In a country where protest and anarchy are part and parcel of daily life, Greek artist Stelios Faitakis is raising questions in a nation where an emerging generation is desperately seeking social change. The need to break out of staunch traditionalism and archaic political practices is evident in the contemporary and underground art scenes making waves across Greece, and Faitakis has ridden every crest. With a knack for transporting ancient politics into modern times, his work is openly satirical, controversial, yet aesthetic and respectful of the history of his craft. He explains that he “depicts anarchists as saints, since I see them as a positive force and I convert the original use of Christian iconography to use for my own cause. It is a clear political statement and contains elements of pure propaganda, expressed in a straightforward way.” With a number of triumphant exhibitions, notably the first Athens Biennale, Destroy Athens, where Faitakis’ wall painting was arguably the most intriguing piece on show, this elusive artist is definitely at the forefront of a conceptual uprising.
Should art contain political/cultural discourse or should it remain purely aesthetic?
To answer this I can only ask questions back. What is art? Over the decades, hasn’t political art come with a certain aesthetic proposal? And at the same time, doesn’t an aesthetic proposal contain an almost necessary political position? How can a work of art be purely "aesthetic?" Only this fact makes it political instantly! A deliberate non-political attitude is a political statement, isn’t it? We do not have to agree with the attitude, but the statement is surely there. ‘Art’ helps us to dig further into who and what we are, to observe the world around us, with all its beauty and ugliness, and in turn place ourselves within it.
What is more important; the influence, the artist or the art?
I would say that the artist is the least important element of the three. It is annoying to see how some people in the art world treat artists as demi-gods and in turn, they enjoy the treatment. People outside of the scene admire artists in a much more healthy way. Artists are nice, but they are not as special as some like to think. One loses the essence of creation if one focuses too much on oneself.
What is good art?
What it has always been and will forever be: creations that can touch and affect the human being in a direct way. Art these days is a luxury for the elite. On top of that, it is very concept-oriented and philosophical which is not so bad by itself but it is done in a way that has become cold and strange for the people. Artists seem to be exploring the heavens, but are not keeping their feet on the ground. The existence of too much theory is not positive. People forget the principles and lose the target.
The new generation of Greek artists have a tendency to be pessimistic about the future of Greek art. Is there reason to be?
I believe I belong to a very strong generation of Greek artists. If you keep in mind the totally different conditions and financial environment in which our foreign colleagues create their works, I think that we can be pretty satisfied for the moment – but the very next moment is just around the corner and we must maintain the effort. There is still a long way to go.