I manage to be intact with myself, to tackle anxiety, to work with trauma and to explore new possibilities. The wide spectrum of learning difficulties and more specifically that of dyslexia, is for me a way of being, a way of perceiving and a sensing ground for relating with myself, others and the world. While growing up in Athens, Greece dyslexia was not treated openly, with care and consideration something that made things at school very difficult. For years I tried to work with feelings of inadequacy, a gap in communication and an inability to explore or invent alternative ways of being and learning. After coming to the UK for my studies a new sphere occurred, within which I gradually started to unpack past feelings and thoughts in view of re-articulating my subjective perspective. All this process has formed the foundation of my practice and the two last years at the RCA I started working with these thoughts even more closely, something which has first and foremost formed a personal reparative practice and parallel to that hopefully a contribution to the wider and fortunately ever-expanding community of care and queerness.
A wide range of your recent works such as ‘Bathtime 8 pm I’, ‘Bathtub landscape’, ‘Bathtime 8 pm II’ or ‘Bathtub aftermath’ explore the idea of bathing and concepts around bath time.Could you talk about this current motif you are coping with?
K.A: The ‘bath-time’ is a condition of intimacy with oneself, a practice of self-care and a daily ritual; it is a situation very close to the element of water (running water, steam, pooling water). Personally, I always felt safe while bathing, from my childhood years until today the bathroom provides the space and time for reflection, relaxation and decompression from my daily routine. When I was at school, the bath-time was the point that marked the end of the end, the time that I had finished my homework and was ready to relax, it was something that I always looked forward to. In addition to these various sentimental connections with the bathroom, I lately discovered that the condition created within the bathroom during a bubble bath let’s say, is of great interest in regards to the numerous materialities and colours that occur and change, something that has offered me the opportunity to expand, experiment with and develop a painting language that visually communicates notions of fluidity, evanescence and the expanded field of memory. Lately, departing from these ideas I have started studying other instances of connection with and through water, such as swimming in the swimming pool or sea – experiences that relate mostly to a public sphere rather than the domestic privacy of the bathroom, these are relations and frictions that interest me a lot.
Do specific artworks have been created by random experiments in your studio or do you usually come up with a particular concept or narrative in the very beginning of your artistic process?
K.A: A very important stage of my practice is drawing, as it becomes for me the means through which to reflect upon, recall and combine memorabilia and photographs together. Drawing is a synthetic activity that allows space for imagination and reappropriation, so yes, I mainly make drawings in order to create a narrative, a setting for a story or an aftermath of that. These drawings then become parts of a series which I gradually work with in order to create painting compositions which I then develop into other works made by the use of oils and watercolours on canvas. However, apart from the preparatory nature of these drawings, they also hold the capacity to stand as independent works or part of a series of drawings and for that reason six of those were included in my Final Degree show hang.
What would be the best way to exhibit your work?
K.A: I don’t really think that there is a best way to exhibit one’s work, it depends on a variety of factors, the space, the other works in the show, the viewing condition, the mood. For example, in the case of the group show at the Eve Leibe, I really enjoyed showing one large vertical painting, as I felt that the figures of my painting got involved into a vivid and dynamic dialogue, something which is a great aspect of taking part in interesting group shows – there is a sense of relatedness and exposure. On the other side, in the set-up of my degree show I was mostly after the intimacy in the narrative that was created throughout the hang. More specifically, the series of drawings along with the installation of ceramics drew links to a more domestic setting, something which I felt worked really nicely with the fact that I wanted these works to be seen up close and in seriality. In addition, the variety in the size of the paintings created an interesting push and pull that at once drew you in, to appreciate the delicacy of the washes, and then urged you to step back and view it as a whole, a story of memory that is constantly re-articulating itself.
Can you mention any artists you, lately or generally, take inspiration from?
K.A: I love looking at and studying painting, and London is a great place to do this. The works of Marlene Dumas inspire me a lot, I am really intrigued by the dynamic quality her nostalgic colours and the use of portraiture in her paintings. Egon Schiele has always been my all times favourite, especially his Prison Drawings. The last year I have been fascinated with Chantal Joffe’s work on pregnancy and especially her collaboration with Gemma Blackshaw. At last but not least, the performance and written work of Julie Consenza on Dyslexia has been of great importance for my research and has challenged my approach in various ways.
What about the place where you work? What’s your studio space look like?
K.A: The studio is very important for me, as it is a place that I go every day, I really love my routine. I see the studio as first and foremost a safe space, a thinking space and then a making ground. To be honest I just found a really nice studio in London and I am really looking forward to moving and settling there soon.
Which are your plans for the near future?
K.A: As I mentioned I am getting ready to settle in a studio in London and I am really looking forward to start a busy fall. At the end of September, I will be showing my installation of ceramic work titled ‘An indexical lexicon of healing’ in a fantastic group show ‘Painting Labs’ at the Starkmann building in Marylebone, curated by Benedikte Kluver – I am really looking forward to that, the exhibited works are great and the space is fabulous. After that I will be working on a body of work that will develop towards my first solo show, taking place in the beginning of next year.
All images courtesy of the artist