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An Interview with George V Antoniou

Andrea Spyropoullou interviews George V Antoniou, an artist whose work features some faces that you’ll recognise: from Audrey Hepburn to Kendall Jenner. Created digitally, entwined with high fashion, and shared on social media by some very 21st Century celebrities, Antoniou’s work is very much of its time. 

Although stuck in the small island of Cyprus, George V Antoniou has his head in the stars, taking anyone who catches a glimpse of his artwork on a journey to luxury-infused galaxies covered in glowing marble that reflects the ageless beauty of his muses.

There’s a certain kind of determination around each and every one of Antoniou’s artworks, a solid desire to prevail over one’s self, without losing that personal touch that defines his style. In his latest project, P E A R L, he takes a step further in digital art and celebrates the eternal beauty of luxury aesthetics, while at the same time he keeps the sense of minimalism that is rather characteristic of his work.

After a brief conversation with him I could tell that he’s head over heels in love with what he does, and was firmly convinced that he’ll never stop working, expanding his knowledge on art and fashion religiously, and gradually establishing himself as a profoundly influential artist of the digital era.

The Hippo Collective: Firstly could you tell me a bit about your story: how did you first get involved with art? When did fashion begin to influence your art, and how did it shape your life?

George V Antoniou: Well I was always into drawing, I was that kind of kid: always fascinated with art and emulating my own vision of it. I found myself wondering all the ways I could contribute in that creative process. I found it enthralling that an image can sell and all the ways in which it does. Fashion is a great influence to my work, a great tool for making Art and to me; it is the highest form of Art.

I worship women in general, mostly older women. I love wrinkled up faces for the storytelling they provide.

I value photographers’ work the most, people like Steven Klein, Annie Leibovitz and Tim Walker. To me they are the modern day Michelangelos and Da Vincis. Fashion Designers, Set Designers, Makeup and Hair Artists, all those people that work in the fashion magazine industry are such creative geniuses. They all work together to transcend the mundane of life and offer to the reader a getaway to OPULENCE. So since I’m a “one-man show” and do it all myself, virtually I need to have a more universal understanding of art, and fashion magazines provide that in a big way.

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From P E A R L: “Νύχτα”, (Night) Audrey Hepburn wearing Valentino Fall 2015 Haute Couture Collection

THC: What made you turn to digital art? How would you compare the traditional way of making art with the digital one? Do you think digitalizing your work has had an impact on your style?

GVA: I’ve been working on Digital Art for the past 2 years. I have just entered my third year a month ago. I’m not a fan of the artful mess, digital art allows me to go beyond just one form of artistry without the mess, and gives me the ability to build up on it as I would do with a painting but in a more formidable way. The options are endless and it’s way harder to understand when you should put a full stop, because it’s not like working on a canvas or paper that goes weak and it can’t take anymore paint. Digital gives you the ability to work on things until you feel it has reached a state that you’re proud of.

I started experimenting with digital using a Cinitiq. I was enamored with it while researching about special effects in movies. CGI and digital media were revolutionary for Film. And now for imagery making in general, post production in shoots, concept art and to all the genres that it branches out.

Artists don’t need a teacher to teach them how to hold the paintbrushes: what they need is a spiritual coach.

I don’t simply take a photo or create a drawing in real life and later on manipulate it on the computer. I start from scratch in Photoshop with my own concepts and I build upon them. It’s a cumbersome process, it takes days maybe 30 hours and more for each illustration to reach its final phase, but I love the process and the freedom to create whatever I want.

Traditional painting doesn’t give me as much creative freedom as digital does, I feel like it limits me in many ways and after being in lots of differenent art classrooms I understood that it’s definitely not for me.

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From P E A R L: Portrait of Antoniou’s mother, wearing dress from Givenchy Spring 2016 Ready to Wear Collection

THC: As a self-taught artist, what is your opinion on art schools? Do you think attending an art school would alter your work?

GVA: I dropped out of two Art Schools because I did not like the material taught or the way it was communicated. I am a supporter of lifelong learning, and I wanted to make sure I was building my own understanding of art. It was a subject matter that I searched about and read on relentlessly from a very young age.

I found it difficult to pay attention to the way material was given to me because I had already worked on my own craft and was giving – and still giving – a lot of emphasis to it, in a way lots of Art Schools didn’t and were thus keeping me back. Their ways were stagnant. Obsolete. I found myself trying to show teachers how far Art has progressed especially in the Digital Era, and it seemed that they couldn’t comprehend that.

Art Schools are great for people who are still finding their way but I’ve been paving my own way for some years now. I never liked the box they have tried to fit me in.

Fashion is a great influence to my work, a great tool for making Art and to me, it is the highest form of Art.

I make sure to read up on everything. I devour information and experiment with my work all the time. The art you make to please no one but yourself is crucial and its part of a very significant Self-Development process, you just cannot buy it and there’s no easy way around it—you only have to keep striving for it. Most of my teachers would talk about art in vague terms and were clueless on how to tap into my subconscious to pull images out, to find what’s important to me. Artists don’t need a teacher to teach them how to hold the paintbrushes and mix colours. In my opinion, what they need is a spiritual coach.

THC: Your list of muses seems immense and impressively diverse. Could you name some of your muses and what you love about them?

GVA: I worship women in general, mostly older women. I love wrinkled up faces for the storytelling they provide. It started with Pin Up doll Bettie Page and moved on to scandalous Dita Von Teese. Yet the same way I admire Tilda Swinton’s otherworldly androgyny or Jessica Lange’s zest, Hepburn’s swan like elegance; I can also admire modern day sirens like Florence Welch and the newly found Bella Hadid as well as the Digital Phenomenon of our time: Kim Kardashian West.

I love beauty and symmetry, and women with character who are perfectly poised. I don’t think that they are interconnected; I don’t have a pattern when it comes to things like that. But evidently you will see that grace can be found in all of my designs.

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From P E A R L: Portrait of Antoniou’s mother, wearing face jewellery from Givenchy Spring 2016 Ready to Wear Collection

This love for his muses is obviously not one-sided, since names like Kendall Jenner and Bianca Balti have discovered his exceedingly beautiful portraits of them and shared them with their own audiences on social media. There is no doubt that this different kind of connection between artist and muse is leading art further into the Digital Era, and with promising artists such as George V Antoniou, it seems that the art world has definitely loads of remarkable revelations to expect.

Find more of George V Antoniou’s work on Facebook and Instagram.

The cover image is from P E A R L, depicting Maria Callas wearing Balmain Fall 2012.

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