|July 18, 2011 | ART||Posted by James Watkins|
Yanni Floros tells it like it is and wastes few words. He exudes a confident, no-nonsense manner, yet is quick to laugh. The man is the creator of the “head series”: sinfully intensive charcoal renderings of silky girl’s manes and men’s faces entombed in their vocational uniforms, a dramatic departure from his earlier works exploring 3D with metal sculptures of the ultra-twisty variety.
I’ve attended his exhibit at the Affordable Arts Fair, spoken in depth to him during our phone interview, exchanged e-mails and pleasantries over Facebook and stood only a few meters away from him… but I’ve never once looked into Mr Floros’ eyes and gauged the artist himself. The idea of an artist itself is a mesmeric kind of enigma, each as different and varied as the next like a city built of snowflakes. Yanni was kind enough to let me whip out the scalpel and dissect his creativity.
Can you describe your art?
The charcoal stuff is what I’ve been doing for the last year. It’s something I’ve been wanting to pursue because it’s so different from the metal work. I’ve always loved drawing but realism is a challenge especially in this day and age because we’ve got all the other stuff that helps us with realism like computers, photography and tech. Charcoal is a difficult medium and it’s always good to have that challenge and do that.
What about the metal sculptures?
The metal sculptures I’ve based on architectural designs and things that I’ve liked to look at in buildings like Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright ’s work. It’s all line work usually with a bit of other stuff, like glass. I did the sculptures four years ago when I showed them, they are actually in Melbourne at the moment. They’re about the size of a desk, you can put them on a table. They’re not that big, they’re just the right size.
What’s your artistic process?
The charcoal is a little bit more in depth because with charcoal you have to be very careful, you stain paper, you make mistakes, and you can’t rub it out. You have to have a process, otherwise it’s just – it’s a nightmare. It’s why people ask: “How do you do this? How do you do that?” Don’t look at the charcoal like it’s a stick. It’s got lots of different ways of being. Like water – water can be a gas, liquid, ice. If you look at charcoal like that, it works better for you.
The metal is a lot of heat. And a lot of bending. And a lot of cutting and measuring.
How long does it take to do one piece?
It depends on the piece. Some pieces I’ve worked on for six weeks, others I’ve completed in a week. Eight or ten hours. With a lot of toilet breaks.
But I don’t really look at the time it takes for one piece. I look at the time it took me to get to the level where I could do that. It took me fifteen years of learning how to draw just to be able to do that in X amount of time. A lot of people ask that and it really just varies. It depends on how much detail you want to put in it. Also the subject matter.
So how do you choose your subjects?
It’s more of a subconscious thing – I use what I like, the female DJs for example. I use those because it was part of the head series: the scuba diver, the fighter pilot, the fire fighter. I wanted to pick a DJ, but not a male since it’s a male dominated industry. I mean, what’s sexier than a female DJ? Since it’s so much fun to draw, I used some models of friends and stuff and they all let me do it.
I worked from photographs and sometimes from life. It’s a lot of information to take down while someone’s standing there, so it’s always better to take a photograph and always just keep it as a reference. Don’t be a slave to the photo, use it as a starting point then you add whatever it is through the lens of who you are.
Is there a reason you didn’t include the faces?
Some of them have a hint of a face. I wanted to stay away from that so you didn’t know who it was. It’s more of a being. I wanted to stick with that. I could draw beautiful girls faces but it’d just defeat the purpose. You’d just be taken aback by the face rather than what it’s about.
How many layers would you say there was with the charcoal drawings?
I don’t know. It evolves and it’s organic and it just goes – whatever you need. Maybe 50 or 60? It just keeps changing and growing so there’s always the first layer, basic tones and then you work into that with eraser and charcoal. Then you work back into that with dust and then you just keep rubbing back into that and keep going and going.
Have you ever worked on a piece and lost interest in or god forbid, chucked it?
There is one in recent memory. I don’t usually use a lot of photoshop, I kinda wing it and I used a photograph I like and then I draw them. This photography, I obviously missed something that looked a little awkward. Once I drew it into the drawing, I was just kicking myself. Why didn’t I see that earlier? I had to abandon the drawing after a week’s work.
It hurts your confidence. How could I get it so wrong? But you bounce back and keep working.
Not to be so insipid, but who inspires you?
Definitely my parents. My father because he would draw diagrams; he was in the army, he’d draw diagrams of things in the army. The mechanics of them. This is where all the technology or ideas behind that comes from. Definitely Dad and old masters – always because I grew up coping all their drawings so I could understand what their thinking was and the architects I mentioned before.
When was your first gallery showing?
With the Leftbridge Gallery for the drawings. They’ve been excellent, helped me out so much and gave me a chance to show. I’m happy to stick with them. Joel Rea, Marcel Desbiens, Brett Lethbridge, Ai Shah are a lot of other great artists that show there.
Do you travel a lot as an artist?
I show in two galleries – Lethbridge in Brisbane and Scott Livesey in Melbourne.
I live in Adelaide. I used to live in Sydney until a year and a half ago. Only recently have I jumped around, I’ve been going places and having a few shows. As of this year, I’ve travelled four or five times. I’ll be going to Brisbane next month for my show. It’s my first solo show.
Did you know you wanted to be an artist when you were young?
I’ve always liked drawing and doing that stuff when I was younger. I knew I could draw and if I worked on it, I could become better. Just getting into it though came when I was a bit older, then I went to art school and I really liked it and I had no idea what else to do. It felt into lap as well and it went hand in hand.
Are there any plans to expand or go international?
That’s be great! Take it as it comes. I’m still working on building a reputation here in Australia. Just gotta work on what’s happening here.
Finally, do you have any advice for aspiring artists?
Enter into every and any competition you can.
I applied to eight or ten of them and I got into two.
That’s how I got my break with Lethbridge – I entered the Lethbridge 10,000 competition. I thought to myself, “How could I get my art out there and show people?” When you’re an unknown, it’s really difficult to walk into any gallery and say, “Here’s my stuff.” Some galleries won’t even look at you. So I entered every competition.
I didn’t win any of them, Ai Shah won the Lethbridge 10,000 but they still liked my stuff enough to give me a shot.
So just keep working at it. Just keep putting yourself out there.
Words: Melissa Kuttan