An interview to Irene Aivaliotou.
Antonis Tsakiris, a traveller of streets and skies.
I walk next to these paintings and the fervour of their presence stands by me. I deliberately slow down my pace, I observe, I contemplate. In front of these works, that bustle with explosiveness and unlimited inspiration, I feel that my mind rests among living flowers. Their art borrows something from the alienation of the city and collects from nature's beauty. Antonis Tsakiris astounds the spectator's gaze, that watches suspects and aquariums, runaways and skies, acrobats and aquatic sceneries. His imagination travels simultaneously in the universe and the city's squares, in dull reality and beyond. It is found and utterly lost, it learns, it roams, it announces, it is imposed. It awaits the signs of attack in the streets, it touches the times that are sinking. His paintbrush contains everything, it exceeds itself, it unites with its authentic primal origin, it gets established and it allures. His anthropocentric painting, meets with surrealism, expressionism, symbolism, it looks for the riddle, finds the dream, and conquers the fantasy so as to create an evocatively unexpected world. Exaggeration, distortion, tranformation and plasticity are re-invented and they come alive. Sarcasm, irony, the hidden eyes behind the mosaic, are the logical paradox. The trains and the floating items are the timeless time, the dissolution, the solution and the resolve. The river of History flows incessantly where the art of Antonis Tsakiris expresses its desire to depict, to describe, to grasp, to intervene, to create spectacular illusions. Water defines his paintings. It flows and blends. Colours slide into blue waters and sink slowly and ceremoniously. Art achieves the impossible. Transcendence and justification come through it. If you feel that something in you and around you is drying up, look for the painting of Antonis Tsakiris. He has the charisma of a genuine creator. He creates his own sequences, his own rules, his own harmonies and he can carry you away...
Read the interview.
*I was born in Athens. I come from Smyrna on my father's side, and Alexandria in Egypt, on my mother's.
-What are your vivid childhood memories?
The most intense and unusually early experience is from a summer in Alonnisos. At the front of the port, I escaped my parents' attention for a few seconds, which were enough for me to slip from the pier into the sea and-considering I was about 3 or 4 years old-and I hadn't closed my eyes as I was slowly sinking deeper and deeper. I still remember the keels from the boats nearby, moving upwards. Then, an eight-year-old boy who, luckily, was there, dived into the water and saved me. He is still in Alonnisos and I will always be grateful to him.
-What were your early artistic stimuli?
My father's poems. The acquaintence with our great poet Yiannis Ritsos who was, to my delight, a family friend. The life I led in the boat my father used to have up until 20 years ago in Hydra. Nature and the music of the night clubs that blended with the creaking of the boat's wood. The first painting I can recall, though, which greatly impressed me and the immature perspective of my early teenage years, was "Swans reflecting elephants" by Salvador Dali.
-When you started painting, what art schools and great artists did you turn to?
I've always been interested in people. In anthropocentric painting. I found meaning in the Spanish and French, their painting talked to me, it made me feel. Cezanne, Van Gogh. Also, the emotion I found in Velasquez and Theotokopoulos. Furthermore, Picasso immediately intrigued me, because he talked to me about a parallel screaming reality, and because, for some reason, he made me get down to work and study. I love Montigliani too, for the colour, the elegance, the sentimental depth and economy in lines.
-Is painting the art of deception?
On the contrary, I believe that the truth is usually presented much more directly in painting, rather than, let's say in a TV News Report or a newspaper. It doesn't reproduce but it gets deeper into the meaning and substance of things. A good work of art can concentrate a subjective piece of information or the thread of a lifetime. Of course, the power of image has been used for all purposes, either uplifting or unfair.
-What is your favourite material?
I mostly work with oil, because I like its ductile quality, which creates situations on the painting surface and it can give directions or make suggestions for the further development of the work. Many times, I also use ink for my drawings, a very pleasant and direct creative act, since I am always totally unaware of what will come about.
-What part do transformations and distortions play in your art?
The most important. Although, I also create works which tend more to realism, what intrigues me lately -and I wanted to express it in the main part of the series I exhibit in Thanassis Frissiras Gallery, the "Runaways"-is the transformations and the exaggerations that lead me to an actual dive with the vessel of poetry and colours, a lifesaving means of survival for me in the savage times we live in. I take pleasure in telling stories, that's how it works for me. Not the easiest stories, probably. But, since I don't intend to be a critic of myself, I can express the truth as I perceive it. And maybe I will be able to find salvation through that possibility.
-How do you start a painting? Do you make a draft? Do you take measures? Do you calculate? Or is everything at random?
In the works of larger dimensions, some basic calculations are necessary, because they later facilitate their development. Many works, though, have been created instantly and the basic plan was already clearly formed. In the end, the biggest satisfaction is the "refutation"of these initial intentions, which takes place in most of these works. Intentions that are carried away by the moments and the involvement of the live creative work.
-Do you work on different paintings at the same time?
I usually work on one painting at a time.
-When it's time to part with a painting, how do you feel?
Formerly, it was more difficult for some paintings. But later on,I decided that it makes no sense to stack up the works on a wall, and not let them be seen by anyone else. Now, I'm very pleased when a painting finds its own autonomous way, out of the atelier, in front of new glances.
-Do you love all your works the same?
No, and I think that's natural. Regardless of the outcome, I usually become attached more to the works that remind me of intense moments or thoughts I had while working on them.
-Has any painting been left incomplete? Have you ever destroyed a work?
Many works are re-painted, I usually keep scattered details from the first image that are introduced to the new one. It tests your boldness when you sacrifice hours of work that were needed for a detail which no longer communicates with the rest of the painting and has to be left out.
-What does being an artist mean to you?
The possibility of expression is great luck for anyone who possesses it. It creates craters and it relieves the lava that prowls in the volvanoes of the soul. Without the crater, the lava revolves inwards, corroding everything little by little.
-Is art a game and innocence?
It is whatever is the one who creates it.
-When you have difficulties, where do you take refuge?
In music, a trip, my friends.
-Is there a cultural dead-end currently in Greece?
I don't know if it's a dead-end, that's rather extreme. But what happens in everyday life, also happens in culture which is an extension of life. It's a very difficult era, as every era which brings about changes. Unfair, cruel, shameless, but fateful, too, with special interest. The change, of course, will slowly come about by people. Although I can't often help thinking what that last chapter will finally leave behind.
-If you could change this situation with a magic wand, what would you change first?
Unfortunately, I will never have a magic wand.
-You have dreams, of course. Can you make plans for the future?
I think no one can lead a normal life without thinking of the future. But I always try to think of it, looking at it from the present.
-Does a visual artist feel more creative in conditions of crisis and pressure or during prosperity?
I don't think there's a rule. Personally, the more intense the stimuli I get from my environment are, the more my creative insticts are activated. And I'm afraid that, in their majority, these stimuli come from unpleasant occasions.
-What do you think of the new technologies as expressive tools of art?
Technology is a shocking affair. A catalyst. Its use is a matter of people. In Art and the use of new means, as it happens in every aspect of art, there are amazing and not so good works.
-Do Greeks love modern art?
More and more, I think. I believe, though, that it's difficult for Greece to have the same audience other countries have. Nevertheless, I feel that the crisis we experience and we'll remember later, can trigger the need to search for a deep truth. There are tons of truth in good painting. If many art critics stop alienating the audience with difficult words and we lead the interest to a parallel Greece, which ,in this hardship, is interested not only in taxes and anything else, but also in colour, harmony, theatre, music, literature. This is hopeful, by itself.
-Is there democracy in our daily contacts?
If someone is democratic with himself, he will be so with his environment and life, as well. In any case, although the crisis puts our nerves and psychology to the test, I observe a-slow and hesitant-turn of our head towards the ones next to us.
-What is your favourite poem?
I love poetry very much, but I would be unfair if I named one. I smile with poetry.
-Do you have a pet? What is your relationship with animals?
I don't have a pet. I would like to have a pet which I will call "Charmer". I love animals. I get very angry when I hear all these things that happen to animals. Like a child's gaze in my mind, animals reflect the root of existence. They do what their body writes, throughout the centuries. It's a huge disappointment to realise, day by day, that for important or unimportant reasons, humanity, despite its mental progress, has learnt nothing from its mistakes. And wraps its body with its high-tech cloak, to be protected from the next, totally deliberate mistake.