Artwork’s Title: Letter to my Future Self
Material Used: Oil on wood panel
Studio Based: Athens, 🇬🇷
Can you tell us about the process of making your work?
KZ: My practice mainly evolves through memories and observation. I pay large attention to space and the people and ideas that fill it. I am interested in the constant exploration of the human condition and therefore paint subjects that have to do with the relationship of human vs surrounding environment. The subjects that draw my attention the most are fate, faith, spirituality and theatricality. By spotlighting details and cinematic crops of assumed situations, I emphasize on the painterly narratives of body language and mise-en-scene.
How would you define your work in a few words (ideally in 3 words)?
KZ: Symbolic, Playful, Theatrical.
Could you share with us some insights on your ‘Letter to my Future Self’, (2022) painting? Is there any particular story behind this new work?
KZ: The story of this painting is very important to me, not specifically for its title only, but for the reason I started painting this subject in such a bold crop in the composition. It all started in 2020, when I was working on a commission of five large paintings in NYC. One of the paintings from the series, titled (Οι Θεατρίνοι) – Drama Must Remain on Stage, 2020, depicted a topless woman in a room of incredible texture, color and parallel narrative.
The paintings were destined to hang in a newly renovated fine dining restaurant in Manhattan, and so they did, with a few pandemic hick-ups and delays, however at permanent display since. During the fall of last year, I was back in NYC completing yet a sixth painting for the same project. The commissioner brought to my attention the fact that customers have been complaining about the nudity in one of the paintings, so I was asked if I could possibly touch up the painting again and perhaps “cover” the breasts… I thought about it in the beginning, in the most professional way I could approach this issue, as it was a commission, but at the end I chose not to alternate my painting. The point would be lost. I was asked to put a “bikini top” on the nude woman, something which seemed outrageous to me… The work ended up getting removed, and remaining in the private collection, however this experience led me to many questions.
I found it so funny and also severely concerning as to the endless taboo’s about the body. It became the reason for me to start painting such emphasized versions of the subject of nudity, and specifically breasts. I wanted to focus on depicting the breasts as eyes looking right at you. A statement of how OK that is, because it’s just a painting, and it’s just nature. I asked myself so many times, in all the years of human and art history, we learned nothing? Through the multiple examples of brilliant craftsmanship in the depiction of the human body, have we really not seen the beauty? All these questions led me to start exploring the strict crop of the bust, referencing symbols and women’s depictions throughout art history.
“Letter’s to my Future Self” evolved as the fourth painting of an entire series. The title became equivalent as diary note, through the actual painting.
Human fingers or hands seem to have a strong representation on your canvases; do these sorts of motifs have a more meaning symbolism or interest to you as a painter?
KZ: Yes, hands are very important to me. I believe that everything in life, and life itself, is 50% hand, and 50% chance. The point is to not forget the power of that 50%. It shall never become 10% or 35% or 49%. We will never control life 100%, however for the half of it, it’s important to remember that our actions have meaning, and consequences and power. The hand is a major acting tool, and therefore I love to reference it in various ways.
It looks evident that you are very keen on figuration. Is it like a current painting series that you aim to concentrate on this period or more abstract images and techniques interest you as well?
KZ: I’m mainly interested in figuration because I like telling stories, or referencing them. That doesn’t mean I exclude abstract techniques from my practice, but for the moment my focus remains on the figure in any form.
Have specific artworks 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?
KZ: It depends. Sometimes there is a study, and a very directed process. Other times I chose to let the narrative make itself and trust the possible “mistakes”, in order to complete the work. I tend to work in series, so this usually leads me to several possibilities of similar themes, however sometimes a natural need or vision evolves and the focus shifts. I firmly believe in trial and experimentation.
Besides being an artist, you are also the founder of KYAN, a new cultural space in Athens, Greece; what’s your mission there, tell us about what is it about, please?
KZ: KYAN evolved partially because of the uniqueness of my studio space, and partially from the need to put myself to work during the quarantine. I see it as the extension of my studio practice, as it gives myself and other artists the opportunity to set and play with various possibilities of creative expressions. It is a space fueled by artists for artists and aims to become a home for many types of creative spirits through sporadic site specific projects and residencies.
Can you mention any artists you, lately or generally, take inspiration from?
KZ: Louise Giovanelli, Louis Frettino, Plum Cloutman, Maja Ruznic from contemporaries.. (and many more) Domenico Gnoli, Brancuzi, Van Eyck, Henri Mattisse, Felix Valloton, Mary Cassat, Francis Bacon, Frida Khalo, Goya, Fransisco de Zurbaran, Giotto…. And so many more!
What about the place where you work? What does your studio space look like?
KZ: I am very lucky to work in an old Athenian building with large rooms and high ceilings. I have good natural light, something which is very important to me . My studio is tidy and organized, and I like to work on multiple paintings at the same time.
Which are your plans for the near future?
KZ: To keep painting and becoming a better painter. I never want to get comfortable with painting. It’s a never ending explorative and experimentation process that I’m eager to twist my head with it until my hands allow me to.
All images courtesy of the artist