Vassilis Gogtzilas, born and raised in Thessaloniki, had discovered ever since his early childhood the key to unlock the gates leading to alternative, worlds.

Vassilis Gogtzilas

As the hand dances on paper

Text: Yorgos Papadimitriou | Photgraphs: Vassilis Gogtzilas' Archive
Vassilis Gogtzilas
Vassilis Gogtzilas

His debut publications appeared in Thessaloniki’s fanzine Boomerang, in the early 90s, when Vassilis was still a high school student, paving the way for a journey full of fascinating destinations. Vassilis Gogtzilas has collaborated, among many others, with the daily newspapers, Thessaloniki and Makedonia, magazines Galera and SOUL, Athens Voice free press, while his work also featured on the pages of Eleftherotypia’s weekly comic edition “9”, as well as of countless comic anthologies. During this frenzied ride, the gifted Thessaloniki-based illustrator and comic book artist does not cease to mature, constantly evolving and enriching his art in every level: technique, inspiration, visual mastery, gamut of references, semantic range. The universe he crafts, harmoniously balancing on the borderline between mental stimulus and emotional entanglement, is dominated by the vibrations of an undercurrent eroticism and a subcutaneous threat, as well as by a touch of absurdity and deregulation that shatters all established certainties.

“There’s an underlying hint of explosion in my work, that may or may not be triggered. The feeling of absurdity, in the sense of not accepting logic and reason as effective means to interpret our world, is also present. I undergo a wide range of emotional fluctuations and through the course of time it became clear to me that I’m equipped with some hypersensitive antennas that allow me to receive and process a series of emotional reactions. It may sound as a paradox, but it is a interpretation of my sensibility,” he points out before adding: “Nevertheless, it is my firm belief that life is a miracle. I feel that we are surrounded by a splendor of divine creation that fills me with awe. Cinema references are abundant in my work, as well as references to genres, currents and techniques associated with other forms of art. A pivotal source of influence, and one not easily detected at first sight, is music. The way the hand dances on paper, as well as the composition of lines and shapes, which may also be endowed with rhythm and melody.”

It was more than obvious that it wouldn’t take long for Vassilis Gogtzilas’ talent to exceed the narrow boundaries of Greece, earning international praise, through a series of back-to-back publishing hits: Mr. Universe, Misery City, The Adventures of Augusta Wind, The Biggest Bang figure in a list bound to grow longer. “I take great pleasure in having earned a positive feedback and the appreciation of some people I value deeply. I can’t help but to single out my teaming up with  J.M. DeMatteis, with whom we co-created both series of Augusta Wind. He is a remarkable author, very understanding towards me in both a personal and a professional level. The decision to pursue an international publishing career was purely emotion-driven, a dream that took up a lot of time and effort. Needless to say that it all comes down to why you decide to follow this path. The way I see it, if you are in it for the money and aim to show-off, you succumb to vanity.”

In September 2019, Thessaloniki art lovers had the chance to get acquainted with the painter Vassilis, through an exhibition hosted at “ro” gallery. His paintings, riddled with a raw and ardent power, encompass all the distinct and trademark features of his comic images. “The process of drawing is one and undivided. Drawing is a glossary, a means of communication, similar to writing, which is also founded on drawing. The Greek letter Δ is nothing more than a triangle, the letter O is but a full circle; all letters are blends of shapes and lines. Either way, comic is a fluid art that can take up many forms, depending on the artist’s approach, sometimes bordering on literature, other times in close proximity with cinema. It may unfold through the pages of a printed book or by scrolling down on a screen. The narration through the succession of images can appear in many forms, that is the very core of its charm. The audience we’re addressing to is on the rise, following the growing multitude of available platforms: printed material, ads, movies, the Internet, gaming etc.”

As to his upcoming plans, Vassilis gives a clue: “I am currently joining forces once again with J.M. DeMatteis, for a project that we have spent the last for years setting up. The first issue of the series was re-edited, after four different versions I had come up with, as I recently got a view of how the story unfolds in the following issues. Having a more thorough overview of the story, I took on a different visual approach. I have also wrapped up four issues a series of my own, hoping to be given soon the green light to proceed. Last but not least, I have set out to shoot a short film, a project that I’m feverishly working on for quite some time now.”