Our summer 2012 artist in residence at F_AIR hails from Greece and is a resident of the Netherlands. Kali Nikolou is currently teaching drawing at FUA while preparing for her solo exhibition scheduled for opening on July 12.
Kali, tell us about yourself, how you became involved in contemporary art.
The first years of my life were defined by the borders of my parental house in Corinth, Greece. As soon as I realized the impossibilities of this environment, art became a way to break loose from it. When I turned eighteen I decided to move to Athens and study at the School of Fine Arts where students are trained intensively in the technical aspects of painting and drawing. During this program, I also started experimenting with different contemporary media such as video. After graduating I moved to Amsterdam to continue my studies in the Gerrit Rietveld Academy and the Sandberg Institute (MFA) in order to give more attention to the conceptual aspects of art. Later, I became more interested in the social aspects of producing and applying art, and I continued with a postgraduate program in what is called "social design."
What course are you teaching at FUA, can you tell us about the experience of interacting with international students?
At FUA I teach to students the traditional drawing techniques while also introducing conceptual ways of approaching art. Being in Florence poses an important challenge - it is the city which opened the first academy of drawing in Europe, a city that now has a position of responsibility for imparting contemporary approaches to creating and thinking. I very much enjoy working with international students; it definitely enriches my own experience.
What type of art media do you work and experiment with? The themes that you explore?
I do not have any specific medium. Every project demands its own means. I do have a preference for subjects that are related to the existence, meaning and functioning of different ideological systems and their demands. I see myself mostly as an explorer and not as an inventor. I tend to present the already existing, which is either not easy to be seen or too normal to be noticed.
What do you envision for your residency exhibition?
My intention is to make people specifically question the function of the art institution itself and the political system in general. I see FUA as a micro-cosmos of the general cultural scene of Florence. By openly presenting some of the conditions of the art institution and the city in general, I challenge participants to rethink the established, question the authorities and to take action.
How has living at F_AIR and the city of Florence influence your way or working? Can you share your impressions of your new surroundings?
The fine arts studios at F_AIR remind me quite a bit of the studios at my first art school in Athens. This gives me the possibility to return to a specific environment but in a different position after having acquired a more analytical perspective. The specificity of the institution and the city that it belongs to are my main source materials. I find it crucial to react upon every current, given the surrounding environment and circumstances.
Being from Greece, how does the Italian Mediterranean culture impact/contribute to your creative approaches?
Italy definitely influences me, as every place would. There are obviously similarities with the Greek culture but big differences as well. I try to avoid comparisons and to integrate to my new environment. Italy, and especially Florence, has the reputation of being the mecca of Renaissance and indeed they are. However, there are other contemporary social, political and economical issues that make this location an interesting place where a contemporary artist can intervene.