His mural works snatched the 2021 Mataroa Award, one of the most important honorary distinctions in his career so far

Ioannis Anastasiou

"Memory is not inflexible"

Text: Dimitra Kehagia
Ioannis Anastasiou

In the house where Ioannis Anastasiou grew up, he was always encouraged to become involved in art. And despite playing the piano for years, painting and drawing, as a teenager he insisted that studying art was not part of his life plans. “I did not want to turn my hobby, what pleased me the most, into a profession,” as he points out. The way things turned out, not only did he enroll in AUTh’s Faculty of Fine Arts, currently in the process of concluding his PhD, but he ended up feeling so fulfilled by what he does that free time has become of no importance for him. “I don’t need any free time, as I devote my time to what excites, intrigues and consumes me,” he goes on to say.

Xenis Sachinis, professor at the Printmaking Workshop of the Faculty of Fine Arts, played a pivotal role in Anastasiou’s life and artistic career. First and foremost, by serving as a living example, but also by urging his young student to always try to lay out the political and social concerns he had ever since a child. “It is a never-ending and continuous process,” as he stresses out. Ioannis Anastasiou mainly focuses on issues of historical context, often related to the notion of social memory. His research as a visual artist is socially oriented and triggers a political critique, delving into the various aspects of memory, its construction, reconstruction and deconstruction, as well as the way it is presented and processed in individual and collective milieus.

“I look into the ways we, as individual entities, communicate, approach and grasp historical and collective memory and all the information floating around us in an indiscernible frame. Information that lives and survives in books and discussions, coming to us through education. I am intrigued by the ways we approach this information and how each one of us, through a different approach, builds a personal perception and path to history. I am also interested in how history is endowed with a personal touch and becomes part of a personal narrative,” he explains.

He does not view memory as inflexible, as a notion that stands still in time. On the contrary, through its contact with society, it keeps getting reshaped, reconstructed and deconstructed. “Memory is not static,” as she says. In his works this frame of mind is expressed through the portrayal of the object as a symbol, as he did in the mural works that snatched the 2021 Mataroa Award, one of the most important honorary distinctions in his career so far. Ioannis Anastasiou, even though claiming that he never aspired to become an award-winning artist, can’t help but to admit that awards are helpful both artistically and professionally.

“For a young artist such as myself, it is rewarding to be recognized by other people, unknown to you, in a very special way. This feeling of confirmation keeps you going.” Moreover, he believes that artists should not be contained by their choice of studies or the main base of their work, as all techniques can serve as tools for an artist to give shape to an idea in the best possible way. “Ideas are well-off in our mind, but we need to somehow get the message through to the ones interested to receive it,” he mentions.

Ioannis Anastasiou loves printmaking and all its techniques, ranging from relief all the way to intaglio and silkscreen, but also dares to go down a different road whenever he feels that a different technique may pave the way for the materialization of an idea and its channeling to the audience. That’s why he tirelessly studies new techniques, both on printmaking and outside his field, also being a self-taught binder and having transformed  his personal workshop-refuge, in Poland’s Wrocław, into a bookbindery.

He first went to Poland in 2016 as an Erasmus exchange student, motivated by Xenis Sachinis’ praise of Wrocław’s high-quality printmaking workshops. He went on to return to AUTh, where he had his Master’s Degree, before going back to Wrocław on a PhD candidate scholarship. The way things are going, his future seems tied to Wrocław, where he also works as workshop technician in the city’s Faculty of Fine Arts.

“My workshop, my home, my girlfriend, my work, are all here. The conditions are ideal for me both as an artist and as an academic.” On top of all that, since 2016 he has been co-hosting PrintCard Wrocław, a constantly evolving international event. In September 2022, PrintCard Wrocław was showcased within the framework of Bristol’s Impact, Europe’s most important and the world’s second largest printmaking conference.

Ioannis Anastasiou has taken part in more than 100 collective exhibitions and contests, both in Greece and abroad. He has also presented his work in individual exhibitions and as a speaker in distinguished conferences and printmaking-visual printing workshops. In Greece, he has showcased part of his work at the 5th Thessaloniki International Contemporary Art Fair. Winning the Mataroa Award, granted by the Cultural Society of the Entrepreneurs of Northern Greece, sparked a wide and deeply satisfying acclaim of his work. One of his short-term goals is to showcase the XXIc Trichotomy series in Greece, at some point within 2023.