Sunny Streets with Louise Kyriakou May 04 2021

Louise Kyriakou a Melbourne-based artist whose current practice concentrates on the creation of contemporary ceramic forms primarily using the traditional techniques of low relief sculpting and sgraffito decoration. Her background in illustration and design, coupled with her appreciation of Modernist design, has led her to bring to life her own unique style of sunny creations.

The use of bold design elements and striking colour combinations in both her ceramic art pieces and paintings have continued to grow in number and style, and now grace the walls of homes throughout Australia and internationally.

Interview by Gab Lewis. Photos supplied by Louise Kyriakou.

Welcome back, it's great to have you exhibiting with us again! Tell us about what we can expect to see in your upcoming show?

It’s so great to be able to show with Outré Gallery again. My previous show was held during Melbourne’s Stage 4 lockdown so it’ll be good to have more people able to venture out and see this show in person.

For this show I’ve created a collection of ceramic suns that have been a huge part of my practice in the past couple of years and have been a pleasure to work on. The positive response I’ve had to them keeps me excited to create more and have fun making new colour combinations and patterns. This will be the largest collection of sun designs that I’ve showed together.

Preparing for this exhibition has also given me a chance to work on my paintings and create new work that explores ideas and themes that are more reflective of my experiences and observations of life than my design work. This show gives a bit of both.

With multiple disciplines in your tool belt, such as graphic design and illustration, how do these skill sets help to inform your current ceramics practice?

I’ve always loved the clean lines, the use of bold colour, and the formal qualities that design work has, but I never liked keeping to a brief, having tight deadlines, or trying to communicate others’ ideas. My current practice has the essence of a strong design foundation but I get to do what I want with it. Design principles like pattern, balance are scale are factors I get to explore widely in my ceramic creations.

Are there any materials or techniques that you're wanting to experiment with and introduce into your art, that you haven't yet tried?

I work as an Art Technician in the art department of a secondary school and every time the classes start new projects I get a bit jealous and want to do what they’re doing. With so many students creating around me, it’s hard to not be inspired to want to take what you see and build around those techniques for my own work.

I still have so much more to learn and explore in the world of ceramics though, that it will remain my main priority in the near future.

As a viewer there seems to always be a wonderful sense of playfulness and experimentation in your pieces. Is this something that you also experience within your process?

My personal style of art has shifted over the many years I’ve been making art, but the playfulness is something that has been a constant. If I’m making a piece that has a funny, bemused look on its face, I’m going to love it more than if I was trying to capture beauty or sophistication. Sometimes I can feel that I’m tightening the designs too much and need to step back and remind myself to enjoy the process more, and hopefully that will flow through the work.

I do often feel like I’m just a big kid, and thanks to my art I get to step back into that playful mindset and use it as a tool to unleash creative ideas. Life today is already so complicated and often stressful, that when I make art I want to put all that aside and channel the feel good moments from the lighter side of life, hence the title of this show.

What does the ultimate creative day for Louise Kyriakou look like? Do you have any rituals to prompt your practice?

A creative day is any day making that keeps me in the studio and losing sense of time. Listening to any music from the 60s will keep me engaged and filled with good energy, and it’s been The Turtles on high rotation lately. I never tire of the mix of upbeat delivery and emotional sincerity in the storytelling that I find both beautiful and amusing.

Given the rollercoaster of a year that was 2020, were there any aspects of your creative routine that changed?

I was lucky that I still had a job I could go to, and also that I could keep busy with my artwork. A situation arose however where I had to move house, and even though it was a crazy time to try and move (seeing as I wasn’t allowed to inspect any homes before I took out a new lease), it made me feel quite brave to take a leap of faith and trust that things would work out … and they did. I now have a substantially bigger and better space to work and am surrounded by beautiful grounds and a great view over the suburbs to the Dandenong Ranges. The paintings in this show are reflective of my experience setting up a new home and exploring the character of an unfamiliar neighbourhood.

As a lover of Modernism, what would your dream collaboration be? Past or present!

It’s probably clear to anyone familiar with Alexander Girards’ work that he has been a great inspiration to me, so collaborating with him in any capacity would be a dream. I recently bought a great book on Jean Derval, whose ceramics really capture what I love in about the Modernist style, and I think if we were to do a project together, it would have been something special.

There's an undeniable presence of joy and relatability in your work. Tell us about what these themes mean to you and the connection with personification.

Thank you! :) I always enjoy hearing that my work makes people feel good, and how it can bring a sense personality into a space.

I’m happiest when I keep things simple and straightforward, and over time my art has also followed this philosophy.

In capturing the spirit of something with as little detail as possible, the lack of specificity makes the work relatable and allows more people to see themselves through it. The fun comes in seeing how minor shifts in the position of features can alter the personality of a character. The variance of expression reaches farther than I would ever expect it should through just the use of just dots and dashes for facial features.

I do love pure abstraction but for me, I can’t resist adding the one thing that allows you to immediately make a personal connection; a face!

Do you have any advice or words of wisdom for emerging artists wanting to jump into ceramics or even something you wish someone told you about the creative industry when you were starting out?

My start in ceramics came through learning some techniques to teach some clay projects to my students back when I was teaching. With those basic skills I just did what came naturally to me and developed from there. I think there is a tendency to try and create what you like from what you see others making, but you have to be true to your natural talent, and hopefully you can find an audience for that work. Persistence is a quality that has served me well. I was so shy when I was younger. I didn’t take a lot of opportunities that came my way but I still kept making and pushing with a desire to keep improving and developing me aesthetic, and eventually move forward in a way that slowly pushed through my comfort zone to get my work “out there”. I suppose I’d advise others to do the same, and to try new art forms that you may be able to use to express your ideas more widely.

What can we all look forward to seeing next from you?

I have started a range of sculptural forms that I’m looking forward to resolving. I’ve been working on flat slabs for so long it’s been a challenging shift that I’m keen to devote more time to mastering.

Thanks so much for your time, Louise!