“Impactful scenes from everyday life and colors and shapes I come across that leave an impression comprise and compose my work”
When, in 2013, New Yorker magazine’s Art Director emailed to ask him to draw Ben Stiller, Stamatis Laskos suspected it was a prank – until he accepted, did the actor’s portrait and got a three-year contract. “That was when I believed it. This collaboration produced 17 illustrations, published in 2017.”
Besides the glossy pages of New Yorker, one can find his characteristically elongated, distorted silhouettes captivating readers from book covers; adorning urban walls around the world; showcased in art galleries; even printed on Nike t-shirts.
His artistic identity was formed in his student years, stemming from an urge to create fantastical figures. “My warped emerge out of random lines I draw in my notebook. Line on line, each form takes shape, often becoming the protagonist of a large canvas or wall.”
The size and scale of each piece are down to his mood, though he needs a lot of space to capture the level of detail his style involves. Stamatis likes to create at a grand scale, and this is why he enjoys street art and is also part of the Urban Act team, who paint public murals in Greece and abroad.
His work primarily captures his personal interactions. “Impactful scenes from everyday life and colors and shapes I come across that leave an impression comprise and compose my work. This process means that the theme of each piece is always unique. If I were to find a common element, it would be the mountainous peninsula of Pelion that often features in the background. Although I see it every day, it is always so different!”
A sizeable part of his portfolio is celebrity portraits, from Greek rapper 12os Pithikos to Bob Marley and Meryl Streep – all individuals he meticulously studies first, trying to put himself in their shoes and capture the full extent of their personality, instead of focusing on just one picture. As Stamatis explains, “proper prep, including draft sketches, helps me avoid several mistakes.” And he has yet to receive any negative feedback from his subjects – though he notes that “negative criticism, when justified and constructive, has a lot of value and can start great discussions”.
He has always combined work inside his workshop and out there on the streets. “Each satiates a different need. On the one hand, tranquility and deep contemplation, and on the other, friends and people and the pleasant exhaustion of climbing the scaffolding: Two paths that balance me out. In terms of street art, my protagonists’ unexpected meetings with unsuspecting passers-by and the grandeur of their scale are two more reasons why I continue to paint outdoor murals.”
He also does book illustrations. His “Self-Portrait” from his latest collection, “Irreconcilable trajectories,” was selected by the publisher for the cover of the French translation of Le cycle de la mort, the seminal novel by Thomas Korovinis. “This collaboration came full circle when I spoke with the author on the phone, after the book’s publication. Now, all that’s left is to meet up for a tsipouro drink.”
He labels every piece from “Irreconcilable trajectories” a page from his personal diary. “In the age of the disenchantment of everything, my wise people come in with their earthy, dirty colors, realistic and vivid motifs to ground the observer, who will meet them suddenly on a plane of existence whose pillars are the major universal archetypes that Carl Jung named ‘the collective unconscious,’” he explains.
Twisting and turning, his archetypal figures map out incompatible and irreconcilable trajectories that cannot meet nor exist on the same level. “I found the terms I use to define my artwork and to capture this reality that is far from our own in mathematics. There are two separate realities on two separate paths until they merge with elements of my life that are integrated into the paintings and murals. Thus, the unconscious and the hidden memories are framed by colors, shapes and situations that complement my compositions in a way that renders every work a page from my diary, always reminding me how and why it was created.”
Stamatis Laskos has produced art in several countries, such as Denmark, the Netherlands, the UK and the USA. “There, my references to Greek tradition are always of interest,” he notes, adding how familiar and friendly was the welcome he received as soon as he arrived in Barcelona. After traveling extensively and living in both Athens and Thessaloniki, he returned to his birth city of Volos a few years ago – “a serene, easy town that combines fishing and snowboard,” as he says, though he wouldn’t turn down a new, challenging city.
In Volos, he has taught art for six years in a special needs school. The way disability education and art can work together impressed him from the start, and he eventually decided to do a postgraduate degree in this discipline, to add theory to what he already experienced in the classroom and to better understand his pupils’ mindset and behavior. His foray into education may have been an experiment, but it won him over with “the pureness of the children and the fact that I learn with them.”
His immediate plans once again involve the canvas, the wall and the printed page. He’s preparing two exhibitions, in Athens and Thessaloniki, in spring and autumn 2022. He’s also drafting a mural he’s doing this summer in France, commissioned by Street Art Fest Grenoble Alpes, and illustrating a children’s book for a Dutch publisher that will be made available in museums worldwide.
Born in 1985, Stamatis Laskos – also known as Sive One – studied painting at the Athens School of Fine Arts in 2002–2007 and holds a postgraduate degree in education science/special education from the University of Thessaly (2018–2020). He has illustrated for Jordan Nike Inc. and New Yorker magazine, won an EVGE illustration award and an Ermis award, been featured in Cannes/ACT Responsible, as well as served on the judges’ panel for EVGE. As a painter and sculptor, he also contributed artwork to the Athens Olympics Opening Ceremony in 2004.