With a penchant for everyday objects transformed into brightly colored pieces of art, Aristeidis Lappas’ pieces are unignorable. They draw your eye from across the gallery, or as the case is right now, from across the street. Lappas has taken over the display window at Transformer in celebration of his collaboration with them on their upcoming silent auction and while the art hints toward urban grime and ambition, his use of color and sculpture conveys those feelings in a whole new way.
In person, Lappas is quieter than his technicolor work, but it doesn’t take much to get him energized. He’s passionate about Athens’ art scene and its rising international attention, but he’s especially interested in his cities growing DIY scene. Athen’s, he explains, is covered with graffiti and street art and it’s there that Lappas draws his inspiration.
While you read about Lappas’ CCR cover band and his feelings on wheat paste versus spray paint, don’t forget to grab tickets from Transformer’s upcoming silent auction, where you can bid on pieces from by him and other amazing Greek artists curated by Lappas.
How did you get involved with Transformer?
There’s a gallery in Athens called State of Concept and I’ve worked with them previously. When Transformer came over to Athens, I was asked to do a presentation for them about my work. Afterwards, Victoria and James came over to my studio and I showed them around. They liked the work, so they proposed this idea. And it happened.
How often do you do traveling exhibitions?
It’s actually my first time. Well… No. I’ve done another one in London.
What made you want to do it?
Just coming over and seeing what things are like. I wanted to check things out.
Can you tell me a little bit about the pieces that you brought?
The paintings I brought over for the exhibition are from a series that was based around this narrative about two brothers that were living in the city and growing up… what they would get into everyday and their activities. One of them is a painting of someone rollerblading and one is someone skating. It’s working around an urban environment type of setting.
And then the installation for the storefront… I built it around this painting. The painting is called the “Punctual Superhero.” It’s basically a coffee cup. With the whole culture of moving around and grabbing coffee to go. From that came the idea of someone on their break having a cigarette. Again, just working around the urban environment, there’s also a drain under the painting and there’s a little sculpture of an ashtray with smoke. That was the sort of idea around the installation.
When you’re creating these pieces, do you have a particular city in mind?
I live in Athens, so that was my initial inspiration, but I think these things interconnect on some levels. I was actually surprised at how relevant this idea became in this environment. The way I was thinking about it and the way I was making it was utilizing different elements urban environment in Athens, like the smoking. In Athens everyone smokes. Coffee is a thing everywhere. Athens is a pretty dirty city, so with the drains. Also the pavement, that’s another thing here. So I utilized these different aspects during the installation, but bringing it over here… Somehow, that thing I was working on over there, fit really well in this context. Which was really interesting.
I’m thinking a lot about that. How the different narratives sort of come together and overlap and make a creative dialect between each other. I think the break time concept fits in with the environment. The running around constantly from here to there, picking up lunch, getting some coffee.
You do a lot of pieces around these common household objects. How do you pick those objects? Why do they make you sit down and want to work with them?
I think it came out of wanting to connect with a certain culture. In Athens, and every here, it came up because I wanted to make a connection between painting, a fine art type of setting. I don’t really like using that word, but I wanted to make a connection between that and a more street culture. More underground situations.
When did you start seriously thinking of yourself as an artists?
That’s funny. I’ve considered myself an artist for a while. It’s about figuring out what you’re saying and what you want to do. I’ve considered myself an artists for a while, but through that I’ve been exploring a lot of myself through my work. It’s also something I’ve always kind of done. I think the closest thing I could have gone for, my other option, would have been to be a drummer. Or something like that.
Do you play?
Yeah. Now, not that much. I used to play much more.
Where you in a band? What was your band’s name?
Yeah. It was a very shitty band.
Everyone’s first band is a shitty band. No one does it right the first time.
I don’t even remember… It was Runaway Jesters. Something like that. I was like 16-years-old. We played covers. Like CCR covers.
Creedence Clearwater Revival?
Yeah. That kind of stuff.
That’s amazing. What is your planning process like when you’re working on a piece? Do you work in bursts? Do you get things done in one go? Do you listen to music? What time do you work?
In the darkest of night! No [laughs]. Every time it’s different. For example, the pieces I was telling you about with the rollerblades and the skateboard, I was working on them over time. When I started the paintings they were something completely different from what they became. It sort of took a while for me to solidify what I wanted to go for. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted it to be and I was changing my mind a lot. I also had a full time job while I was doing them, so I didn’t have a lot of time to focus on them. After that, I worked on another groups of works that I started building based on a concept. I started building them around an idea and that idea informed the painting. Now, the work I want to do when I go back is… I know it’s a solo show. I planned out the structure for the show and certain key elements I want to focus on. I have a rough idea and based on that I want to build the paintings.
But you can’t plan things all the way through. That’s the kind of nice part about it. You’ve got to figure out the balance between what you plan and what you don’t plan. Sometimes things come out that you weren’t expecting. You make discoveries.
When it comes to the Transformer auction, how did you figure out which Greek artists you wanted to be involved?
At the moment, the Athenian art scene is kind of picking up. There are things happening, there are galleries opening, and the art scene is getting some international attention… But the artists that work around that are already at a certain point in their practice and in their career. There’s another crowd that’s quite distant from that, even in their social circles, or in what they’re doing. These spaces have their sort of thing.
The artists I wanted to approach were artists who, I knew there work was significant and is sort of concrete and they know what they’re talking about. Also, they’re kind of underrepresented in the scene, but their work is very on point in regards to the Athenian reality. It’s the dialogue that I think Athens should be having with different places.
I read an article you were quoted in in 2016, that Athenian artists weren’t getting that international attention. Has it gotten better since then? Why?
Yeah. Things are picking up. After Documenta, things started picking up. Basically, there is a surplus of space in Athens and gradually that’s being used more and more. Galleries are opening and they’re starting to get attention.
It is always funny that things like this boil down to real estate. If you don’t have the space, people can’t stay there. It’s so boring, but it’s all about real estate.
It’s the same in London and Berlin. It’s a super basic thing, space.
Would you say that Athens has a defined style?
I’d say it has a certain flavor. There’s many people doing different things. I think it is kind of grimy… it’s got some underground connotations. It’s definitely not as clean as Berlin and London.
Do you think that your art is informed by the people in the scene?
Definitely. But also, lately the things I was influenced by are less from the fine arts scene. Like I was really influenced by graffiti and I think there’s a lot of juice in graffiti and whats happening there. Also the skating community and things like that.
Yes, I think that’s very important. Specifically for the Athenian concept. And that’s what I was saying before about drawing a connection between the fine art world and the skater crowd. These more DIY scenes. I think these guys manage to make something out of nothing. They pick up different resources and make something that has a lot of significance and some very strong points.
Are you apart of that scene?
I try to be. I’m like the lamest one of all of them! I do this and that but I’m really not good. I want to do as much as I can.
What’s your tag?
Pictor. It means painter in Latin. I’ve had it since I was 14.
Are you more a wheat paste guy or…?
No, I actually think graffiti is more on point than street art. There was a point where it hit its peak with the Banksy stories… but then it passed away. I just really like the way these guys are playing with form. I think it’s very interesting because painting has a culture and a history, and it’s very easy for that to get recycled. But graffiti has evolved from graffiti and the stuff they’re doing is very relevant in a more painter-ly aspect, with their form and composition. It’s super cool stuff.