Interview with Nick Tsekouras
Caitlin Riddell sits down with Melbourne-based artist and recent ACU graduate Nick Tsekouras.
In an age where our identities are increasingly defined by what we consume, Nick Tsekouras’ collage artworks appropriate pop culture mediums to speak of his own life experiences and create vivid landscapes of a rich inner world. In this interview, he touches on his creative background, the ongoing effects of COVID-19 on his artistic practice, and his hopes for the future…
All right, cool. So, should we just jump right in?
Let's do it.
For the record, can I grab your preferred pronouns and your location?
Well, my name is Nicholas, preferred name is Nick. I use the pronouns he/they interchangeably, and I am based in Naarm/Melbourne.
What would you say is your occupation? How would you define what you do?
I consider myself as a visual artist. But I also say that I’m a graduate now, I was a student and then I'm also a retail manager because I hold a few titles. But I don't think any of those other roles take away from the fact that I consider myself a visual artist.
So, how did that definition of your occupation – how did that develop? What is your background?
I've considered myself as an artist in general for a very long time. Whether or not I've considered that, or interpreted that as a career, I think that's been more of a recent development. Especially as I've begun to make it more profitable, than something that was just a passion. I was drawing ever since I was young, then I think it really started to develop when I was in high school when I started to develop a strong passion for drawing, illustrating, and painting.
As the years went on, I obviously did that in VCE and wanted to do that in university and then I came across ACU. I continued that through an arts degree and then a visual art major and have just been continuing that journey. It's been something that I've been doing on the side, because I've wanted to do it, and because it's brought me excitement and joy, but, as I've come to the later end of my degree, I’ve realized that it can bring me a lot more than just joy and passion. It can sustain me in life as well.
I feel like that's kind of a realization that I think a lot of us who are in the creative arts have these hobbies that can be turned into careers, and you don't realize it.
Yeah, exactly. For so long, I thought I was going to focus more on my law degree, which I've done simultaneously, but I think my visual art practice as an artist is something that will be sticking around for a very long time.
So, what drew you to art in the first place?
It was a way for me to put my imagination down on paper and visualize it in another format because a lot of my drawings in the first place were very imaginative, very creative, very lucid. It was only later that I started to go into the more technical skills of things.
I think for painting, it was more colours like I'm fascinated by colour and loved colour theory and I think that has always inspired me.
Your background in that interest is obviously represented in your practice today. Can you talk about how your practice then developed outside of university?
Of course. I think it all began… and I was reflecting on this yesterday as I was attending a seminar with Connection Art Space; they were almost a pivotal institution for me because they were the ones who first gave me the opportunity to run a workshop, which was fantastic.
That was my first ever workshop that I'd run.
I was completely nervous about it. It was almost two years ago, and that inspired me so much to continue running workshops and facilitate them in the future. It gave me all the confidence I needed and made me realize that that was something that I could do outside of my artistic journey.
That streamed into one part of what I do now, which is running workshops regularly with several organizations and also independently. I also have so many other components to my art, and my art career now. I've also been doing commissions for years, and through university developing so many different forms of art, and series, and productions; I've since started applying for exhibitions.
So, with the collage workshops, why collage? What about collage did you identify with, and what about it did appeal to you and your artistic sensibility?
There are a few things. Its sustainability is something that I'm very passionate about. For years, I was collating all the scraps of paper that I had used and come across and found on the streets and rubbish collected from other people. I wanted to utilize that stuff and give it a second life. So I'm very attracted to it because of that. It was just too fantastic not to mention, it's so much cheaper as well. It's an affordable practice and so much more accessible.
The next thing I think is the immediacy of collage. The fact that it is such a quick process of creating something on paper. Very quickly developing something powerful and vibrant and colourful, which is something that is attractive to me. I think because of the colours that you can quickly put down. They're probably the main reasons as to why I really love collage.
Has COVID changed how you do your workshops? I know that the workshops developed during COVID, but has that, as an external factor, influenced how you’ve viewed the workshops?
It's changed how they operate, being online. I have run some workshops, very small in-person, mainly with close friends, and some groups of people that have been interested. And there's a massive difference. It's just more difficult. It's more difficult to engage with people online to demonstrate the actual technical skill. But there's many ways that you can still demonstrate those things. They're entirely different. I prefer in person, but I don't ever want to stop preaching creativity anytime soon. So online it will be for now.
‘balance’, 2021 collage, marker and fineliner on paper
Yeah. And that's so important to keep up that creative practice.
Exactly. No, exactly.
What would you say is the most rewarding part of the workshops? Like what, what do you think has come out of it for you?
I think just hearing people's words, following the workshop, words of praise and words describing how much they enjoyed it. The fact that like I can bring, especially during these lockdowns, a sense of light to everyone's day has been probably the most rewarding part. Human connection is so important right now as well. It brings me a lot of joy obviously to be connecting with so many people.
In talking about the most rewarding parts, you should probably talk about the opposite, and how those difficulties then developed your personal practice. So, what hurdles have you overcome in the process of these workshops?
I think the biggest hurdle, to begin with, was turning it from something that I was delivering for free, out of the kindness of my heart, and then as it's gone on, it's gone to pay as you feel.
I think that path of making it profitable and worthwhile for my time or at least rewarding some of the many hours that I put into the workshops has been probably the biggest hurdle. Writing proposals, as well, for those workshops to send off to organizations. It's taken many, many hours updating them and continuously changing them and adapting new workshops.
It's all worthwhile in the end for sure.
Yeah, definitely. And I know the process of writing workshop proposals then informs so much of your own personal proposals for galleries. It then fills your personal practice with a lot more know-how and connections.
Definitely. Something I've started recently doing has been recording my connections to various individuals and various art organizations and creating a little bit of a mind map as to how they're all connected, how I've met them and when I've met them. So, that I can benefit from those networks and continue to expand them.
There are so many ways that this is influencing the other aspects of my artistic journey. The exhibition proposals and residency proposals. They're all just feeding into each other.
On that personal process side, what would you say is the work that you enjoy doing the most? Like what kind of projects set you alight artistically? What is the dream project?
I think following that is facilitating workshops and teaching. I do enjoy that thoroughly, especially because I still get that opportunity to create, but firstly and foremost is just hands-on me just creating works.
So how does that manifest for you? Does it mean you become an artist in residence for a studio or does that mean that you create your own studio and develop that?
I would take up any opportunity that came my way if the outcome was me, creating. I have applied for a few residencies in the future. Residency is an outcome that I wish to explore and a studio eventually down the track too.
At the moment, I consider my room almost my studio. I hope to obviously expand it and work from it a lot in the future, but the cost is definitely a big thing to consider.
I think every artist I know struggles with that, toeing the line between the pursuit of their passion and the cost that is there.
What would you identify as your biggest artistic achievement to date then? You've achieved so much already.
‘explosion’, 2021 collage, marker and fineliner on paper
It's been my degree to be honest. I think achieving my degree, especially in my last two semesters were the best, most accomplished set of artworks that I've ever made and most successful series that I've ever made. And they've led me on, both are going to be in the future exhibitions that I've booked in. I think they are my greatest achievements thus far.
So, what advice would you have for other upcoming student artists?
I would say think creatively about how you could expand your practice. Think about all the different avenues that you can explore, not just commissions or selling your artwork. I think it's a bit of an oversaturated market now. So, if you do want to have a career as a visual artist, you want to think about having multiple streams of revenue to sustain that practice. And make sure that you have the tenacity to do this as a career, otherwise you will just not have a fun time.
Okay. Last one. No limits, where would you like your art to take you in the future?
Oh my gosh. I don't know if I want to be necessarily thought of or seen by everyone in the world, but I want to be seen by my community as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community. I think it's an attractive idea, that they know my work. Travelling the world, that would be fantastic, whether that be facilitating workshops, to have worked in a gallery. I'd say that would probably be pretty ideal.
IMAGES COURTESY OF NICHOLAS TSEKOURAS