Loading...

Ioannis Nikou about his work

I am often asked to analyze or to explain my use of symbolism and the meaning of my usually crowded compositions. As a result, I feel that it is my responsibility to guide the viewer through my world, a world whose structure, so full of allegorical tales and symbols, I have carefully created and organized. 

I studied painting at the School of Fine Arts in Athens and in the Museums of Europe… I studied Bosch, van der Weyden, Breughel, Cranach, El Greco, and all Great creators, since it is well known that there is no parthenogenesis, and that nil gives birth to nil. I wanted to know that had already been done in the world of painting, before I expressed my own view.

Ever since I was a child, I had an innate surrealistic vision, even before I became aware of the nature of the subject I painted, for I have been painting ever since I can remember. I was always attracted to the world of phantasy, of myth, of allegory.In this world, symbols are of basic importance and helped me to my transition  from¨surrealism¨ to¨ magic realism¨.

Thus, I consciously arrived at an organized symbolism, forsaking surrealism, as such.I am a symbolist, by nature and conviction. The great texts of humanity-mythology,the Bible, the Revelation, the Vedas-were symbolic and spoke through parables. I believe the same is true of pictures. I like to tell stories and a picture is worth a thousand words. So, I seek, beyond the ¨real ¨ world, symbols which will allow me to depict contemporary conditions, to render what is happening all around us, in a poetic way, but also to convey a timeless message.

I see my painting as a theatrical performance…I have to stage a play with my actors, the right  scenery and to present it to the spectator, with all the roles completed. Directing this play, I try to connect the real world with the unseen world of mysticism, to show the relation between macrocosm and microcosm…

So, the images-paintings follow one another, as in a movie reel. I adore a spectacle, the theatre, the cinema; which is why, besides painting, I also studied acting, scenography and  classical music. I believe that this knowledge, in combination with a constant study of history, literature and poetry have helped immeasurably in my attaining a fuller pictorial vision.

Already, as a student, I had begun to attempt to create my big compositions; Literally ¨big¨, since I am referring to works measuring 3 and 4 meters; mostly on religious and mythological subjects.

At first, my compositions depicted one leading figure and only later were more, before I finally came to use masses of people, huge crowds, while in the skies fly the most extraordinary creatures. My relation, therefore, with that vast chapter of painting called drawing – since we are speaking of works of such  dimensions and composition- is self evident. The drawing, the pencil, holds a  position of prime importance in my work and in my heart and constitutes an indispensable condition, the basis for the whole structure of my work. In addition, with the colours I use, I appeal to the emotions and to the area of unconscious.

My basic aim is to communicate, through the medium of my painting, with the unconscious part of the individual, the part in which the primeval symbols exercise their activity. I want the spectator to be within my work, to participate in the happenings- following the model of the ancient tragedy- and not just to perceive the composition as a nice  combination of forms and colours on a canvas. If I can obtain from my viewer an emotional response, I have achieved my aim: his initiation in the world of my painting, since I consider the initiated viewer as the indispensable condition for the function of Art in general.

On this basis, the subject matter of my paintings, divided into various themes, touches on everything which has affected our world,  since the dawn of creation. The difference in the subject matter, but also the ¨difference¨ in the works, which breaks what is called the ¨unity¨ of a work, is only apparent. Actually, the entiry of my painting is based on a mathematical equation, in which the only thing that changes, each time, is the X factor: that is the sought pictorial solution, which is of course the challenge, in each new painting. I believe that, once the artist has mastered the ¨technical¨ part of his art- the disposition of one colour next to another, the drawing- he can then start to paint, that is, to depict freely whatever challenges or stimulates him, mentally and spiritually.

I chose my subjects, or rather they chose me, either consciously, as regards what I desire to express, or, at other times, unconsciously, as they engulfed me, at first, to be consciously grasped as they took shape within me, and always before they were set down on canvas. That said – and I must state this for the benefit of those who have communicated with my work- I have never  produced a work without being absolutely aware of the message it conveyed, without being in control of what I was painting. Not a single brushstroke have I ever placed haphazardly, by chance; I don’t believe in chance.

The vision is a complete one, because I believe that, to create a painting, it is indispensable to have a complete orchestration of the means employed: drawing, colour, form, in which the dominant role is that of the drawing: that is the harmonious division of space into forms and shapes.

In conclusion, I should say that as I paint, I fully participate, I sympathize and I amuse myself, while at the same time I try to be a viewer and critic – the most severe,  I would like to believe –  of my own painting.

Iannis Nikou