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Art

Fashion industry often claims a widespread recognition of its art qualities. And soon conviction is drawn: fashion is inferior, unworthy, trivial and culturally suspect pursuit: "Fashion is really seen as the bastard child of capitalism and female vanity", Valerie Steele, the director of the Museum of Fashion Institute of Technology once noticed in The Wall Street Journal. The growing recognition of fashion as culture, the numerous fashion houses that started joining forces with contemporary artists, clothing that expresses identity and influence as shown in Art History's masterpieces. What if fashion was to provide the subject of historical research? The aesthetics of clothes, the artistic quality of garments, the systematical disregard by philosophers of fashion and a growing interest of important art museums in displaying the collections of contemporary fashion designers. Which is the balance one could figure? Is Fashion an art form? This interesting dilemma was posed to various artists. And first on our list is Thanos Kyriakides. Let the game begin...

Thanos Kyriakides began his career as fashion editor. In the following years he collaborated with the most prestigious Greek editions of international magazines such as Vogue, L' Officiel Hellas, Harper's Bazaar, Elle, and as consultant and creative director for fashion designers. And in 2007 his whole life changed...

He decided to combine his studies on History of Art, his experience in fashion as well as his visual impairment (retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerating disease of the retina): "Blind Adam" project was about to be born. The transition was about to begin: from managing fashion editorials to creating artworks, inspiring constructions that express more esoteric feelings and transcend the limits of fashion. Inspired by Jean Cocteau's and Giacometti's artwork and by the allegoric tale "The Emperor's new clothes", he creates pieces, that resemble sculptural clothes' skeletons or different forms, depending on the concept.

We met Thanos in his studio overlooking Athens. A man of "great volumes" embraced the decomposition of objects, the degradation and the breakdown of substance. He created a vocabulary so familiar yet so personal. A lot to discuss, many to think about, other to reflect upon...Enjoy!

C.K.: Please, tell us about "Blind Adam".

T.K.: It all started in 2007, when "Blind Adam" was first conceived. It is an ongoing project, a storytelling that in a magical way evolves, guides me to new directions, to different experiences. I was in an transcending period of my life. I had to change. I had reached a certain point working in the fashion industry when everything seemed frozen. From that point on I could not expess myself as freely and unconventionally as I needed. This continuous project, open to various interpretations, became my new path: sharing references, expressing antitheses and setting questions on the ideas of reality, hallucination, blindness, vision, religion, spirituality as well as other fundamental issues that have been always puzzling humanity. It is also a comment on the essence of fashion. That was my turning point.

C.K.: Wans't there enough freedom in fashion?

T.K.: There are always some contracts that need to be respected especially when dealing with advertising companies. That specifi period I used to work in TESSERA, an exquisite publication that nourished my needs, where I had the opportunity to perform as a fashion director as freely as I wanted. I really feel proud of the collaborations I was blessed to experience. But still...the flame was not to be neglected. I needed to communicate my inner thoughts, to share my feelings, to express my own truth. And this process is so valualbe that cannot be compromised with any economic arrangements of benefits. I always had Art as a reference in my work as stylist. Your personal obsessions still haunt you if you do not deal with them. That's what happened. I had to follow this urge. And the idea came unexpectedly. But so powerful that was impossible to resist.

C.K.: What about the specific material you use. Can you describe us the process you follow to form those artworks?

T.K.: Made from shapely reminding, assembled hand-knotted yarn, those works have several references. The whole process is an ascetic experience, an abstemious, self-disciplined inter-dialogue, that brings to surface treasures well hidden. The construction process has 2 stages: by taking double acrylic wool thread. Hundreds of strings are formulated, as I am making frequent knots along its lenght in regular distances and after having made miles of this, I assemlbe the hand-knotted threads to construct the final piece. This time-consuming craftsmanship (many months of production), is per se a transcendental meditation. A "religious" experience. The reminiscent of a chaplet or a "connect the dots" game is revealed and the reference to the Braille system for the blind is present to remind...

C.K.: How would you describe the artwork you have presented until now?

T.K.: Ghostly exoskeleton of garments, rendered in black, these pieces are reminiscent of photographic negatives, a meditation on absence and loss. They speak the forgotten craft of clothes-making, they are the ghost of a garment, a decoded silhouette that still remains unharmed in its own essence. A great absence is obvious. The absence of the body, of a presence, of life itself as well as the actual absence of cloth too. It is the metaphor of the garments. The metaphor of a needed presence that is not yet to come. A shadowy, ghostly effect that is intended. The sketch with black pen on white paper, that comes to life and shares 3 dimensions.It is the degradation of the material and a forthcoming manifestation of a true substance. And as I follow this process I come across things I could never imagine. It is a limitless process that demands absolute dedication, total lucidity. Sometimes it absorbs me. But I am more steady now. I truly observe life. And this never ends. Starting from 2007 till the beginning of 2010, I completed 4 collections / Acts, that were installed in Athens, Hydra, Paris, Italy.

C.K.: That is art I suppose. An unending clarification with one's self and the rest of the world...

T.K.: Exactly! It is another state of being if you choose to follow a greated Need. For me it was a new beginning. A rebirth. A whole cycle closed and another one begins. Fashion is a modus viventi. But Art is the truth in the mirror.

C.K.: Were you scared?

T.K.: Of course. All those years I have been through many practical / economic difficulties. But the path that lies before me gives me strength as I can understand many dynamic forces. And I end up feeling overpowered.

C.K.: How did people react when you first showcased your artworks?
 

T.K.: Well, I suppose with scepticism. At first, fashion coinesseurs could not understand my decision. The first presentation of Collection 1 / Act 1, took place in Bettina boutique in Athens. I still remember that day. My exhibition was part of Athens Fashion Week 2007, as a parallel event and very important people were about to join us. Lydia Kamitsis, fashion historian and theorist, came forward and asked me: "Is thsi one work, you are presenting?". I had no idea. At that point I wasn't sure what I was dealing with. The atmosphere was electrified. I was responsible for charging all visitors. Everybody was asking me questions and I felt that I could not analyze the feeling that guided me through. And step by step my vision started to be formed. The truth is that I feel blessed for some people of the Art world, that came across my work, guided me and gave me insight to what I was trying to express.

C.K.: So I have before me a man that came across with both fields. Truly, do you believe fashion is Art?

T.K.: Fashion is not art. Fashion is inspired by art but everything clearly depends on profit and mass production. It is a retail process. Haute couture functions as a creative field for experimentations, and at some point this is really inspiring. Exquisite collections presented by Elsa Schiaparelli or Vionnet, are part of Fashion's history. There are designers that mange to create a personal universe as Rich Owens or Iris Van Herpen, which I recently admired while attending Haute Couture Fashion Week in Paris. Of course Yohji Yamamoto -the master tailor and fashion genius- and Ann Demeulemeester, the avant-garde of deconstructivism and unconventional/untraditional garments. In fashion editorials too, the work of many photographers, distinguished for the magic that follows their lens, stand out: Helmut Newton, Nan Goldin, Richard Avedon. Robert Mapplethorpe also is one of a kind.

C.K.: Could you name your most beloved, inspiring artists?

T.K.: Artist Cindy Sherman, is a genius as every single work acts as a representation of fashion: the enforcement of social status, the creation of a public image, the cultural extensions. The provocative images of Joel Peter Witkin, the shinny banalite of Jeff Koons, the satirical sculptures of Maurizio Cattelan, the grandmother of performance art, Marina Abramovic, the seductive and oneiric mixedmedia of Rita Ackermann, the distorted universe of Frida Kahlo. In Art History portraiture, or the artistic representation of the Royalty, actually served as a detailed report -the chronicles of each era's fashion trends. The "styling reports" of Flemish painters, the imaginary vision of the loneliness of Goya, the unconventional beauty of Gauguin's exorcized view of Polynesian women, and the first woman artist-glamour star, Tamara de Lempicka, the most fashionable portrait painter of her generation among the haute bourgeoisie and aristocracy. Let me put it otherwise: Art is the Planet and fashion is just an orbiting body, an observing satellite. Simple as that!

All artwork photos © Thanos Kyriakides for eternal-optimist.com

Photos © Dimitra Spiropoulou for eternal-optimist.com/ all rights reserved