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Greek artist, Iasonas Kampanis: "art is a tool for redefining canons"

Greek artist, Iasonas Kampanis: "art is a tool for redefining canons"
Artist Iasonas Kampanis in his studio.

art:i:curate artist Iasonas Kampanis talks with Myrto Katsimicha about artistic identity, the idea of artistic freedom in contemporary art and his personal means of expressions in the contemporary taking as a starting point his latest series of works within the medium of photography



MK: Why did you start painting?


IK: I wish I could convey feelings to explain why, as much as I wish I could frame a concrete answer to this. A work of art is one way of documenting the imagination. When you witness interesting events in your head, it can become quite tiresome; the reality is confused, fragmented, diverse, but still real. I guess I was thrilled to have found relief in a means that can describe and project glimpses of this world, along with the pleasure of archiving them.



Africa, photography 110 x 110 cm, 2013.



MK: You work with a variety of different artistic media including painting, photography, illustration and graphic design. How do you decide which one to choose as a means of expression at a particular moment of time?


IK: It’s all about the power of the image and the ways of using it. Illustration is good for being very narrative; photography is by definition more connected to reality, painting is a perfect transmitter for raw feelings. I am not a graphic designer but I work with it occasionally, by using the above means to offer special visual communication solutions for clients familiar with my general work. Not my cup of tea. However, I gained a big artistic interest in infographics from it, such a rich field for new ideas.


Illustration offers immediacy to the viewer; I like using an austere linear system based on basic patterns and a quite ‘straightforward’ symbolism, to get the viewer quickly involved in clear scenery. Being pattern-based, it is also the most relaxing and brain-cleansing process.


I love photography when I am in my most funny mood. Photography provides evidence of a real event; through editing, a photograph provides evidence of a surreal event. And this can bear some pretty cynic potential.


Now, painting, well, it is certainly a quite emotional territory, I choose it at my most personal moments and I usually need some good amount of energy collected prior to begin. It is my favorite though; the in-between process, the tools, the texture, the pigments, the unlimited possibilities for creating a visual.



Asia, photography 110 x 110 cm, 2014.



MK: Do you follow a specific process when you work in your studio? When do you know that an artwork is finished?


IK: No specific process apart from my addiction to smoking and coffee, which tends to become almost ritually monstrous. Sad, I know. What I also cannot do without is music.


An artwork can reach many finish points. You may pass these and destroy it and then find it again and so on, but the self learns over time. This also sculpts your artistic identity, continuously.



MK: In a previous interview you mentioned that “everyone is born an artist” in terms of the creative skills encrypted in every human being. Does necessitation occur only in our own minds? How do you define the urge that necessitates someone to call himself or herself a contemporary artist?


IK: Necessitation comes to one who is feeling more comfortable being involved in the arts than in anything else; as we know, any requisite quality or clear reason that one may need to have so as to do art is still something super unknown. As the same applies to the very meaning of life, or the urge to be unique, and so on, it might as well be said that the very power of the unknown is what enhances the need to do art. Yes, art as we perceive it is a noble way to express how we feel with the world around us or to enjoy aesthetic qualities, and yes it is an efficient means of communicating with each other and ourselves, but who knows for certain if any other organism can be regarded an artist in similar terms with ours?


Being a part of a larger system that constantly changes or is just constantly operating, we often suffer to accept that evolution is not equated with progress. We mainly use only basic dimensions to define sophistication. There is a part of our self that is associated to all things that will be unknown, which feeds our most primal instincts.


The necessitation of creating exists anyhow, as we want to explore and survive, but humans also have critical thinking; we want to verify that we are able to create. Therefore we doubt and the more massively this is performed, the more we individually need to label and project our innate behaviours as special, distinctive abilities. All unilateral attitudes can provide social immunity.



MK: Is there a canon in contemporary art?


IK: Other than being madly in love with it, art is a tool for redefining canons.



Europa, photography 110 x 110, 2013. 



MK: In your latest series of works you manipulated photography and its digital techniques while retaining visual references to traditional fine art principles. Could this be considered a comment to the Digital Age and the overflow of images in our Information Society?


IK: Yes, exposure to an excessive viewing of scrappy online 'memoirs', in a digital world which can easily be described as hyper realistically surreal, can archive incoming information as memories even more condensed and disputable than before. The results of experimenting with this media indeed look like distorted fragments of memory; a body mixed with a table, a pixelated leg, or scenes interrupted by irrelevant shapes. But, although true, it is not the main inspiration behind those works.


On a further level, these works generally depict critical comments to the society of our time. The bodies often have parts of different skin hues or texture. They are alive yet decapitated or brutally objectified. They symbolize mental states, social deprivation or current cultural facts. As a fond of mockery, I perceive our manner of living increasingly ostentatious and naïve.


References to those traditional principles you are referring to, are retained to keep the image in line with a more direct and natural visual experience.



The Mountain, photography 110 x 110, 2013. 



MK: There is a dark side in your distorted bodies as much as there is a dark side in our real selves. Which are the elements of human nature that attract you most in your artistic practice?


IK: Integrity, individuality, spirituality, sensualism, cognition. And the darkest side of those works is the direct dispute between those elements.



 Work in progress (detail): imaginary characters based on ancient roman festivals.



MK: Throughout the ages, art reflects society or perhaps it’s better to say that it expresses the social context – the needs, the desires, the absence – within which it is produced. Today, there is an absolute freedom in what artists can do. How do you perceive artistic freedom?


IK: Absolute freedom exists when one can be detached from oneself and can then be willingly attached to anything else, therefore with everything. But as everything is interconnected, this must be a freaky experience; while on survival mode, we cannot do that. I believe though, we can experience momentary flashes of this ability. For me, art is itself a channel to link with these moments.


Away from such sophistries, artists are more or less bound to reflect their times. I do not believe that nowadays there is absolute artistic freedom; I feel that contemporary artists are transcending towards a revision, being more chaotic than ever and not yet consistent, like our times. Above everything else though, a work of art is evaluated by how interesting and updated it is; but as this also involves some subjectivity, there can be no valid measuring bars to grade art. In that sense, yes, the more the art world accepts subjectivity, the more the freedom of expression will be evident.



Work in progress // On top: from a linocut series, below: from a series based on infographics.



MK: Is there a particular book, film or person that has had a strong impact on you and your work?


IK: On the very top is "Mystical Theology", a magnificent work written by the now called "Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite", a Syrian monk, Neoplatonic philosopher and Christian theologian of the late 5th century.


Films, well, who is to put one first. Maybe it’s Brian De Palma’s "Scarface", maybe one I can’t recall now. But I know of a play that I never forget and this is Bertold Brecht’s "The Threepenny Opera".


And, as I perceive them through their work, I most admire the minds of Hieronymus Bosch, Rene Magritte and Marcel Duchamp. All artists, I know, who, however, share nothing of the gloriousness of Caravaggio’s paintings.



MK: If you could make a publication of your works what would be the title?

IK: A circle.



Work in progress: The hands of a surgeon, acrylics on wood.


Images courtesy of the artist.

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