Artists are often propelled by unique and transformative journeys that shape their creative expressions. In this article, we delve into the captivating journey of Kyvèli Zoi Stenou, a talented artist whose evolution as a creative mind has been nothing short of remarkable. We explore the origins of their artistic odyssey, the influence of dual cultural backgrounds, the ethereal themes that dance across their canvases, the challenges they've overcome, and their exciting upcoming projects that promise to captivate the art world.
Kyvèli's art invites viewers on a gentle journey through the landscapes of faith, spirituality, anthropological history, and unity. She emphasizes that her creations don't strictly adhere to the confines of realism based on direct life observation. Instead, they aspire to give life to an idealized realm—a place she yearns to exist in. Within this envisioned world, boundaries dissolve, and the relationship between subjects and nature harmoniously blends.
Rather than depicting the harsh realities of our contemporary existence, as she mentions, Kyvèli opts to craft scenarios that reside in the realm of dreams. Her creative process draws upon the limitless well of imagination bestowed by nature, continually pushing the boundaries of what's achievable to offer immersive experiences.
Our interview with Kyvèli Zoi;
Can you tell us about your artistic journey? How did you get started as an artist?
When in the beginning of my artistic pathway, during my first year of studies I was at the foundation program of Central St. Martins college of Art, studying graphic design and illustration. After the first year I realized that it wasn’t my calling, and therefore shifted to Fine Arts. I graduated from the Fine Arts program of School of Visual Arts in NYC and since went on to continue my passion for painting. Since then I have worked on various fields mainly in theatre and cinema, however always having painting as my leading point of interest and reference. I have continuously and persistently been painting since 2017.
How do your dual backgrounds in Greece and the United States influence the narratives and themes you explore in your paintings?
Growing up in a bilingual family and having always two references as “home”, shaped many things in both my work but also my personal life. Having always been in this “in-between”, from an early age allowed me to expand my visions and notions of heritage, history and politics. I feel very lucky to have both ethic backgrounds in balance due to the duality, for this has allowed me to see certain aspects of my culture from a different spectrum. This has most certainly also affected my visual language as it automatically allowed more space for interpretation and research on subjects that perhaps I would have never considered in the same way, if only seen from one side.
You mentioned that you create "oneiric atmospheres" in your paintings, emphasizing topics like fate and faith. How do you convey these abstract concepts through your art, and what emotions or messages you hope viewers take away from your work?
I don’t necessarily always want to convey a certain message to the viewer, however my spiritual growth and soulful connection to my surrounding environments, are key elements to the health of my painting. As painting for me is a very intuitive and personal process, having mental and spiritual balance are two things that I always seek when working. Fate and faith are two parallel but also contrasting ways of seeing, and therefore subjects that I like to play and
experiment with in my painting. That doesn’t mean the quoting is of a religious per say approach, however I like to use other types of symbolism to emphasize on them, such as gambling, hyper stylized figuration or symbolic homage to historical references. In my view fate and faith are two notions that are very intertwined, so trying to define them in a painterly language, is always a very interesting and playful way to work.
Are there any significant challenges or obstacles you've faced as an artist? How did you overcome them?
Being an artist comes with many instabilities. It is hard to have continuous faith in your practice when you realize how competitive it can get, how much greatness has been achieved before you and so on. The most important thing I have learned so far is that firstly I work for myself. If I don’t find personal pleasure in what I do, there is no point. How everyone else perceives my work, both commercially and aesthetically is a completely secondary feeling, and not such a significant one. Of course every artist wants recognition and appreciation, but in my opinion it all comes down to respecting your personal love for your craft and research. If you don’t believe with all your heart in what you do, no-one else will beyond you. And that for me stands for pretty much everything we do in life.
Do you have any upcoming projects or exhibitions that you're excited about? Can you give us a sneak peek into what you're working on?
In November, I will be taking place in a residency in Naples Italy, including an upcoming solo show in Acappella Gallery in Spring 2024. I am also preparing a series of ceramic paintings at Sealed Earth studio in Athens. I have a few group shows coming up throughout the year and will be working in Paris, France for a few months after January 2024. I am also currently running a full time residency program at KYAN Athens, and this year we’ll be having 5 international residents work in our Athens studio.
All artworks and photographs copywrites belong to Kyveli Zoi;
Spectators, 2023, Diptych, oil in linen, 140 x 160*
She’s a Rainbow,2023,Oil in Linen 30x24cm
Magna Mater (Volcano Woman), 2023, Oil in linen, 41 x 33 cm
Letters to my future self; Pathos, 2022, Oil on linen, 22 x 29 cm
The artist Kyveli Zoi, photograph by Nicolas Melemis