1 June 2018

Africa: 'I'm Lucky to Be Born in Africa'

Louisa Alexandra Spyratos is a Greek international artist born in Kenya. She has lived most of her life surrounded by the exotic beauty of the African wildlife, packed with 25 years career in art. Based between Australia and Kenya, Spyratos has made two tranquil corners of the world her base, painting in her studios for exhibitions worldwide. She, alongside a female Nigerian artist - Clara Aden - participated in the one month residency programme under the international programme for artists in-residence by the Omooba Yemisi Adedoyin Shyllon Art Foundation at Abeokuta. She spoke with Ferdinand Ekechukwu about her works, experience in Africa and the residency programme during an open house exhibition

How would you describe the experience during the four weeks residency programme in Abeokuta?

It was challenging. It was a fantastic experience because you got one month of solid painting; but three weeks in the end, few days here and there. But to have that intense time of painting is fantastic because you hardly ever get that even though I paint at home all the time, I have breaks where I go to the beach or I do this and do that so that's why I have breaks. But there I was painting solidly some days 12 hours. So that's very tiring, its quite challenging as in you are producing a lot of works so you have to have lots of ideas in your head and dig deep. You know you have to dig deep. But it takes you into new zones and new ideas like the dots some of my new ideas I mean did a lot of dot paintings. So the experience was good one. But I'm a sporty, active person so to stay indoors so much I go crazy. So, I found the sports centre there and I would go and do sports everyday as my break otherwise I go crazy.

Can you give an overview about some of the works you have on display today?

I have come to Nigeria first time ever in my life. I was very inspired by the market place and the colour there and the things people are wearing which are crazy colours and bling and gold and shiny which is my style. So I was very inspired by the people. So as opposed to African mural life which is what I normally paint, I have begun painting the people of Nigeria. So a lot of them are the people from the market place, the market scenes, the women carrying the big bundles of foods on their heads and the beautiful clothes the men and the women wear and also inspired by the Adire fabrics. I have done some paintings based on the Adire and a few animals of course I have done four African wide life sizes with two of the animals here.

What kind of art materials do you use in your painting works?

I use pure silver 100 per cent. The black converse on my works is actually silver. The rest is copper. So I use copper. I use aluminum, acrylic and pastel cream. I use glitter and all onto canvass.

What defines your artistic style?

It is the colour, it's the medium I use which is a 100 per cent pure silver that has been dyed an amazing colours and it's the way I use the metallic; I got to use copper and gold. I use only silver, copper and gold and the dyed silvers as a collage and I think it's a technique that's quite unique. I have never seen anyone do this, something that I have developed and I think it defines my art.

You mentioned Adire as part of what inspires the kind of work you do. What other materials can you mention?

Colour, shape, texture and movement; I love movement which is the lot of why I paint wildlife. That you also get that in the people and I often try to capture that in the people.

Art is a diverse subject with different meanings. What does it mean to you?

Art to me means beauty and beauty makes us happy so art makes happiness. I think if you surround yourself with beautiful pieces of art that you love it's almost like therapy it makes you a happy person. Every time you look at that painting it has a reaction into your psychology that makes you happy and I think that's important and sort of influences a strong veneer of your life.

What area of art do you specialise in?

I specialise in contemporary art. My art does straddle all genres so you see a bit of contemporary a bit of realism in it a bit of abstract in it. My kind of straddle all genre. But it's basically contemporary work.

You have spent many years in Africa and you are coming to Nigeria for the first time. What's your view about African art?

It is very diverse African arts and it depends on which country you are in. I was born in Kenya. Nigeria is very advanced with their art and the first contemporary artist stayed in back as far 1932. There are really amazing. The art here is much more ingrained into the culture than in Kenya. I think it's more evolved here and more matured here.

How has the experience been like living here in Africa?

Well, I am born in Africa it is my home so I love the experience of it. I love being surrounded by all the craziness and the colour and the wildlife and the beauty. We are very lucky to be born in Africa. I'm very inspired by the stimulation of the senses. And I think in places in Africa I think all your senses are stimulated by colour and smells and sound and it's just crazy lifestyles and it's fun to live in and very stimulating for an artist.

How affordable are your works in terms of the prices?

The prices vary. I have a 25 years career so I have been careful not to raise my prices really fast through the years. I have gradually gone up slowly because it has being my living. And this is the way I live and get my kid through university and all the rest of it. So, I had to make a living out of it. I have to sell constantly. So my prices are very affordable and of course they have gone up since.

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