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Artist In Focus
Interviewed by Anna Brown
Aristomenis Theodoropoulos (1988) is a multi-media artist, born and raised in Athens. He specialises in a variety of mediums, most particularly oil paint which he uses to “reference the classical masters, but through non-classical techniques”. I sat down with Aristomenis over teams to discuss his four solo exhibitions, the pandemic, and the rebellious nature of his work.
Aristomenis begins by describing the subconscious nature of being influenced by his artistic peers, where every experience seeps into his work, “Of course I am influenced by everything and everyday life, in good ways and bad ways, you can be influenced by bad work or a bad song much how you can be influenced by a good one. You can be influenced by the beauty of something as well as the ugliness.”
“The best stuff is the forbidden stuff, but only in the field of art!”
I asked whether being an artist was a conscious decision for him, leading to a discussion of the childlike nature of an artist which allows the freedom of expression, “Every child is an artist until at some point in our lives, most people get caught up in other interests, but my hands never left the pen and the paper. I have been doing this my whole life there is nothing else I can do.” Delving deeper into the beginning of his career he tells me of the struggles he faced upon graduating from the Athens School of Fine Arts in 2010; “I was overwhelmed by studying painting too much. I felt like I was suffocating because I was struggling to find a subject matter and to keep my technique perfect. At some point I started looking at techniques such as automatic writing and drawing and, at some point, I realised what I was trying to find was this inner child and what was there from the beginning.”
Over the next 8 years, Aristomenis partook in a series of group exhibitions until his debut exhibition, HERE, 2018 - a collection of seven paintings each interconnected with a musical piece. These are large, colourful oil paintings, where the combination of music and art creates a cinematic atmosphere. Aristomenis explains, “I was using music to help the audience to submerge themselves and go deeper into the paintings.” The combination of the two mediums developed at art school, which surprisingly wasn’t always supported by his professors. He tells me “When I was in art school a lot of professors were aware I was into music, but a few told me that I can’t do both.” He describes his debut exhibition as “an act of rebellion to try and combine the two. Ever since that time I was trying find the music within the paintings. When I was making those paintings, I was working on an album and realised they were just the same thing but in different formats.”
Alongside his interest in music, Aristomenis is intrigued by Greek mythology and culture; “I grew up around the ruins of the great old civilisation” he tells me which inspired his second exhibition in 2019, Before Echo. This subsequent exhibition was a more direct response to Greek mythology, consisting of 46 abstract drawings reflecting the myth of the nymph Echo. Similarly to how he describes the subconscious nature of influence, this was an unplanned response to Greek mythology and he tells me how the creation of these pieces came to him by accident, “I was making some abstract pieces and, I remember, I could see the image of the god Pan in one of the paintings and on the same day I accidently opened a book by Paul Decharme and read a piece on Echo and Pan and, it just hit me, the coincidence.” Fast-forward to November 7th, 2020 and Greece has entered its second lockdown of the COVID-19 pandemic. Aristomenis states this was his, “most creative period ever...whilst being in a very weird psychological and social situation, something clicked in me. I feel like it was a natural response because it was either that or complete madness and for that part, I am grateful because it was a period of discovery for me.” During this period of 5 months Aristomenis created his most recent body of work, OUT, 2021, featuring 11 more abstract paintings. However, the pandemic was not always a creative isolation for Aristomenis, “The first lockdown completely chewed me and spewed me out. I was able to work on one piece and it was very painful, I remember the moment I touched the paintbrush I had almost a panic attack.” It is no surprise, that the body of work he produced in OUT following this period featured large, dark paintings depicting movement and complete emotional expression, feelings you can perceive even through viewing his works through a screen. He reflects on these works an act of freedom and rebellion, a cry for communication and socialising, where the outcome is a conversation between himself, the audience, and the work.
These paintings have darker and more neutral tones, reflecting the current psychological state in which they were created, but unlike his early figurative works he never actually uses black paint in his palette. He tells me, “The darkest tones were a combination or brown and dark blue, I’m not sure how this happened, maybe it was an act of rebellion towards myself and my previous works, or reasons of psychology. They create an effect so when someone first sees the painting, they would perceive it as black and white and the more they looked, the more the colour would gradually start coming out. This gives the effect of movement and to make it look almost organic.” His technique of combined oil and acrylic paint creates layers of texture and an added sculptural effect to the works, to create natural effects of corrosion and make the paint break off the canvas. Much like his combination of music and art, this feels like another form of rebellion, through the intersection of unlikely mediums, where he laughs, “The best stuff is the forbidden stuff, but only in the field of art!” What does the next year look like for Aristomenis? He is currently working on several projects, from a fashion collaboration to a new figurative painting collection, with further connections to Greek mythology. It seems there is no limit to the different platforms and mediums that Aristomenis will
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