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An interview with LandEscape art Review May 2013

 

 

1) Hi Yiannos, a warm welcome to LandEscape. To start this interview, I would pose you our usual ice breaker question: what in your opinin defines a work of Art? By the way, how you first became interested in video as a visual medium?

Thank you for inviting me to your publication. For the first question I will use someone else’s definition: A work of art is a creation that generates a truth. In this respect it goes beyond (though it includes) the mere representation of a reality or a concept and becomes a thought process in its own right.  My interest in video started in my early years in art college, when I acquired an analogue camcorder. It soon became obvious to me and to most of my teachers that this was the medium that I was most comfortable with, though I remember that in my final show in 1993 I was given a hard time by my lecturers because I chose to show only two self contained video pieces on a screen without any other accompanying work.

 

2) We would like to ask you something about your background. We have read that before earning your MA in Fine Arts you have studied Economics: how much has these different experiences impacted on your art practice? I do guess that moving for a while from Cyprus to United Kingdom, then coming back to your native country has enriched your personal background...

As always it is difficult to speculate on the course that things would take had we taken alternative decisions at critical moments in our lives. I too often wonder whether my art would be different if I went straight to art college at the age of 18, and lived in a quasi-autonomous art world thereafter, but I think the only difference would be on the width of my perception.

3) Can you tell us about your process and set up for making your artworks? In particular, on what technical aspects do you mainly focus in your work?

First I develop a vague idea, and I tend to think in images, though I am more likely to write notes than draw sketches. I shoot a little, put the shots on my pc and edit a little, see what I have and shoot some more. This goes on until the fog clears out and the idea begins to take concrete form. Normally I am trying to work within a theoretical framework regarding both the form and the intentions of the project. I always try to execute myself all major processes such as shooting, editing and sound design. At first this came out of necessity as I could not pay for the crew, but now I see this as part of my aesthetic direction: It allows me more spontaneity and improvisation, but also keeps questions of authorship on a clear-cut level. A lot of art is a collaborative process but I feel that I have always been a solitary artist.

 

4) Now let's focus on your stimulating work Dancing Landscapeswhose stills can be admired by our readers in these pages. As you have described in your introductory statement, the shooting process has been carried out in an area near your home in the village of Kissonerga on the Western coast of Cyprus, for a very long time. Can you describe a little bit about your creative process for this piece?

I will go back a little for this: When I started with video about 20 years I worked a lot with animation, close-ups and other effects with which I could surpass the limits of my means. Gradually I felt that the ability of video to capture instantly and unobtrusively images, sound, colour and movement was the most powerful characteristic of the medium. The aim is to be poetic and at the same time stay connected with the real, the ordinary life around us, rejecting not only tricks, expensive equipment such as cranes, lights and so on but also avoid those visually exotic locations which expressive though they maybe, they still emit an aura of unreality. What I did for this project was to set myself a limit of 5 km radius around my house, a distance that I could cover on foot if necessary and looked out for interesting shots. It was not like 24 hours and day, seven day a week for three years, but I was always on a standby mode. It was during those excursions that I realised the power of the landscape, with the subtle changes of light, the weather, the time of the day. The idea of matching the shots with the world events of the day they were shot came afterwards during the editing stage.

 

5) Experience as starting point of artistic production is a recurrent characteristic of your works, in particular the one that we are now taking into consideration: in your opinion, is experience an absolutely necessary part of creative process?

The way I see it, experience in public and personal sphere is very important in art making but on its own it does not amount to much. Like everything, it is what you make of it, how critical you are with what is happening to you and to the world around you that makes you wiser. At any rate I can say that it gave me a wide perspective, which I appreciate. I could add that my teaching job in secondary education also gave me a deep understanding of the complexities of everyday life because the kids carry unfiltered all the social, economic, psychological and ethnic conflicts of our society.

6) It goes without saying that this works reveals a deep involvement into facing social questions... Do you think that art could steer or even change people's behaviour?  And what in your opinion is could be the role of an artist in the society? Moreover, I do think it's important to remember to our readers that you have remarked at the end of your artist's statement that Dancing Landscapes was completed before the financial meltdown of Cyprus... what if someone ask you to shoot an up-to-date remake?

A remake is out of the question, but a sequel J is an interesting proposition. The truth is that it would have a radically different outlook. Dancing Landscapes reflected my perception, shared by many others, that we were walking near the edge, that our security was a deception and that a collapse of whatever construct we made ourselves was imminent. Now society is in a state of shock, and possibly it is a good time to take Slavoj Žižek’s advice to think and not act (yet). But can art change anything? Yes definitely, but if anyone expects tangible, quantifiable results, they are deluding themselves.

7) Now, since our magazine is called "LandEscape", we cannot do without asking you: what is the significance of the landscape in your art?

One of the reasons I responded to your call is that the more I work the more I see myself as a landscape artist, if, as I believe we should, we still maintain the major categories of visual art such as “portraiture”, “narrative art”, “still life”, “landscape” and so on. In particular I see myself as part of the Cypriot painting tradition of the mid 20th century which is heavily indebted, due to historical reasons, to the British landscape art.

8)  Besides producing video art, you are familiar to contiguous disciplines as animation and photography: moreover you have worked to films, as well. In these last years we have seen that the frontier between Video Art and Cinema is growing more and more vague: do you think that this "frontier" will exists longer?

Somewhere the experimental film-maker and theoretician Malcolm LeGrice says that the word “cinema” applies to all media- whether film, video or digitally generated imagery- provided that the work endeavours to deal with the language of the moving image. I assume that he uses the last proviso in order to distinguish art from commercial movies, which are becoming more and more crass commodities. In this respect yes there is hardly any difference between video art and cinema. In fact I would argue that today’s video art is the heir of the experimental films of the 50s and 60s. Aesthetically it is closer to those experiments than the video works of the same period by Bruce Nauman and Nam June Pike, who worked with real time TV, multi camera set ups etc. Most video makers today adhere to the “single camera-into-editing suite” process, same as in cinema while the single channel video with sound is the most widely used format. At the same time however we should not forget that video art came out of the sphere of the visual arts which means that it moves along the same path with the powerful tradition of painting.

9) You have participated in many festivals around the world, from Germany to Russia, from Canada to United Kingdom. What experiences have you had exhibiting in different countries? By the way, I'm very curious about the artistic scenario in your native country, where your work The Machine Dream has been awarded as the best experimental short, in 2005.

The Cyprus scene is very similar to the Western world, and this is understandable since there is no Fine Art school in the country so we all train somewhere else and carry with us elements from abroad. This is a good thing provided that these influences are assimilated into the particularities of Cyprus, they are further developed and do not become a sterile application of universal art practices.

 

10) Just wondering if you would like to answer to a cliché question that we often ask to the artists that we interview: what aspect of your work do you enjoy the most? What gives you the biggest satisfaction?

When people who see my work say that they “get” it but they are not sure what they got.

11) Thanks a lot for this interview, Yiannos. My last question deals with your future plans: anything coming up for you professionally that you would like readers to be aware of?

I really enjoyed talking to you. There is one general point that I would like to make, not about myself but about the art world, and this is that there is a general feeling that a saturation has been reached. I strongly believe that there is a new artistic configuration brewing somewhere, and though nobody knows from where and in which form this is going to come, we can be certain that it will not be found in the established channels of the last few decades, the big museums, the private collectors and the standard publications. In this new scheme of things I find it difficult not to see the impact of the internet and organisations, websites or publications like yours, that work quietly but in a substantial manner.