MELBOURNE/NAARM BASED QUEER VISUAL ARTIST NICHOLAS TSEKOURAS CHATS COLLAGING, CREATING IN COLOUR AND PRESENTING HIS FIRST SOLO EXHIBITION
HEY NICK, HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE WHAT YOU DO TO PEOPLE YOU'VE JUST MET?
Howdy iv! It's such a pleasure to feature in the bulletin - thank you for the opportunity!
I would describe myself as a queer, multidisciplinary visual artist living and working in Naarm. I recently completed a Bachelor of Arts (Visual Arts) and Laws at ACU Melbourne. I am fond of colour and enjoy exploring a range of mediums and techniques in my works. My practice sees me combining mediums like watercolour, acrylic, ink and collage in the same artwork. I never create a work with a single medium and I rarely create anything monochromatic. The themes in my works range from identity, expression, gender, sexuality, human connection and the natural world! I love looking introspectively for ideas and themes in my work and never have trouble knowing what I want to create!
HAVE YOU ALWAYS CONSIDERED YOURSELF TO BE A CREATIVE PERSON?
Always! I remember watching Play School as a child and following along with the activity directions. As a teenager, this creative urge translated in lots of ways - cartoons, origami and doodling. I started to draw dragons, animals and portraits and filled many art books in High School. In University I developed a fascination for water-based mediums and collage. I can say with great certainty that I have spent more time in the art studio than in any other classroom. I have always had an urge to expel my creativity and visual art has always been the most accessible way for me to do that.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO TAKE UP COLLAGE?
I have been collecting assortments of papers that have interested me for over a decade. I never had a reason for collecting them, I just did. The collection included newspaper trimmings, business cards, magazine cutouts, little drawings, photographs and things that have interested me for whatever reason. When Melbourne's first lockdown hit, I was pondering new mediums to explore and my mind took me to my collection I had been hoarding. I finally knew what I would do with it all. Collage was the answer. By halfway through 2020, I had created a series of over 20 A3 mixed media collages.
Today, collage is such an integral part of my artistic practice. I have developed a number of works with the medium and am continuously exploring its potential in different ways. I am very attracted to the medium for two reasons - it is sustainable (I only ever use found materials) and its ability to quickly and effectively communicate ideas visually. I think that collage is such an underused and underappreciated medium, thus why I am so passionate about teaching creators about it in my workshops.
DO YOU THINK THE PANDEMIC HAS AFFECTED YOUR CREATIVE JOURNEY?
The pandemic has been devastating for the arts sector. I have had three exhibitions rescheduled due to Melbourne's lockdowns. I have not been able to collaborate or network with fellow artists or visit galleries. Even now that we are out of lockdown, there is still a lot of hesitancy for people to emerge and enjoy art so it has been quite difficult.
Although, the pandemic has been positive in some ways (no that was not a typo). The continuing of lockdowns allowed more time for me to practice my passion. I have always been in touch with my creative side and always envisioned it as a hobby. Slowly but steadily, I realised that I could do it as a career.
Lockdown has also provided me with an accessible and affordable way to run my collage workshops. While running them online is not ideal (zoom fatigue is real) it is a fun option now and then to bring a lot of joy to people in these difficult times!
HOW DO YOU THINK YOU HAVE DEVELOPED YOUR CREATIVE CONFIDENCE?
Time! It’s taken a long time for me to get to this stage of my creative process. It has been a result of personal development and learning from other creatives. I have only made my practice more commercially viable in the last year. For many years I was finding my feet and my style. My Bachelor of Arts (Visual Arts) from Australian Catholic University exposed me to so many like-minded individuals and has helped me become the confident individual I am today.
IS THERE SOMEONE YOU DAYDREAM ABOUT WORKING WITH IN THE FUTURE?
So many! If they were still alive, I would have loved the opportunity to work with Pablo Picasso, Jean-Michel Basquiat or Gordon Bennett. I have always been fascinated by their respective works and still am inspired by them all today.
My top two inspirations whom I could work with (both of whom happen to be queer) are Paul Yore (@paul.yore) and Humberto Cruz (@iscreamcolour). Their works are breathtaking, vivid and political, all attractive qualities to me. I am also very inspired by many others like Silvia Pelissero (@agnes_cecille) and Kathryn del Barton (@delkathrynbarton) and would not turn down any opportunity to work either!
ARE YOU WORKING ON ANYTHING SPECIFIC AT THE MOMENT?
I sure am! I love to keep busy by always having multiple works on the go. It keeps things interesting and allows me to focus on whatever I am in the mood for. I have three large scale works on paper that I am in the process of finalising. They are all very abstract, colourful and multimedia works. All of them developed quite naturally from an urge to expel my thoughts onto paper. I’m keen to see how they turn out!
I am also working on a series of collages, each one focusing on a specific colour. I got inspired to create the works when I found a vintage set of cellophane swatches. I found it when sourcing collage materials from my local Good Karma Facebook group and became inspired to match these swatches with pieces of collage of the same colour.
There are several exhibitions I am currently preparing for and finalising works for. I am juggling a lot of balls in the air right now!
WE SEE YOU'VE BEEN RUNNING COLLAGE WORKSHOPS ONLINE AND NOW IN-PERSON, TELL US ABOUT IT.
My workshop journey started in 2020 when I ran an online workshop with Connection Arts Space, a non-for-profit art organisation in the South West. They were looking for artists to run online workshops during Melbourne's first lockdown and I eagerly put my hand up. It was the first workshop I had run, ever, not to mention one focusing solely on collage. I was incredibly nervous but knew educating others about art was always a secret passion of mine. The workshop was such a success that I decided to continue running them myself, advertising them through my Instagram (@tsekourasarts). In the workshop, I teach everyone a brief history of collage, go through some creative warm-ups and give them detailed instructions on how to make a simple yet effective collage. I never put any pressure on anyone through the workshop to produce anything specific, as long as they’re expelling creativity I am pleased.
I have now run more than 40 workshops, independently and for a range of organisations such as Midsumma Festival, Bridge Darebin, Connection Arts Space, Yarra Youth Services, City of Casey, City of Boroondara and Artful Dodgers Studios. It has been such a privilege to be delivering these workshops across Melbourne. Educating others about art is something I have discovered I am quite passionate about and something I wish to continue doing for a long time.
WHAT ARE THE BEST PLACES YOU FIND INSPIRATION?
I love walking through nature and am always inspired by the natural world. Humans also serve as a great source of my inspiration. Almost all of my works focus on the human condition.
Pre-pandemic, I was a regular at many local galleries and constantly exposed to other artists works which would inspire me. My inspiration now comes from the online world and images I find on Instagram. This planet is not short of talented individuals. It's great to be connected to them virtually during these strange times.
WHAT'S SOMETHING YOU ARE SUPER PROUD OF THAT YOU'VE MADE?
I am generally proud of everything I produce but if I was to pick something I am ‘super proud of’ I would choose my largest piece in my graduate show collage series titled ‘yun chow’. It is easily the series that I have poured the most time and effort into and the most cohesive set of works I have ever made. The pieces document my evolution from birth to the present, touching on themes of identity, sexuality, gender, and expression. The first piece is around A4 size and the sixth piece is almost 6 times bigger. The artworks grow in size and reflect the growth I have experienced over my life.
HAVE YOU GOT ANYTHING EXCITING COMING UP?
I am currently exhibiting my ‘drip’ collection at Brunswick Street Gallery until the 13th of February and have also just wrapped up a series of ‘identity’ collage workshops with the Midsumma Festival both of which have been super exciting! I have three more exhibitions planned for the year at One Be Gallery (North Coburg), Red Gallery (North Fitzroy) and The Hayshed (Berwick)! Each of the exhibitions will be presenting very different collections of works thus, each bringing a unique exhibit to the space.
I also have lots of fun new workshop ideas and other exciting projects to come in 2022, but none that I can reveal just yet! Be sure to follow me on Instagram (@tsekourasarts) to get all the information when the time comes!
You can visit more of Nick’s work via the links below
'drip’ by Nicholas Tsekouras