A symbolic moment for Jannis Varelas during Art Brussels at Maruani Mercier

FAD Magazine
Kwaku Boateng for FAD Magazine

Prior to the opening of Jannis Varelas first solo show in Brussels tonight FAD took the time to interview the Greek artist who is based between Athens, Vienna and Los Angeles. The show at Maruani Mercier gallery will showcase the full body of his work, including painting, drawings and sculpture, there will also be a performance tonight in the space. Janis will also feature at the Art Brussels Discovery section which is a must see for those visiting the fair and city.


What are the central themes of your work?
In general I deal with the human condition. Which means I deal with the position of human beings in society, in history and within its natural course.
But, each time that I do a project with my work, generally speaking, I pick one kind of theme, or a thematic structure that goes through all the works. And try to either pose a question about this specific theme, or create an idea of what it is about.
For example in this one, I started thinking about self-representation of today, through social media and through the idea of one’s body. And then I went through this kind of abuse of the body that happens today.
Either through certain types of nutrition or attempt of shaping ourselves through the gym, to become fit, to become part of something which is culturally developed, as an ideal of the body, as an ideal of the self.
I never go literally to the theme. I use it as a starting point and then go on and on and on.


It is interesting that as human beings we’ve been attracted to certain kinds of forms and shapes and behaviors. We tend to say, “It’s just decorative,” but what if there is something in our anatomy that draws us to similar patterns? I notice something draws you to a certain pattern in your painting ? Can you talk about how go to the point of an image that has become instantly recognizable ? 

That’s a big question!
Even before I started painting, I was doing drawings, and you could always recognize certain types of patterns. The way the lines form the image.
I don’t know exactly what it is that makes it recognizable but I think it’s like speaking a language. You depict what you understand. It could be a line or a scribble, surface of blue or red. It always has it’s own kind of rhythm.
And this rhythm is created through myself, through my body depicting the actual thing.
It’s like leaving a sign behind, or like leaving your footsteps on the sand.

It has to do with your own way of writing or speaking.
That’s how it works for me.
As far as the shapes are concerned, I use very simple shapes that everybody can recognize from their childhood, like the little house, the little car, sometimes airplanes.
They create a grammar for me towards a certain type of language.
I think that by repeating this symbolic language, you create your own narration in a way.
If people know you work or knows what you do, it is easy for them to get into it immediately.