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Nikos Smyrnios: The Fine Balance Between Pop and Op Art

By Inga Athanasiadou
Nicholas Smyrnios was born in Greece (Edessa), grew up in the sixties in Sweden, and was strongly influenced by the latest great art movements of Pop and Op Art.
As a winner of the Swedish Institute scholarship, he got his education at the National Art and Design College of Stockholm, the heart of Scandinavian design. After having traveled and lived in many countries, Smyrnios currently lives and works in Thessaloniki.
Smyrnios has a wide professional background as a graphic artist and he is very well familiarized with digital media, through which he has developed an odd technique with a strong visual profile. Philosophically, his work belongs to Pop Art, while he uses optical techniques to realize it, trying to play with the viewerʼs visual perception.
The final outcome of Smyrniosʼ work is original paintings (oil or acrylic on canvas, or on aluminum plates), but can also be digital prints.
We have met Nikos Smyrnios in his atelier, where he gave us a comprehensive interview.
What stimulated you into engaging with art?
I was lucky enough to be raised in a highly artistic environment. My first stimuli came from my brothers and especially from the one who is 10 years older than me and who had completed his painting studies at a young age. Our house had become a small atelier.
What does the graphic artist profession offer and cost you?
It has both offered and cost me a lot. I was forced to subordinate my personal art and focus on graphic art because it could provide me a means to live. Ever since the beginning, graphics had offered me a satisfactory life prospect. Bonding with technology was as necessary as getting married to a partner that you cannot divorce afterwards. You have to accept all demands whether you like it or not.
If you had the chance of starting all over again, what would you change?
If I were to start my career anew, I would try to gain more experience and further cultivate my personality because knowing technical details is not enough. You must live in order to develop your own beliefs and ideas about things and mark your work in your own distinct way.
What are the key qualifications securing the successful career of a graphic artist?
It’s actually the right technological and artistic training; and of course, the general education gained through reading and studying, by keeping in touch with and joining artistic events, by watching some good films or theatrical plays and developing what we all know as ‘classical education’.
You are a writer too, right?
No, I wouldn’t call myself a writer. I just have the ability to express myself easily on paper. Whatever I might have written so far is relating to my work. Once you learn enough about your work and step out of the narrow margins of your profession, then you have plenty to write and speak about.
So, how many books have you written to date?
I have written several essays but only two of them have been published. Both of them focus on my profession, since they have much to do with my art work.
What is your opinion on the Greek economic crisis and the general Greek situation as an artist and an author?
What is happening currently in Greece is very saddening because most of my fellow people do not really know the actual roots of the problem. They do not understand who is really responsible for the current situation, since most Greek media are part of the overall dominant corruption. The local media play along with the game of misinformation and have managed to eat away at the public’s conscience. This has led the Greek people to lose their orientation and become totally unaware of their best interests. When you talk about the Greek economic crisis, I understand the logical result of a deeper and ineluctable crisis with social, cultural and political consequences.
Where are you working at the moment?
I am the director of the Graphic Arts department of AKTO in Thessaloniki. With this job I can get closer to younger generations and fresh ideas.
What kind of advice would you give a young person interested in becoming a graphic artist?
Well, they must definitely love what they chose. Love it so much so as to dedicate their lives to their profession. They also need to become educated both in terms of technology and art and design. This kind of job has a lot to do with communication, products and business promotion. Thus, a young graphic artist must absorb information and knowledge like a sponge absorbs water. All knowledge is necessary, unlike what young people may think.
What are your future plans?
I would like to create a new work of art because now I own the means, the ideas and the technique. However, my time is limited to get it started. I also have several projects that have not been publicized yet, and I would very much like to publish and sell them online through a major London gallery.
After showing us some of his creations, Nikos Smyrnios read a small part of his latest book, which he wrote some four years ago and is based on his work. We will cite that part which refers to Greece in an almost prophetical manner:
“The land cannot be destroyed only beautified
The righteous man cannot be vanished but encouraged
And History cannot end here but only continue…”

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