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Dimitris Lazarou: “Art is the imprint of life”

Stella Sevastopoulos interviews Dimitris Lazarou, α person of many talents, who has organized many exhibitions both online and in real space, whilst also promoting the work of contemporary Greek artists. His online exhibition ‘Woman Evolution 200’, which comprises the work of 113 artists, recently premiered also as a video presentation of the works, accompanied by poems about women, recited by award-winning director/actress Maria Katsioni, and actress/choreographer Georgia Karamerou. He has planned for three new shows to open at Kolonaki’s Hellenic-French Association, plus the reopening of ‘CHILDREN have the right NOT to remain silent’ at Kifissias’ Tsichritzis Foundation.You can get a peak of the latter via its video presentation, or if you visit the foundation’s art shop which is open to the public.

Dimitris Lazarou

First of all, I have to say that you are a multifaceted person: a teacher, art exhibition organizer, producer of cultural radio shows on the expatriate Viennese radio station Hephaestus Radio. You are also an external collaborator for Art Hub Athens, a non-profit organisation which believes that culture and the arts can bring about social change, among other things. How did these different sides of yourself develop and combine harmoniously?

My first job was working in an international transport company. This was a job that demanded long working hours and high-speed thinking. A combination of events led me to finally getting to use my teaching degree. Other events led me to realize that I wanted to live in the fast lane, and not follow a sedentary lifestyle. So, things turned out in this way without me specifically aiming for it, but it didn’t all happen at once. It was a sequence of events and proposals and developments which helped me develop the different facets that you have referred to, rather than just that of an educator.

Your love of art is essential, and this is proven by the way that you constantly help artists, organizing free exhibitions for them on your site art-profiles.net, and promoting their works on your You Tube channel, but also on other social media (Facebook, Instagram). The 12 exhibitions that you have organized for 2021 (one exhibition per month) on your site, via the project ‘12MONTHS – ARTonline’, is another example, which has offered the world of art an important stream of exhibitions, during the lockdown. Tell us about your relationship with art and how it has been created.

View of the ‘Small Surprises’ exhibition at the Hellenic-French Association

My relationship with art began with a collaboration for the promotion of a solo exhibition of a friend of mine (Aristidis Chrysanthopoulos), through which I got to learn more about the contemporary art scene and the difficulties that it faces. Later, I was given the opportunity through the affirmative answer of a person who loves art (the collector Sotiris Felios), to transfer an online show into real space (the group show ‘Prevention via Art’) – a group show with exceptional contemporary artists. From then on, I tried to continue and help, as much as I could, via group shows that I organize, the promotion of contemporary artists and their work. For me, it was already evident that there was a GOOD side to the internet, and these events helped prove it. And so, I then created my own website art-profiles.net which has proved to be an invaluable base via which I can present the exhibitions I have organized in real space, but also to create online exhibitions.

These online exhibitions really took off with the whole covid-19 pandemic.

When the first wave of the covid pandemic hit us, I immediately realized that the situation of art’s ‘confinement’ would not be over soon. And so, during the first lockdown in Greece, I organized the two internet shows ‘The pandemic of ARTvirus’ and ‘Exit Virus enter Greece’. During the second lockdown I thought of creating a project that would last for 12 months, because I believe that internet exhibitions are here to stay now!

That might be true on an international level, but here in Greece people are more wary of online exhibitions, don’t you think?

Greek artists still might have their qualms about internet exhibitions and they might not ‘believe’ in them that much, but in general, Greece is still behind in terms of the internet. We all have to understand that when you are abroad and you speak to someone about an artist’s work, however well you speak about it, that person will still try and google the artist in order to get to know him/her. If that artist has no internet presence, if there are no photos of the artist’s works for example, statistically speaking the person will not make much of your kind words about that artist, and won’t take it any further.

View of the exhibition ‘CHILDREN have the right NOT to remain silent’ at the Tsichritzis Foundation

As a teacher, you have a clear perspective on how there isn’t much emphasis on the development of the creative/artistic side of a child within the Greek education system. What do you have to say about this? Have you tried to make steps in this direction through your educational role?

I think that all teachers make an effort, however no way can we replace those who have studied the subjects of art and theatre. Of course, there needs to be a broader spectrum of education, however the Ministry of education sees things from a more practical perspective. For example, theatre education is taught in the first four classes of primary school, but who’s to say that the students of the 5th and 6th grades don’t need it too. The world ‘PAIDEIA’ (education) is the key to the progress of any place, however the kids of today have to face factors that contribute to the development of an education system without a framework, principles, and especially, ethics.

Tell us about your radio program ‘The art newspaper’ (‘I efimeris tis technis’) on Hephaestus Radio, an online radio station that reaches 165 countries around the world.

I have to thank Georg Gstrein first of all, who created the website hephaestuswien.com in the heart of Europe, in Vienna and managed in a small space of time to attract over 12,000 visitors per day to his website. This led him to realise another dream of his, to create the radio station Hephaestus, which reaches out to 165 countries. And, I guarantee that there are Greek and Cypriot expats in those countries that tune in. It was an honor that he proposed that I should create a cultural program for the radio station and of course I gladly agreed. Of course, I owe a big thanks to all my guests who have featured on the program and who have strengthened it with their views and energy, because what the expat Greeks miss most is to listen to the Greek language. We must never forget that the Greek and Cypriot expats might live outside of their homeland, but they often have closer ties with it.

The exhibitions that you have organized, often have a social message, and a purpose: to bring awareness to certain topical issues, such as children’s rights (in the exhibition ‘CHILDREN have the right NOT to remain silent’), the protection of animals and the environment (in the exhibition ‘S(tr)ay a little prayer for me’), the acceptance of difference and diversity and the rights of GLBT (the exhibition ‘Tar and Feathers’). Tell us about the thought-processes behind these exhibitions and their subject-matter.

Although I also organize exhibitions with freer themes, I have always been interested in organizing exhibitions with a message or that are based on issues which have always interested us (e.g. humanitarian or social). It is harder to find the works when the exhibition has a specific theme. However, I work with wonderful artists who always honor me with their presence and their works. Without them, exhibitions cannot be realized. And in any case, exhibitions have to resonate messages, because I can also say that via the internet and social media, you always can find a way to return to these exhibitions, to remind, to pass on those beautiful messages and at the same time to present the artworks again. In this way the works have a second and third chance to be exhibited.

The lockdown in Greece is starting to loosen up, and shops and certain other establishments have been given the green light to open their doors once again. This means that the show ‘CHILDREN, have the right NOT to remain silent’ at the Tsichritzis Foundation for the Visual Arts in Kifissia, could soon reopen to the public.

Hopefully, once the cultural institutions and museums are given the green light, people will be able to visit this show once more. This is an exhibition which basically ‘loves’ children, giving them their rights, via the works of contemporary artists, to not remain silent in terms of what they have endured, e.g. abuse, labor etc. For this exhibition, I have collaborated for the second time with the non-profit organization Art Hub Athens, and this collaboration will continue, seeing as the valuable support of its president Eirene Gougougianni and my collaboration with the curator Tonia Nisotaki were invaluable. I also have to thank the heart and soul of the Tsichritzis Foundation, Lina Papaioannou, for her support and love of art. Despite the fact that she saw the possibility of a lockdown, she embraced my idea, for the exhibition to go ahead and to be organized and presented online. We await therefore for the new measures for cultural institutions to be announced, and in my opinion, they have been delayed for too long. I hope the fact that the renovated/expanded National Gallery is ready to open to the public, will push things towards the opening of other cultural institutions earlier than last year.

You are also restarting dynamically, with the organization of three exhibitions at the art space of the Hellenic-French Association on Kolonaki Square. Tell us a bit about these new exhibitions: ‘myheART’ (17-29 May), ‘Small Suprises’ (31-12 June) and ‘Summer Mood’ (15-26 June).

These three exhibitions in the historical space of the Hellenic-French Association on Kolonaki Square have free themes and will allow the art-loving public to return to their normal activities, i.e. to see a variety of artworks with various subjects in a space in the center of Athens which allows them (as is the case also at the Tsichritzis Foundation, in the heart of Kifissia), to combine their art viewing with other activities in the vicinity which they might have missed, due to the lockdown. Of course, these activities will also be realized with the new covid-19 health measures which the government has stipulated. Health above all, let’s not forget that.

Lastly, tell us about what art means to you, and what is it that will inspire you in a work of art.

Art is the imprint of life itself, even if the images might not always be positive or optimistic. It is however positive that artists are inspired by life, pass on messages through their work and ‘comment’ about life in this way. Therefore, life exists where art does! For me, a work of art will create emotions, thoughts and will certainly make me travel, even for a while, away from the everyday, and that’s what I appreciate about it even more. But what inspires me most, are humane deeds, and that includes the support and development of the arts. As my slogan says on my site, ‘Be pART of ART’!

  • Here’s the link to the video presentation ‘Woman Evolution 200’, which premiered on April 22:
  • Here’s the link to the video presentation of the exhibition ‘Children have the right not to remain silent’, which will soon reopen at the Tsichritzis Foundation

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