012 | Dimitri dream of art

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Story and photos provided by Ageliki Pateli.

Open space, trees and Mt Olympus are the only things you see.

Dimitris is sitting in a corner in a small garage at the back of his house, which he turned into a studio. He is working with an airbrush on a cap when I walk in. You experience the good old northern hospitality of a middle class family and then you sit down to talk.

He opens up with ease, he speaks about his work and dreams with a passion that is hard to resist. For a 19 year old his work is his dream. In a small village in Macedonia, away from major art centres, struck by financial problems and daily routine, inspiration knocked and Dimitris answered.

The first time I saw samples of his work was in an exhibition at the central square of Kozani. His coal sketches of ancient busts caught my eye. They were somewhat contradicting considering the place and time but certainly a stroke of talent.

And now I see this young man in front of me with his shaggy clothes, cap on and it feels almost surreal. I am in for a surprise. He sets no boundaries, no restrictions, he shouldn’t.

There is a huge oil canvas in the corner, murals, sketches scattered here and there, custom made caps. I ask him what’s his favorite medium, “I want to experiment. I still have not found my own style but I know I want to let my lines free. The difficult part is the lack of stimuli. I said I wanted to try tattooing and gave a stroke to half the family” Dimitris says smiling.

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When I ask him when he did start drawing, he inevitably answers as you would expect, telling me he has been doing this since he can remember.

He says he loves human figures, the curves of the human body but there is no limit to what might catch his eye. Anything can trigger him.

“I want my sketches to have a sense of freedom, I want my lines to escape shapes. I have a soft spot for splashes. They have a spontaneity that gets me.” When I ask him if he wants to convey a message with that, he smiles, he thinks about it and says he is not sure yet.

His friend Alexia, a local graffiti artist, invited him to take part in a graffiti project for one of the junior highs. I ask him if he likes street art,“ Graffiti is new to me, I mean as an artist. You know, living in a village does not exactly give you freedom. If street art suddenly appears they know whose door they have to knock at”.

He admits he is not familiar with street artists but he loves their feast of colors, the ability to make the urban environment more vibrant. “This was my first attempt, I had a design ready but there was a theme and teachers were supervising. The paint dripped…it does not need to be perfect.This is my realism.”

Dimitris is preparing for the School of Fine Arts in Thessaloniki. It is the second time he tries, the first time he was unprepared but valued the experience.

He is trying to build his portfolio hoping he will be able to convince them that he deserves a chance. He admits he learned about Fine Arts by accident. “Art school sounds like something from another planet to most around here. Teachers never told me I had that option.”

I want my sketches to have a sense of freedom, I want my lines to escape shapes. I have a soft spot for splashes. They have a spontaneity that gets me.

It might sound cliche but I ask him if he thinks he is losing opportunities, if this delay comes with a cost. His reply is simple. He believes that when you love something enough, nothing can dissuade you.

“When I learned I could apply for Art School I immediately looked for a mentor and tried to improve myself. Sometimes obstacles work to your benefit. I won’t say, though, I have the opportunities kids in Athens or other major cities have. It’s hard to find motivation in a village of 650. As I said, I didn’t know Art School even existed”.

We talked about his dreams, about his priorities. He is a young man who wants to make what he loves his work so that his work is always done with love. “I do not want to give up on anything. The distance, the cost, the limitation of country life are obstacles but hard work can break through them. I love what I do, that must count for something.”

Even when he talks about obstacles his smile doesn’t fade. I wonder if someone his age and background wants to run away and experience the opportunities and organization another country has to offer. If he wants to relocate to a place where the educational system would have spotted his skills from an early age. I ‘d expect it and, easily, justify it.

His answer is straight “No. I want to travel, I must find out what I like but I know where I want to live. I know where I want to paint. I believe we deserve so much more and nothing should stop us from getting it…”.

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Deena Kiswoyo