George Kanis is a Greek visual artist, based in Athens-Greece, originally born and raised in Chios island. He is well known for his photographic work, although he also practices painting, video art, installations, etc. He was also involved with interior design and product design. But none of these mediums gave him the freedom to express his instincts. This gap photography and painting came to fill. He considers himself a runaway and he has never felt he fitted or belonged anywhere until he met the underground community of Athens and started exploring himself and his sexuality. The only thing he is for sure is a daydreamer and a fighter.
Who is George Kanis and how do you describe yourself?
George Kanis is a Greek visual artist, based in Athens, Greece, originally born and raised in Chios island.
He is well known for his photographic work, although he also practices painting, video art installations, etc. He was also involved with interior and product design. But none of these mediums gave him the freedom to express his instincts. Photography and painting came to fill that gap.
His aesthetics have not changed through the years, but his work evolves like a growing organism and it always depends on desires that need to be nurtured and fed. For him, art offers the ability to make chaos and freedom coexist in harmony.
He is known for his nude portraits of the people of the subculture scene of Athens and his experimental/abstract work. He employs a raw, brutal art style in order to emphasise on primal feelings during the photoshoots. He proudly explore questions of gender, class and, sometimes, race, mostly in the Greek society.
How are you feeling now?
After this weird period and after so many months of isolation, I am not that confident as I used to be. Therefore, my status will be something like complicated! Although I try to approach life with humour, in this specific case it doesn’t seems proper, so, yes it has affected me a lot. But, I still try to keep myself together and keep producing things that make me feel whole.
How would you describe yourself?
Well, I am not sure if there is a proper approach on this topic. I was always feeling like an outcast. I used to be a runaway, so I never felt I fitted or belonged anywhere until I found people just like me to connect, and until I met the underground community of Athens at the very beginning and started exploring myself and my sexuality. The only thing I am for sure is a daydreamer and a fighter. Sometimes, I may look like a stubborn, but most of the times I try to make things right, the way it seems right in my own mind and my beliefs.
Do you feel more like a photographer, a painter, an artist or a provocateur?
If I have to choose a tittle/box that I mostly feel related with regarding what I do, that would be the provocateur one.
How is your primal instinct inspiring your work and what are the matters you like to explore?
My primal instinct is inspiring my work 100%. Whenever I can disconnect from the real-time universe, I set my mind free and just paint whatever comes naturally. This kind of approach can take place through different mediums such as photography or video, so whenever I truly need to express and expose the “true” me then I stick to painting. Painting sets me free, so it is a therapeutical process. Through my work I try to approach and explore questions of gender, class and race. As a result, I created my artwork series “Death To Symbols” to depict the severance of the person from nature, the primal womb of the world, free from any discrimination, and full of acceptance. This acceptance is the central idea of my work. My artwork paves a way for coming in contact with different people. The exposure to these people produces acceptance and a state of “unfiltered nature”, where desire exists by itself and doesn’t obey any laws or restrictions. The instances where I have been a victim of discrimination are my driving force to awaken the viewer and provoke a state of introspection to their hidden and suppressed desires.
How has the underground scene of Athens and queer culture affected your aesthetics and your work?
I don’t know how, but I do know that actually this is the centre of the attention in my work. These elements are my mirror thorough which I can see those people and I can feel related to them. I see parts of myself and my desires through them. Sometimes, I just wish to be just like these people. Maybe what I have nowadays, I owe it to these people who helped me reply to questions like “what is acceptance”, or “how do you feel free in the chaos we are living”, etc. Through the queer culture, I ended up having my own norms and feel “normal”, so I try to represent this with ethos and love. We are all beautiful and normal, but we forget to communicate it!
Do you like to be explicit through your work?
Yes, who doesn’t? And if you don’t, you should please wonder why!
How do you like to portray the male body through your work?
I don’t have a specific rule that I stick with. When I see a human/a body/an item I have in front of me, I try to connect with and feel related and its working like this: How would watching the final result make me feel beautiful? So, I mostly take everything really personal when it comes to my work, meaning that I put myself in their shoes and try to make the best out of it .
How do you define desire and what role does it play in your life?
Desire is everything. Desire is eternal and unlimited. As living and thinking creatures we are full of desires. I try to express and explore my desires in my everyday life and through my work, it the most honest approach of living that suits me in our “modern society”. It makes me feel authentic and alive. Desire can be risky and unhealthy from time to time. So, after a few years trying my limits, I have found a balance that works for me and my body. If you respect yourself and the people around you, desire can offer you only good vibes and feeling and make you smile.
Where do you find satisfaction?
Everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Yes, I am one of those people. Let’s say I have a goal, a wish or even a dream if they are fulfilled and becomes reality I am satisfied. Obviously if they are not interesting anymore and they stop giving me satisfaction, then that means I do not need them anymore.
But, this seems to be how it works for everyone, so let’s speak about the simple things in my life. I surely gain a lot of satisfaction from a good meal, a nice party where I can dance all night long and sometimes through sex.
Is it still difficult to find models for your work?
Nowadays, not really. At the beginning I was struggling because I wanted to feel connected with them, but I wasn’t even ready myself to connect and fully exposed my inner self. It was a tough process and, nowadays, I can fully enjoy the positive outcome .
Where does pornography become art and vice versa?
They always coexist! Porn is art, it doesn’t become art. And vice versa. Nudity and porn were ALWAYS part of classic arts worldwide.
How was growing up in the island of Chios? Did you face any homophobia or discrimination from the small society of the island?
Yes, as I have faced it everywhere in the world, wherever I have been! People are people and they are the same everywhere, so even if you come from a small village or an island as I do and you are reading this, stay strong and stay proud! Never allow anyone to tell you that you are a freak cause you are not!! You are 100% normal, you deserve respect and love as everyone else, you aren’t different at all. Never let any kind of bullying affect you and keep dreaming and working on the person you want to be. Growing up can be tough, but you are not alone!
How would you describe your sexuality?
Okay, good luck with it! I would describe it as healthy; I always try to enjoy it to the maximum.
What do you enjoy most in sex?
Well, I enjoy vanilla sex or simply kinky sex when I am in love and I always stick to vers role; it is the only way I feel that I am truly having sex and that the person I am with desires me, and vice versa. For some periods I am a totally monogamist and for some others I am totally not. When it comes to fetish sex, I am always the dominant bottom guy.
What are your future plans?
The past 2 years were tough, so now I try to focus on what is coming next. I have some ongoing collaborations and some ready-planed exhibitions, but I also try to figure out what I am going to do on my own, so this is the period where I am actually planning, but everything now is still just ideas.
*all images are courtesy of George Kanis