George Kotsonis

Tell us the story of how you got started, when was the first time you realised you wanted to express yourself through art?

From the time I was a small boy, from elementary school I used to like pictures. I remember once I was looking at a book we had in the house, in which there were pictures of animals.  One neighbour came and borrowed the book, in order to copy something. When the book was returned, the page with the animal, which was a rabbit, was missing. I was very unhappy; I remember I was crying inconsolably.

At school I loved when it was time for Art class, like all the other kids. I remember one day, our teacher took us out in the playground to draw a church that was opposite the school. I tried to represent the church with all its three dimensions and I remember my teacher being impressed by it and showed it to all the other kids. In other words, this was probably the beginning of my motivation into becoming an artist.

Where did you study?

During secondary school I continued drawing and painting, I remember I used watercolours. After finishing secondary school I decided to study art. The first attempt was in England. So in 1958 I left Cyprus to study in England. The economical situation of my family at that time was very bad so I was expecting that I could find a job in England and study part time.

It was a difficult time, I stayed only three months in England at the St. Martins School of Arts, but because of the financial difficulties I returned to Cyprus again very disappointed. I got a job in advertising at the cinema and then I was offered a scholarship to China by our trade unions.

In 1960 I went to China, having studied the Chinese language a year before that, and attended the School of Arts for two years. But I didn’t want to finish my studies in China, because, as you know, our culture was more European and there was a serious possibility that my work would  be influenced by the Chinese way of drawing. Besides the art of oil painting in China didn’t have a tradition. Indeed, most of the Chinese art teachers that taught oil painting had studied in Europe.

Then I applied to different European embassies in Beijing and in the end I managed to get a scholarship in Czechoslovakia. So in 1963 I left China and went to Prague, again after a year training in the Czech language, and finished my studies in 1967.

I then returned to Cyprus, got a job as an art teacher in Paphos and since then I live and work in Paphos. I have done many individual exhibitions in different countries and I have also taken part in a lot of group exhibitions.

Are there any artists that have influenced you?

It is only natural that an artist is influenced by other artists, mostly by the older and more famous classic artists. When you like a certain artist, it is normal to be affected by his works. From the many artists that I admire are from the Renaissance era, such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Titian, Michael Angelo and Raphael. From the modern era I admire Picasso the most and I have also been influenced mainly from the Cubist period.

Do you work with any specific styles or subject matter? What inspires you? What’s the variety of materials you use in your works?

The subjects I paint are different. Any thing in nature can be a source of inspiration for an artist. I like mostly subjects that are inspired by the human figure, that is why most of my works are figures, portraiture and nudes, as well as my special interest in ancient Greek Mythology, which is also evident in my paintings.

In the beginning, I used oil and later I began using acrylics which I found more effective and practical I would say, because it has faster drying properties, giving you the chance to apply one colour over the other without waiting for the under paint to dry. I have also produced works made from mosaic tiles.

How do you keep motivated when things get tough in the studio?

There are always hurdles to jump in the sense that when you draw something, you always encounter problems. But because art is not like mathematics where one plus one is two. In art there can be many solutions for one problem. That is why in the end, I believe that the artist tries and experiments and then applies the solution he thinks is best for his work.

What do you deem as your most significant accomplishment in your life to this day as an artist?

Look, an artist paints, creates and tries to produce work that can be appreciated by people. And I think for an artist, that effort in itself has a great feeling of accomplishment, even more than if a work of his is sold for a huge sum.

The greatest satisfaction is to feel that your work is liked and appreciated by people and I believe that after plenty of years of hard work I managed to create my own personal style of expression. My personal satisfaction is that this specific style has been loved by the wider public.

Are there currently any projects of yours you’d like to tell us about?

I recently had an exhibition in Nicosia that was organized by the Hellenic bank and which ran for a month. It was a very successful exhibition. Now I have an offer from Larnaca, towards the end of the year, probably in November.

Interview by Natalie Hadjiadamos

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