Is it difficult to be a painter now-days?
Honestly I think it is difficult to survive as a painter in the art market – nowadays as always, there is a difference between the question of acceptance in the art-world and the artistry itself.
The image of the painter able to be independent and exist on his own is a romantic cliché. To be a painter is to struggle.
People are talking about a “revival” of the medium. Do you agree?
The term revival in my point of view is also just a slogan of a fashion-orientated society. If you follow you’ve lost;) but I have to admit that after the economic crisis and in times of digital reproduction, the importance of handcrafted artistry, not only in fine arts, has risen.
How are things for a young artist in a city like Vienna?
Austria placed in the heart of Europe – with its rich history, is a good place to be, but the problem is, that in Vienna everything happens a thousand years too early, or a thousand years too late.
How hard is it for an artist to stand out and have a career in the art world not only in Vienna but in general?
It is hard because you have to be true yourself and stick to your guns. Nobody has influence on the acceptance of his or her work. Developing originality and adapting the subjects and styles of expressions helps to get recognized. Sometimes you have to dig a hole and don’t stop until you are on the other side of the planet.
Is this an ambition of yours?
I am still digging. Is that ambitious?
What would you like to change in the way the art-world functions?
The number of people investing in art, and making decisions about what is worth collecting and what not, is very small. Art depends on a choice of a few. I would like to see more cooperation and less jealousy. Art shouldn’t be too competitive.
What kind of artists do you admire?
A lot of different ones. Every approach is a clue in the world puzzle that helps me to my own work. I don’t differentiate between painters, scientists, filmmakers, writers, etc. I can’t deliver a list of names, because it’s changing constantly.
Recently you won the first prize in the 1st Danube Biennale in Bratislava. This is how we first came about your name. How was this experience for you?
I was very surprised, and honoured to be the first to get this prize. I would love to know the reason they chose me. I know that my work is polarizing and therefore people either love or hate it, but I am glad the jury appreciated it.
Do you believe in prizes?
Acceptance is a very strong motivator; prizes push you to continue your work. Furthermore: they decorate the résumé. On the other hand prizes aren’t an indicator of quality because a lot of good artists never receive prizes.
You are half-Cypriot born in Vienna –from your mother’s side, I guess… Did you grow up there as well? Do you retain a connection with Cyprus?
Yes, my mother is from Cyprus. I grew up in Vienna, but half of my heart is in Cyprus – during my childhood I spent every summer in Kamakli at my grandparent’s house. At a certain age I had to improve my Greek. Otherwise I wouldn’t have had a chance to communicate with my chatty teenage cousins and my basketball playing neighbours. I visit my family as often as possible, not only for weddings.
Does identity play a role in the way we express ourselves artistically?
You can always find the artist’s identity in an artwork. No matter if the artist chooses to be a part of it or not, its essential for an artwork. It’s about sharing yourself with the audience. Identification. That’s one option to create a connection to a painting.
Irritation. That’s another option to getting the attention of people.
Your subject-matter addresses one of the most important issues of our time: that we are constantly being watched, that our right to freedom is somewhat curtailed by this culture of surveillance. How come you got engaged with this subject?
Voyeurism and Exhibitionism are keys to understanding this worldwide movement of open privacy or disclosed intimacy. This development is becoming more significant nowadays. Therefore I became interested in it.
What is it that interests you in this idea that we are constantly being watched?
I am a part of this voyeuristic society myself. I started by analyzing myself and asking the question: What would it be like to be an observed observer, and tried to translate that into a visual expression. This issue has a lot of components. On one side Facebook, Twitter and social engineering which drives us towards an age of Totalitarian surveillance which is done by everyone – all the time. On the other side the voyeur and the exhibitionist, are just small parts of an even bigger regime which is controlling this observing machinery.
How do you choose the public spaces that you position your protagonists?
These spaces represent the places of my daily life. Transitional urban landscapes everywhere right around the corner. I do recreate them during my work. Only because I understand them do I know how to paint them.
Your point of view, your perspective is the angle of the CCTV camera, which is quite an interesting approach to the human figure. But why did you choose this perspective of looking at the world?
The imaginary observed space is where the viewed one is looking at the viewer. The observed is catching the glimpse of this apparatus, by looking far beyond the lenses of cameras.
Very often than not, you place the viewer in the position of the voyeur. He/she is no longer passive, but an “active member” of what is going on…
The image is not complete without the viewer who is part of a game. He or she is invited to play a part. The characters either seem to wait for the last member of the team or are disturbed in their routine. These gazes during the moments of irritation are, for me, formal lines and they have to be connected to the line which comes from outside. These circuits have to be closed. To complete the picture – the viewer becomes part of it.
In your paintings you always include a person staring outside the picture at the viewer –often quite angrily. This person sometimes is you. How come?
In some paintings it is actually me because they are very autobiographical works. In others I see myself as placeholder for others– actually replaceable by anyone.
What is the procedure behind each painting? Do you work from photographs?
No, because photography has an aesthetic of its own. The camera fails to show the perspectives of imagination.
Why did you choose to work on such a large scale format?
I started with this large scale as a reaction against conceptualism. When I paint it becomes a very long and intensive examination of the subject. The large size allows the viewer to become even closer and more involved in the scene.
In one of your interviews you stated that “we all sit in our own self-imposed prisons. We are both guard and prisoner in one, and angrily observe how we serve time”. Is this work a reaction to this reality?
In these Postpanoptical times that we are living in – Yes, when you think of a reality where super-surveillanced beings are living under a continuous state of emergency in themselves. Extreme plastic surgery, anorexia, bulimia, social exhibitionism, comashopping, and on and on, these are just some examples or metaphors of this all seeing I. But these are also circumstances that were leading towards this schizophrenic moment – where you are both prison-guard and prisoner.
Do you think there is another way to actually live our lives?
Pandoras box is open, but there is hope
Can art bring change? Can it make us question things?
Depends on my mood whether it is optimistic or pessimistic;
but (saying) in general, if it can change me, it could change everyone.
What is the role of art today according to your opinion?
In my opinion, Art is a never ending story. Even in far distant futures people will feel the urge to communicate through art, this is the reason why I think art is as important or non important as ever. In critical times maybe there is a stronger interest to use this channel of expression. Art is reflecting society, like a mirror you might say.
What are you working on at this point?
At the moment I am working on different projects, and I myself am also quite curious to see the results… have a look at http://stylianosschicho.com