The Basis of Everything. An interview with Andreas Kountoureshis

Andreas Kountoureshis is a Greek-Cypriot artist from Nicosia, Cyprus. He is the author of a sophisticated artistic language built up through the refined study of form, iconography and narrative value. His art is able to absorb, re-elaborate and contextualize the lessons of the masters of the past. Each of his canvases is an ode to the expressive and formal refinement and in the following interview we have the possibility to explore what’s behind his creative language.

The artist Andreas Kountoureshis and his artwork "In a Family of Light, Darkest Secrets Hide From Eyes"

Starting from the bottom. Tell us more about your artistic approach. What is your background? How did you start making art?

Ever since childhood, there was always a fascination in observing things, to perceive where they come from, how they are composed, and how they can therefore evolve. Everything seemed like a puzzle, a jigsaw to be solved then piece by piece to be scattered, go back to the beginning and start again. As the years went by, drawing came in to bring tranquility to this quest though it was nothing more than just an activity.

Like any teenager, I aspired to be many things, a psychologist, a film director, a mathematician, an architect. A lifelong dreamer, one would say, always having a hard time adjusting to the reality of things. And then, at the age of around 16, I took up art lessons, aiming to follow architecture. It was there where I started grasping what Fine Art truly is.

Following five years of preparation, at the age of 21, I got accepted into a four-year painting course in Scotland's Gray's School of Art, where I could further explore this path. By working with oils during my time there, upon completion, oil painting was no longer just a medium, but a way of life.

Is there an element of art you enjoy working with the most?

In the past, I had the chance to experiment with different mediums, themes, techniques, and styles. To come from a classical background meant pencil drawing was regarded as the starting point to a piece before other mediums would follow. Using rulers was out of the question. Through still-life compositions and life drawing sessions, I learned the basics - light defines the subject, and shade complements the form. Additionally, through the exploration of themes concerning road junctions, amphibians, reptiles, portraiture, and so on, diversity and depth further enhanced my portfolio.

All materials and subjects practiced then were seen as the foundation leading towards university and eventually to what I am currently working on. I have been using oils for the last eight years now, and, without a doubt, I still feel there is so much more to discover from them as every time a piece nears completion, the pursuit for improvement intensifies.

The good and bad thing about oils is that drying takes a while. On one side, if something doesn't work, you have the chance to scrape off and start again. On the other, if it does, you ought to wait for it to dry. It's a very time-consuming medium, yet in the long term, the durability of quality offered is second to none. Nonetheless, I always draw before commencing a painting, as drawing is crucial to describing imagination.

Are there specific subjects or themes you return to regularly in your art?

"What was Perceived in the Light and What was Conceived in the Dark.". That was the title of my first solo exhibition back in 2018. With this as a guide, I have worked and continue to work on creating different kinds of paintings. The themes themselves come from various places: habitual and natural, philosophical, rhetorical, and metaphysical, propelling the viewer into uncharted waters, both subjectively and objectively. Each scene is depicted by weighing various elements such as space, time, religion, morality, and the desire to question and thus challenge the given.

As everyday life endlessly filters through a continuously changing perception, the aim is to further explore the Mastery of the past through a perspective of the present. By deconstructing the basis with a twist, my work intends to create a portal, roaming on the borders of reality and fiction.

What motivates you to create? What are your influences?

Anything, and, everything. Yet when talking about the totality of matter, whether that be of physical substance or significance one could very well argue that abstraction more than often follows. We as humans have this tendency to value certain objects more so than others. Sentimentality - a product of inheritance, experience, and perception, varying per individual. Yet, it's objectivity that truly guides reason, the extension to oneself.

Vanishing points are often referred to in my work. Some being less visible than others, adjusting to mood and purpose. Still, the simplest components remain constant, unattached. No matter how many lines converge, it all begins and ends with a piece of wood, the painter's palette. Thus, to bring together cores and from purity, to integrate them is itself an infinite drive, an essential to creation.

Influence comes from several sources, from cave paintings to the Baroques and Caravaggio's use of chiaroscuro. From Beksinski's dystopian surrealism to Anselm Kiefer's contemporary textural compositions, sculptures, and installations, the exploration of concepts remains limitless. Additionally, literature and music enhance this search as they give context and rhythm to the visual.

Being part of an underground band for almost ten years now, Nekhrah - an anglicized version of the Greek word 'Νέκρα΄ which means death/deadness and emptiness in Greek, definitely inspired approach towards visualizing and composing artworks. From the primitive to the refined, an edifice's backbone has been set, structured to diminish and reestablish the order of thought.

What is your opinion about the future of art?

In principle, fine art has been created to serve aesthetic and/or intellectual purposes. But before anything takes line, form, space, and value, one needs to acknowledge the significance of the fundamentals of any artwork. That comes through culture, education, and overall awareness of freedom of expression. As the years go by, though, technology is being integrated more and more into our lives, making it almost unnecessary to do things manually. Gradually life turns digital, detaching the human from physical engagement and thus pushing towards a self-centered perception of what existence is.

Given the challenges humanity has been called upon to face this year, technology will inevitably continue to flourish for many, shifting it as the way forward. Undoubtedly, even artists will benefit from these circumstances as chances for exposure and recognition to a broader audience increase. Nevertheless, it 'steals' from the overall sense and feel of what art is and what was supposed to be. To attend museums and exhibitions in real life or even experience a concert, a live performance, a theatre play is irreplaceable. Hence no matter how much the digital world progresses, it is still vital that art stays in touch with humankind.