Skateboard art in Dubai

Greek-American artist Fotis Gerakis on ‘Street Art Goes to the Opera’

Interview

Skateboard graphics are just as much a part of the world of skateboarding as the hobby itself. In an effort to set manufacturers apart, many companies introduced graphics to their boards in the ’70s. Over the years they went from simple logos to a new way of showcasing underground art to a generation of young skateboarders. A new exhibition, ‘Street Art Goes to the Opera’, by Greek-American artist Fotis Gerakis, showcases this art form. It’s on display at Cities butique in Galleria Mall from Sunday April 19 to Wednesday 29. Gerakis tells us more about the exhibition’s aim to encourage viewers to discover this creative world of art.

Explain the work and what inspired you to create it.
The exhibition is a collection of playful experiments. Influenced by street and urban art, this collection leaves the street behind. It is wearing a tuxedo with sneakers and has the naivety of a teenager and the experience of a man of the world.
Some of my favourite artists had a show in a spray paint shop called Box Gallery in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki. It was there that I bought my first painted skateboard by artist Ser. It captivated me as an idea and it soon became an obsession. I started painting and the result is a highly diverse body
of work.

You have painted images of iconic women such as Marilyn Monroe, Sophia Loren and Brigitte Bardot. Why these actresses?
Their allure, glamour and beauty defined their era and influenced generations to come. Their faces have determined a path of consumerism – they are popular icons and in many ways, products. That’s why in my artworks, they are married to brands from their respective countries of origin: American soup, French cigarettes and the Italian Vespa. When Andy Warhol was reproducing Marilyn’s face in all those colourful versions, this was exactly his point: It was a commentary on popular culture and consumerism of the ’60s and ’70s; a society that consumed Campbell’s soup.

You’re a fan of Frida Kahlo. How has the Mexican artist’s work impacted you as an artist?
Kahlo is strong woman who I admire. It’s her persona and what she stands for, along with her Mexican cultural influence that really inspires me, rather than her actual work. Her early life was punctuated by several debilitating accidents and illnesses. She was known for her self-portraits, painted in a raw, naive manner, which conveyed her strength, loneliness and honest self-depiction. Although Kahlo tended to paint herself as unattractive, focusing on her flaws, I have chosen to depict her beauty ion my work. After frequent visits to Mexico and to Kahlo’s house in Mexico City, I was entranced by her colourful and symbolic pieces.

Do you think street art is overlooked in the industry?
People have traditionally viewed art as pieces hung or seen in the space of a gallery or a museum. Some street art has gained great recognition, but this is very rare. The elitism of the art industry has narrowed in on work that in many cases alienates the ordinary man. I am hoping for the chance to spark a new renaissance that will give street art its much-deserved place in the industry.

Have you always worked in this style?
As a child I remember flipping through a multi-volume illustrated encyclopaedia of the great museums of the world. That was my first introduction to art, so I would say that I had a classical training. This style of painting started as a loose exercise. It was a chance to do something fun, and to take the style of urban and street art to a different level; to elevate its standards and give it an art history and design makeover. It was a journey through my soul and it collected all the things that I always wanted to do. It’s a collection of dreamlike snippets of my life.
Street Art Goes to the Opera. Sat-Wed 10am-10pm; Thu-Fri 10am-midnight. April 19-29. Cities boutique, Galleria Mall, Al Wasl Road (04 3434 301).

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