What can one expect from an art tour? A guided view of the city’s most famous museums and galleries? Marissa Tejada finds an activity in Athens that promises to dig deeper…
Hidden in the flow of the crowds that pack St. Irene Square, Athens’ latest day and night hotspot, I follow my Discover Greek Culture tour guide, a young historian named Sotiris as he weaves through the convivial mass of chattering, drinking and shopping locals (crisis, what crisis!?). I’m excitedly embarking on what promises to be a bespoke cultural experience, eager to find out what constitutes his insider view on art in Athens. However, as we duck out of the vibrant stream of foot traffic and head into a typical modern office building, one I’m sure I’d passed before, the situation doesn’t seem promising. As an Athens-based expat and travel writer I can say I’ve covered my share of art in the city, and of the many archaeological spaces, art museums and galleries I’ve come to recognize, this unmarked building definitely wouldn’t be the first stop.
Before I can ask Sotiris if we took a wrong turn, we enter an office space which I am fully expecting to be a call centre, or similar, only to be greeted instead by an open plan art studio. Instead of blinds and strip lighting, the winter sunshine is allowed to filter in from between the buildings surrounding us, creating a warm glow over everything. Absent are cubicle, swivel chairs, handsets, monitors and printers. Rather, in one corner, mismatched furniture creates a shabby sitting space, whilst throughout the room several large desks claim their invisible work perimeters over the speckled marble floor. Shelves and cubby holes line the areas beneath the windows that are piled and stocked with paints, pencils, fabrics and art tools and – here and there – splashes of accidental color. A clothesline hanging against the windows droops slightly from the weight of paper sketches and paintings.
…being a welcome guest in a local artist’s studio, I conclude, is a unique kind of art experience.
The studio’s occupants welcome us with warm smiles as they walk away from their cluttered surroundings to introduce themselves as Paris and Daniel, and with outward enthusiasm begin to chat comfortably about their work, a world about creating art in the modern yet ancient metropolis.
Paris Koutsikos starts off by spreading out some of his latest graphic design work for his local client, The National Theatre of Greece. Each event program cover displays his creativity, and love of style and color. Koutsikos explains his inspiration comes from the world around him, no vision really or plan.
“I decided I liked this city a lot,” he says, explaining how his visit to Greece years ago turned into a permanent move from Milan. “Athens is a hidden pearl if you think about it.”
Like Koutsikos, Egnéus works with a mix of various mediums. On his desktop he pulls up some of his work that depicts slices of everyday life in modern Athens.
“The studio is great to walk to. It’s a place to be inspired,” he says, nodding at his surroundings.
His illustrations, he says, are also featured in popular children’s books sold by big name publishers. He pulls out one of them, a picture book filled with illustrations that are a gothic interpretation of the Grimm Brothers’ Little Red Riding Hood. He turns back to his computer and starts clicking through his hard drive based portfolio and, with a grin, proudly pulls up more of his children’s illustrations. We all giggle along with him as we decipher the fun messages behind an unsold collection of creative children’s stories.
“I’m not sure what I’ll do with these.” He smiles at the screen.
I smile too. The experience is proving to be a sneak peek into the artist’s special collection of hand drawn and digital images, scenes expertly photo shopped together, birthed from the use of various mediums: crayons, paint, water color and ink. He toys with a few images in front of us to show how an artist can crop everything in and out a piece of work and just “be free” with a digital canvas.
Before we head out the door I learn the studio’s name: The Egg. Without further explanation, both artists offer our tour members very casual nods that seem to tell us the name simply makes sense.
I leave The Egg congratulating our guide, Sotiris. He explains Greece’s museums and galleries are also featured on the bespoke art tours as well. However, being a welcome guest in a local artist’s studio, I conclude, is a unique kind of art experience. It’s about gaining insight from artists who create now and successfully make a living doing what they love – inspired by the peculiarities and unique beauty of Athens. It’s something that one could only experience if one knows where to go. I unexpectedly had discovered where: an unmarked studio tucked between concrete office spaces, hidden in the heart of the capital.
Marissa was an invited guest of Discover Greek Culture. Prices start form 125 Euro for a five-hour half-day tour. For more information about their services or to book a tour, check out their website at: www.discovergreekculture.net. Meanwhile for more of Marissa’s stories, such as the time she went on a style tour of Barcelona, and more stories on Athens in general, click here.