Kyriacou’s sketch work are innocently sinister, with an aura of vintage look and a here-and-there political undertone.
an article written by Marie Bertelsen
ARTICULATE #26 | JAN 2021
The drawings of Greek artist Nefeli Kyriacou (b. 1990) range from dashes of colours to surfaces covered in pastel, perhaps water coloured art. The material and media ranges, but more on that later.
The artwork looks a lot older than it is. Not retro, but more so vintage, and antique. They could perfectly well be suited as illustrations in a book, of course tastefully
Similar to Pan’s Labyrinth, her style is a dark fantasy, although of course more friendly. However, the slightly cubistic, modern layers remind us of something newer. The simple squares and geometric patterns create depth, experimenting with texture. Perhaps graphical design, is something it reminds us of?
Representation, more political
Once Kyriacou decided to become an artist, she realised it was a point of no return. From there it was impossible to give up and present herself as something else. It has become her duty to speak for the audience which she represents which are the people with the same fears and troubles as her, but without speaking the platform and language she can use. She has a clear purpose in terms of representativity, speaking on behalf of the silenced and unheard voices. Either it is political, or it is a latent factor.
This leads us to the political aspect of her art. She mixes motives of different ethnicities and cultures, taking us with her as a traveler touring the world, perhaps being a nomad having sketched various people and cities near the Gold Coast and Southern Spain. Yes, she could very well illustrate adventure and old travel books.
To me, it reminds me of something from the 30’s or 40’s, however the political messages and viewpoint jumps across eras. Examples are the blues movement in the US in the early 20th century, up to the recent bombing of Lebanon, references to George Floyd, and the current Black Lives Matter. Focusing as well on drugs and poverty, her art is clearly not without a message. They take an antique look but takes on modern life.
Most of Kyriacou’s artwork from 2013-2017 are made with oil and dry pastels, spray paint, graphite, oil colors and sometimes pieces of engravings as collage. These materials are usually used in combination.
This fits well with one of the key points from Kyriacou’s work, which is to continue putting things out, experimenting, and showing them “raw” and clear. This is clearly shown in her use of paper installations.
In the past few years, her work has moved into different directions. Kyriacou started working a lot with pencils and started taking steps towards paper installation. After finishing her studies in School of Fine Arts in Thessaloniki- Greece, Kyriacou decided that she did not want to adopt a specific formula in her work, but instead just live and be with the art. Kyriacou want to evolve as much as possible as an artist. Her solution is to not be afraid of creating experiments such as constantly finding new materials. Kyriacou simply likes trying new media to create art with.
Original idea is pretty firm
Usually, Kyriacou has an idea in mind when starting on a new artwork or project. However, when she starts to create her art, the technical details change and evolves the further she gets into the creation. It does not change her original idea, but it does improve it.
There are also times Kyriacou has to work, but without having any specific idea. If that happens, it helps to return to older artworks, literary works, or things that has inspired her and try to improve her technical skills. Through this kind of work, ideas are born.
It can be as impulsively as seeing or reading something at random, but searching for articles, photos, music, or anything relevant to the initial idea. Through this process, the subject starts to take shape in her mind
Kyriacou explains that she speaks different languages, but the one she uses in her artwork communicates directly to the sentimental world we possess.
It can be an advantage having a language not everyone speaks, but instead feels. For Kyriacou the images she creates are made to speak, usually the small things in our everyday life can be a source of fascination for Kyriacou. As human we are fascinated by the beauty, but to her the ugliness is more fascinating. Something we create as people can be ugly, but we have the ability to reform and reshape it into something beautiful. Reality itself can be beautiful, if we take a closer look, she says.
Kyriacou does everything, but she does not limit herself when she draws inspiration. Inspiration is found by everything that has to do with human behavior, its impact on society, and even everything around us.
More than that, Kyriacou likes to refer not only to the present but also to the past. We can understand her way of creating art by comparing it to the art of anthropology. But where they simply collect and present old memories and artefacts, she uses them as tools. In her mind, humanity leaves its fingerprints through time, and her job is to collect the memories, the conclusions, and images which can be found from. As human we will build the future using tools from the past, she states.
In that way, Kyriacou can be described as a nostalgic soul. Referencing to older times, in the past, and using older medias, she lingers in the past, but only briefly, as to return to the present.
Focused on theory, rather than impulse.
How do you create a good composition? Kyriacou believes the key to a good composition is first and foremost working on the artwork for a long time, not being afraid of making "mistakes", and most importantly having a clear theoretical framework. Materials do not by default make a good composition., but the frameworks will give you directions on how to use the materials. If what you want to express is clear in your head then the good composition will probably come through continuous work, Kyriacou states.
Kyriacou’s main influence is found in music, instead of other visual artists. I believe a majority of people relates to this. Interestingly, Kyriacou as a visual artist, prefers music, which is a translation from one artform to another. It is an expression that talks straight to the heart. It even "controls" your heart beats! African American blues music and folk music in general has affected her the most, exactly due to the direct way it speaks to us. It is music made by common people for common people, made to make you hold hands with each other. Human behavior both excites and influences how Kyriacou expresses herself in her artwork.
However, she mentions a single artist. What specific artists are Kyriacou influenced by? That would be the American contemporary artist Swoon (b. 1977), or also named Caledonia Curry. The combination of street style and common materials makes her art accessible to a broader audience, and this is very important nowadays, Kyriacou states. I would describe Swoon as less elitist and more focused on creating art in an eye-to-eye fashion.
This article about Nefeli Kyriacou takes part of the 26th magazine, ARTICULATE #26. Read, download or order your print version of the full publication below.
ARTICULATE #26 | International
ARTICULATE 26 is a magazine for contemporary art, packed with 80 pages of high quality content, showcasing the work of 5 professional artists, featuring the German painter Volkano, the French street art duo Murmure street, the American illustrator and visual artist Steven Russell Black, the Greek disturber Nefeli Kyriacou and Brazilian creative photographer Jacke Batista.