Interview by Maria Melendi

Q: Conversing with visual artists, the question spontaneously arises why must we paint… What is it the spectators receive? As a work of art is created, the goal is to spread a message. The public receives the message as it sees fit, and a fertile dialogue often follows.

A: Personally, I think every work of art is enriched by all the different versions spectators bring. Creators like the stories of others and I can say we try to view our work through their eyes. In a way, they gift us their personal stories. Through our work we expose ourselves during an exhibition and the contact with the public is strengthened when that happens.

Q: Your start in painting has received some sort of boost by Corfu, where you were born and raised, some influences, what were they?

A: The place where one is born and raised always influences. Corfu is in its whole a source of inspiration, even if one does not realise it. Living abroad for years has certainly helped me understand the influence of my roots. The colours, smells, sounds, architecture, the small streets… Corfu gives you a sense of being on a film set.
In Cyprus, for example, I missed the colour of the Corfu sky at dusk. The whole colour palette was missing. Even the humidity. The tiled streets, the swifts, the sing-song local dialect, the rain that makes all colours come alive, music, my family, customs… I cannot imagine Easter away from Corfu. I still cry every year when I hear Albinoni’s Adagio. Many have fallen in love with Corfu for what it is, but to be born and raised here gives an extra dimension to the experience of living in Corfu.
The images and senses one accumulates by living here combine with the personal bond of family and friends that have stood by you your whole life.

Q:Describe your apprenticeship next to contemporary Italian art at the Arts Academy in Mola di Bari. What does someone originating from the Ionian islands specifically gain?

A: At the beginning, being Greek I received a lot of criticism. I was asked if I go home on a donkey and if had ever seen a TV before.
The Italians there were all graduates of Art high schools with vast experience in Renaissance painting. The competition and highly demanding school drive one to either of two choices: give up or muster all the bloody-mindedness one can and continue.
With me the second happened. The challenge to prove that even without prior knowledge of the Renaissance I could deliver a good performance and receive positive reviews from highly esteemed professors. In the long term this led to earning the respect of my fellow students too.
I did gain a different perspective. As close as we of the Ionian Islands think we are to the Italians, we do have a different mentality. I felt freer. These were my student years and the environment was friendly and expressive. At the School of Arts I received a lot of knowledge. I was so excited to learn so many new things. Not only with primary, but also the secondary subjects: teaching, anatomy, psychology, and workshops in technique. It all gave me such a boost that the work continued at home too. In the end they handed me the keys to the school so I could work there at night too. In a monastery, turned into a school of fine arts, in a tiny village full of farmers and fishermen, I remember a lot of creativity and very little sleep. The school had been moved from Bari to Mola to help the rural areas to grow.

Q:Painting is a wonderful and difficult road for every creator. Your experience till now?

A: It is an introverted and lonely road. The first stimuli come from the environment, but in order to process them one must be with one’s self. It is difficult to depict emotion with colours. It is wonderful however when Ι can, in the end, experience my depiction with someone else. In a creative period, it is very hard to communicate with words, it cannot be described.
We are influenced by day-to-day activities. The question is how one processes what occurs. What to keep and what to let go.
That is why Art is a lonely road but also a road to self-knowledge. It is a sacred procedure and these moments we want only for us. That is why we prefer loneliness. Because that is how we learn our limits and our faith in life. Like a hermit. We walk a road that absorbs but also frees us.

Q:Your art Space was partly transported to the Municipal Art Gallery of Corfu for your private exhibition. With this section of your work what did you present and why? A: The specific exhibition, mostly, was dedicated to the memory of my father who died 3 years ago. During the whole creative process, I was very emotional. The exhibition unfolded like a conversation with my father. That is why in the first room there were exclusively paintings that had to do with the structures of a family. Similarities, cohesion, but also the conflicts any family can experience. The whole exhibition was a conversation with our surrounding phenomena and their unforeseen results during the COVID pandemic. The paintings in the last room were an effort to overturn the fear we felt during quarantine and to mock the virus. What came to mind was a childhood memory of a performance of Mozart’s “Magic Flute” I had seen with my grandmother in the Municipal Theatre. I was so impressed with the costumes with feathers and plumes I never forgot about it. This is the memory I retrieved and filled a room with the strange, the unexpected, the comically tragic. A room full of chickens. The exhibition in its totality presented the very many different influences, trends and views of my art, without them encaging, or constraining me as a creator.

Q:As for your art space, with or without it, what do you wish to happen next in your relationship with painting? What do you wish to continue or change in Corfu regarding the cultivation and spreading of the Arts. A: My Art Space is called “Lotus” for a reason. It is the everlasting endeavour of humans while firmly rooted in the swamp of the mundane to strive to blossom and reach for the light. I wish for myself that I always try to evolve, because I feel when one phase is over, the next one begins for all of us. I am always vigilant. I cannot rest. I wish all art exhibition and promotion spaces continue to exist and many more are be created. Whether it is about older art like the museums, that are always open to the public, but even more when it is about active exhibition spaces, public or private. I would wish for more education in artistic development for children and adults.