Nikolas Antoniou was born in Larnaca, Cyprus where he resides and works. He is a graduate of the Department of Fine and Applied Arts of the University of Western Macedonia, Greece (2012) with professors Harris Kondosphyris and Manolis Polymeri.
His paintings do not stem from a specific idea or theme. He consciously avoids focusing on specific questions or particular answers but instead, creates new pictures that generate unknown questions. He paints vague spaces, objects which appear to be misplaced both through time and dimension, next to items disjoint with figures lost in an intense painterly environment, but in the end coexist and interact, giving meaning to their existence, tell a story and express a sentiment.
As of 2010 through to today Nikolas Antoniou has succeeded in portraying his paintings in a number of solo and group exhibitions. Most momentous of which took place in 2010 at the Aianis Archaeological Museum in Kozani entitled “Time – Memory – Oblivion”. In the following year he participated in the “Sixth Student Biennale of Fine Arts”, which took place in the exhibition hall of the Athens Metro at Syntagma Station. He also took part in the group exhibition “Eumorfos Anthropos” in Technohoros Gallery, Athens. In 2012 the same exhibition journeyed to two cities of Northern Greece. In the months of February to March the exhibition was hosted at Gallery 512 in Ptolemaida and two months later at the Museum of Contemporary Arts of Florina. Both exhibitons were held under the supervision of Harris Kondosphyris. During the months of June and July Nikolas’ works reappeared in the Technohoros Gallery under the heading “Maps 1987 – Travel 2012” and in late July-early August he takes part in another exhibition titled “IR E MO” showcased at Gallery Lola Nikolaou in Thessaloniki. In 2013 he returns to Cyprus permanently and is involved in several group exhibitions around the island and colaborates with a number of galleries. In May 2013 he presents his first solo exhibition entitled “Sanitizing Logic” at Polychoros Warehouses in Larnaca, while a few months later the same trail of work is exhibited again in his second solo exhibition “Sanitating Logic 2” in Gallery Technohoros in Athens, Greece. In 2014, his work is hosted by Gallery Myro in collaboration with Gallery Lola Nikolaou in Thessaloniki, Greece.
Solo – May 2015 – Technohoros Gallery – Athens
Group – Oct. 2015 – the Collection Gallery – Embody – Nicosia
Group – Dec. 2015 – Lola Nikolaou Gallery – Thessaloniki
1. What do you think contemporary art really is?
Contemporary art is the natural order of things that led art history up to this point. The evolution of time and the alteration of how we do things have played a significant role. In a sense, art and specifically painters used to be craftsmen in the past but now developed as modern day artists that can freely decide the concept of their art. In the same way -as we have today – contemporary artists that begun their practise with different foundations, this will be the case in 20 years time too and another term might possibly develop in art history. Artists will evolve with different foundations due to the evolution of time. Artists cannot have the same starting and ending point. Contemporary art today follows the general principle that an artist has the freedom of expression and is able to deal with any concept. But, the problem with contemporary art today is that it is difficult for people to understand especially when you have no interest in it and it is thus challenging to engage with something you can not understand.
2. So do you believe there is an apathetic stance from people to understand contemporary art?
Well, not really apathy. Art is just something that needs further consideration and examination. You need to go deeper and people don’t do that. People choose not to see art to its core but rather stay on the surface – that is the way they tackle everything they see. That’s a problem (laughter). The artist should not compromise his or her expression based on what the rest of the world understands. People who create (whether it is food, art or any service) do it the best way they can and develop along with it and thus consciously the result develops within them. Thus, people who will try and engage with an artist’ work must put the same or more effort into comprehending what it is shown on a plain canvas.
3. Have you ever come across in any misunderstanding with people that have brought you into a difficult position? Let’s say such as not understanding the way you express?
It happens everywhere, even if you go to a place with people not related to art, you might find people who understand what you do. Regardless if they are involved with art or not, they have the mood and eagerness to understand, ask and learn my own perception exposed in my artwork. There are people that just don’t want to understand. Personally, I have never came across a difficult position but you know it just happens.
4.Does it bother if a contemporary art piece in a gallery has an explanation written next to it? Does it bother you that the artist needs to go in the process to explain when he is displaying his work?
No, I don’t mind at all, because they way I see it – this is part of art as well. Why shouldn’t there be a panel next to it? An artist worked on that text and he or she is thus narrating his/her work. Art needs to find a way to draw more people in. What bothers me is when the text on the label is meaningless, or the artwork is pointless along with the text. Since you are using another medium along, it should be two times stronger.
5.Why does most of your work include the human body? How do you tackle any project series or art piece when it comes in creating something related to what you do? Do you do any specific research?
That’s what I like in art. The human body attracted me as an audience. So it gave me the interest to explore it and create artworks around it. The human body is the most interesting part of a human. A figure is a figure. Even a bottle can be perceived as a figure but the human body can change its position: the gaze, the size and that it creates emotion. Observing human body figures as part of an audience made me feel as if I was seeing myself. The eyes and the glance can capture you and draw you into an emotional process. I have worked into exploring the human body for so long that I became extremely interested on how the figure changes from one painting to the other. The smallest change in position can alter the whole atmosphere of the painting. I don’t do any specific research. I research and work all the time and gather my thoughts when it comes to create something. Most of my pieces are not related, some are, and some are not. When I exhibit my work I group my pieces and then present them. I do not start something based on specific research. The only research I do and the only way I tackle my projects happens when I gather all of my artwork and try to group them to make sense to the audience. I like putting myself into complicated tasks and then represent my art pieces in that way.
6. Would you classify yourself as a contemporary artist?
Not really. A contemporary artist is an artist who observes what is going on in the world now. I honestly do not think that I understand what is going on in the world today. I am contemporary in my own perspective; I don’t think others would perceive me as a contemporary artist.
7. Sometimes when I observe your artwork I can see a sense of rebellion in the way you paint. But then, this is my own personal take. Do you have any particular themes you want to elaborate through your work?
Not necessarily. I don’t work on purpose, I let my thoughts emerge and I like it that way. Sometimes I feel that themes might keep an artist restrained, but since I don’t work that way I let my paintings be personal. I don’t feel my art should be something particular. I do have some obsessions with certain concepts, which they help me elaborate on my work when it comes to my own technique, but this is as far as I take it. I want to expose particular themes. I am pleased when people perceive my art and create bonds, which works as food for thought for them. One of my teachers used to say that art is the space between the viewer and the painting. So, this is where my art lies. This is the way art should be anyway.
8. I feel that this could be interpreted as a theme by itself. Some artists might do some pieces and then for the sake of being accepted in the art world, they come up with some sort of concept they never thought about just to fit in a box. So, please share with us then what made you become an artist?
To be honest, I wanted to become an architect as my cousin influenced me. But then I realised I was terrible in maths. Going into an art school was almost an accident. I travelled all the way to Hungary for my studies but I couldn’t learn the language so during my stay there, I was having private art lessons and then realised that I wanted to do Fine Arts. When I was in my third year of art school I realised that this was my dream. I always liked art and people were telling me that I was good at it but I couldn’t really understand that myself. I entered art school ranking last and I then worked really hard and I could not abandon it. I always painted as kid, but that was as much as I can remember.
9. Then who is your favourite artist and what is your source of inspiration?
I don’t have anyone specific. I examine and observe several artists all the time and I like specific pieces not specific artists. Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon had a massive impact in my work. I realised that after many years of practicing. When I was researching Bacon and Freud I didn’t realise that they were the main catalysts influencing my development as an artist. My source of inspiration? I just want to sit back and paint. I don’t have anything specific that inspires me. My brain is always working, as I am observing my surroundings. I told you already that the human body is my main interest. Mostly women, but that’s completely without a reason. Therefore, I enter my studio and simply work. This is my way of living; this is my main source of inspiration.
10. Is there a specific life-event that stigmatised you as an artist? Something specific that worked as turning point in the way you are tackling your pieces?
Yes, a teacher that used to teach me back when I was in art school, Manolis Polymeris. It was the first time I have ever seen an artist in my life working and the fact that he was working so obsessively and neurotically to create an artwork stigmatised me. It was at that specific moment that I realised how art should be created. Most people see the end result in a painting, not the procedure. But studio practise is what art really is. Art is studio practise, not the result of a painting. So yes, Manolis Polymeris was the only person that made me realise what art really is.
11. Then what do you think is the purpose of art in the world? Should it have a purpose?
There is a tendency around the world where people think that things have a purpose only if they relate to everyone. If this is the case, then art will never be able to have a purpose. BUT, since some people sacrifice their entire lives working for art, developing both as humans and as artists around it, motivating other human beings, then art has entirely its own purpose. Not everyone will get its purpose and that is perfectly fine. It is enough if art goes back in motivating people to create more in any field they choose to be involved with.
12. How do you see yourself in the future?
In a studio, working and creating. If this thought will provide me with money to make living, that is another story. I don’t think I will be staying in Cyprus for the rest of my life but I am not leaving now. For the time being, I am happy here. I don’t have any personal ambitions; I just want to work in my studio.
13. And finally, since you are relatively young in age, what are the messages you want to deliver to the younger generation and especially those that aspire to be part of the art world?
The world today is structured in a way that it is easy for us to lose the substance and the meaning of life. Even if you are very ambitious, you have to understand what the substance of life is. That’s the only thing that will make you successful. Everything else does not really matter. There is a tendency for young artists to start their career from the ‘ending point’ – this is how I call it – because they focus more on the economic aspect of their career and not their own personal development. But this will not take you anywhere. This was not the main reason a person choses to become an artist. If you are interested in becoming famous, practising art is not the place to become one.