Work On Portraits II - ΙΩΝ
interview by Maria Dikaiakos

25 January 2008
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_αυτή η συνέντευξη στα Ελληνικά
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Mary:Hi Ion! It's been two years since your last photographic work. How do you feel now when you look back?
Ion: Hi Mary! "Work on Portraits" has had an amazing reception from people, it's true. I was quite surprised since I had no connection neither with the photographic nor the journalistic community of this country and everything happened on its own. However, if it were not for the director of Fotografos magazine, my gallerist mr. Kyriakakis and Pamela Browne who believed in my work, I doubt i would have done it so well. I can never thank them enough.
Mary: What have you been doing for the last couple of years. You have a new work ready, right?
Ion: Yes. "Work on Portraits II" is almost ready and compared to my previous work, which was mainly instict, this time I've done my homework.
Mary: What do you mean?
Ion: Look. My relationship with art has always been a little careless. I rarely visited any art space or bought any relevant books. It's strange since I've always loved art. After my previous work, and given the fact that what i do resembles painting so much, I felt it was high time I visited some museums and studied some painters. It was indispensable to know what has already been created or at least to get an idea.
Mary: Talk to us about your studies.
Ion: Sometime ago, a young guy came to me, pulled out of his pocket one of those ipods and started to show me images from my first work. I was astonished! He had downloaded it all from my site. He said to me that he tried to figure out whether I am a painter or a photographer or a painter who's become a photographer and, in the end, much to his liking, he let it go. He said that he found this undefinied element, very intriguing.
However, since I am a teenager no more, I find such mystery more amusing than necessary so I am going to reveal that my only studies were six years of Medicine and two years of b/w photography. For the rest, you may as well consider me, self-taught.
Mary: How do you spend your days?
Ion: I live a very private life with very few friends. I travel often without staying for long anywhere. I walk a lot, i watch no television nor do I read the papers, I only follow with interest the advances in Medicine and Physical science. I am a passionate cook and I'm literally surrounded by cameras, synths and sauce pans! (laughs)

Mary: What was the main concept behind your new work. It is a continuation of your previous one, right?
Ion: Right. "Work on Portraits II" takes the concept of my previous work where each subject was in a direct dialogue with its background and expands it. The faces in the images now acquire an additional, inner dimension. Try to visualize an atom with a nucleus at the center and the particles in a continuous rotation around it. In place of the particles you may put concepts like duality, ambiguity, expectation, loneliness, syllogism and there where the nucleus is, you may put the human being. This way, you might get a clearer idea of what was the motive and main concept behind "Work on Portraits II". If this work didn't have the title it has it could easily be called, "The perspective within".
Mary: Now, I would like to talk to you about some images in detail. Tell me about the "The messenger".
Ion: "The messenger" is perhaps my most "classic" in the classical meaning of the term, image. It is a portrait of Danae and an image that simply had to be done. It was a game for me and a clear statement that it is not necessary for someone to have actually studied painting in order to correctly render the light, the form, the colour. Let me add that Danae was photographed on the balcony of her appartment under an even cloudy sky and that the whole image consists of five different ones, the portrait of Danae, a window from the Catholic church of St. George in Syros, a landscape outside Vergina, a pigeon in the "Vassilikos Kipos" in Athens and a detail the two birds in a distance. Now i have this suspicion that messengers were not actually white so if this is the case please do consider my intervention as purely artistic. (laughs)
Mary: In this work we also find a portrait of a dog. How would you comment on that?
Ion: Tell me first. Do you like it?
Mary: Sure. It is one of my favorites!
Ion: Ok! It's "Pipina" and what makes this portrait so interesting is the dog's actual expression, interrogating and apologetic at the same time. She literally returns the viewer's gaze! Expect more animal portraits in the future..
Mary: In this work we also find two portraits of the writer, Zyranna Zateli.
Ion: Yes. I have a deep respect for her work. Ms. Zateli was one of the very few well known persons I approached and a person who accepted my invitation with eagerness and a good heart.
Mary: How do you work on an image? What exactly do you do and how long does it take?
Ion: I have a big archive of photos taken while travelling or during my promenades. I always carry a camera with me even if it is only a point and shoot. The background in "Aggelos", "The hunter II" or even the one in "Zyranna Zateli" was taken with a point & shoot camera. When I have decided what the final composition will be and have gathered all my material, I start working on the computer. From now on, each portrait takes 40-120 hours in order to complete. For example "Eleni" required 100 hours of work, preposterous if you think that the image keeps its original background. Eleni was photographed in a corridor of her school - you can actually see this at the bottom.
It is a lonely job!..

Mary: Where does your inspiration come from?
Ion: From my memories and the conception I have of nature.
Mary: What kind of "tools" do you use? Is there something unusual that you do?
Ion: For the portraits and most of the backgrounds, I use my favourite digital SLR. A very compact and light camera. I really hope that technology will soon allow me to exclusively use a pocket camera for all of my shooting and maybe in the future my mobile phone's camera. Another eccentricity of mine is that I never use studio lighting.
Mary: Why?
Ion: I find it annoying. I see studio portraits and I really can't stand it. I am certain that sooner or later I'll have to use it as well but maybe by then, I'll find a formula of my own. We shall see..
Mary: Which are the artists you prefer? Those you admire and whose work you find inspiring?
Ion: There are scattered pictures here and there. I like the photographic portraits of Diamantopoulos senior, Jeanloup Sieff's work, many of Salvador Dali's and Rene Magritte's paintings, some of Rembrandt's and Raphael's and some of Gottfried Helnwein, mainly his watercolours. I also have great admiration for many of the things Jean Paul Goude has done and for Mauro Balletti, a very talented conceptual artist with a low profile. These are artists who influence many contemporary artists as well. I realise it daily.
Mary: Is there something you do that one would consider a little bit crazy or eccentric?
Ion: Sometimes while walking, I look at my shoes to make sure I'm wearing the same pair. Can you believe it? (laughs)
Mary: What are your plans for the future? Should we expect a new work and how soon?
Ion: I hope "Work on Portraits II" goes well! It took me two years to complete it, but i needed this time to experiment. An experimentation of profound importance to me. As a work it is a step beyond my previous one both technically and conceptually. For the future, I have under consideration a series of nude portraits, a "Work on Nudity" while I continue working on more portraits. It took me quite a while you know to understand the obvious. That the Earth does not rotate around me if you know what I mean. At least, no more than how it rotates around each one of us..
And that is a start!