We all live in troubled times, every day sees us bombarded with news and images about the latest conflicts, economic recessions and socio-political problems that affect us all on a global scale. The one positive thing that does seem to emerge from these chaotic moments in history is the inspiration it provides for those creative minds amongst us to voice their opinions and more often than not, their opposition to how the masses are being treated at their home country by those in power. Street art provides the perfect platform for creating works from social problems with artists across the globe taking to the streets to spread their word, such as Black Hand based in Tehran whom you can read about in Black Hand Emerges and the street artists in Africa that you can read about in African Graffiti: Raising Awareness. In Europe, the recent problems in Greece have been well documented and you can read more in our articles Street Art and Economy Crisis and Urban Art Originating from Social Upheaval, which relates specifically to the troubles in Greece. The troubles in the country of Greece has led to a surge in artists taking to the streets with some receiving international acclaim such as Fikos and Ino, while others are following close behind either making overtly political works such as Nomenhior or by simply aiming to brighten up the neighbourhoods in these dark times such as the colourful figures of Yiakou. You may wish to check out the 10 Favourite Politically Charged Art Expressions of 2014 before heading into a selection of 10 street artists from Greece.
Fikos is somewhat of a unique and unusual voice on the Greek street art scene in that he usually creates works based on greek mythology-history as well as on mythologies of other cultures. The works strongly resemble Byzantine art that he studied as a youth before he started painting the walls of Greek Orthodox churches at the age of 18 while developing his own unique style that he then took to the streets of Greece and beyond, including France, Bulgaria, the UK, Ireland, Ukraine, Austria, Lithuania, Switzerland, Norway and Mexico. Fikos strongly believes that art should be timeless and relate to universal themes, so he continues to create art that reflects universal values and feelings like hope, joy and sorrow. You can read more about Fikos and his exhibition Fallen Angels in The Last Byzantine article.
Athens based artist iNO is another Greek street artist receiving international acclaim for his distinctive figurative murals created on a massive scale. iNO started out by studying fine arts before moving on to spraying graffiti on trains and then transferring his skills on to the walls of Athens and firmly believes that if you want to know what a city is about, you only have to observe the walls to see what is painted there. iNo is one of the few Greek street artists that believes commissioned street art can still convey a social message, as he did himself with a large mural of a woman’s face on paper that was being crushed by a hand, with the message being that man has become a slave of his creators. Many object, feeling authorities commission the street artists to limit political and social expression. You can check out the impressive mural that iNO created in Wynwood, Miami, 2013.
The work of Stamatis Laskos takes many forms, from local illustrations and paintings on a small scale to large public murals on the streets of Greece while his warped portraits, often of friends or everyday people and occasionally animals, saw him gain favour with The New Yorker magazine for which he is now a regular illustrator. The impressive figurative studies created by Laskos reveal his art education; he studied at Athens School of Art from 2002-07, and his understanding of human anatomy. His painterly creations often come with titles such as Live Without TV, Drought, Under Chemical Attack, The Stupefaction and Fear that reveals far more than the images at first portray, the oddly posed and elongated figures then taking on a more symbolic role. Laskos, who also works under the name Sive One, creates wonderful surreal scenes alive with small details and impressive brushmarks that make his work standout. Read more in the Closer Together article.
Bleeps.gr, sometimes referred to as just BLEEPS is the pseudonym of a Greek street artist and his crew that operate mainly out of Athens producing street art in a political vein. Although Bleeps originated in Bristol, UK, after a stay there between 2003 and 2005, Bleeps has become very active since the onset of the Greek financial crisis creating street art that examines religion, politics, the monetary system and consumerism. Much of the work has derived elements from folk art and addresses issues related to the impact the crisis has had on the lower middle class residents of Greece that has seen Bleeps create a number or works on abandoned buildings that make use of the areas around the sealed up windows. While the roots of the street art created by Bleeps is rooted in the history of Greece their works also addresses the wider global issues of politics and money. Read much more about their ideas at Bleeps.gr and perhaps check out the article When People Matter.
Nomenhior is a street artist that works in the traditional stencil style of many political artists and claims on their website that it is nothing more than street art and nothing more than criticism, that the works created by Nomenhior are simply an observation through their eyes of the socio-political situation in Greece over the last five years. What Nemenhior does is take simple but strong images to create political slogans, often with a play on words so we see images such as a can of coca-cola turned into a hand grenade, images of Greek riot police that play with the words Hellenic Police to become Greek City Fear along with similar themes that question the role of the state, politics, consumerism and global brands. The images, such as I love Gr, that contains another riot policeman, says much about how Nomenhior feels about the recent crisis in Greece and is one of the more politically direct artists working on the streets of Greece.
Billy Gee is a skateboarder and street artist that was born and raised in Athens and has spent much time travelling around Europe participating in skate competitions and writing articles for skate magazines along with a regular weekly column in Athens Voice. When not planning skate contests, Billy Gee can be found creating his vivid work having been part of the graffiti community and street culture from a young age, he also decorates spaces, sets, hotels and shop displays with his artistic works. Having studied Graphic Arts and Realistic Design it is no surprise that the large pieces that Billy Gee creates thrive on a use of colour and design with realistic images. One of his most striking images is that of a stray dog named Loukanikos that was infamously caught standing in the front line of anti-austerity protests in Greece. You can see Billy Gee in action in this Behind The Wall video.
Athens based street artist Cacao Rocks has been making quite a splash of the Greek street art scene with his artworks that incorporate bright colours and patterning throughout his compositions. The artist claims he started producing graffiti when just a tender 12 years of age to impress a girl; inspired by the works of Basquiat and Keith Haring, Cacao Rocks has developed his own distinctive and vibrant style of working. Cacao Rocks produces street art that is not overtly political in its images, the artist says that any graffiti or street art is in itself a political action and is a way to communicate ideas. While not concerned with pushing political propaganda through his imagery he does strive to tell a story through the works without changing the ideas of the people who view the works on the streets and simply wants to brighten up the urban landscape so people don’t just have grey walls to walk past.
STMTS (Stamatis) is an Athens based artist also currently studying at Athens School of Fine Arts whose impressive large scale drawings have been appearing in recent times on various public buildings around Athens. Image wise, the works of STMTS mainly contain images of children, perhaps as a sign of hope during the troubled times that Greece has experienced recently and also as a sign that they are innocent of all that is happening globally with titles such as Radioactive Baby, Far Away, Unspoken and You Make Me Sick and the more politically direct image of a child holding a sign saying One Life One Chance. The realistic images are drawn on paper then pasted up in public places giving the appearance of pages torn out from notebooks, complete with lines, and stuck on a wall. The emotions conveyed in the faces of the children vary from joy to sadness and in doing so; STMTS appears to be drawing our attention to what kind of world we are creating for future generations.
The street artist NAR was born in Russia, 1982 but moved to Thessaloniki in Greece with his family during 1991 where he is still based. The street art works of NAR appear to be split into two main areas, those created with spray cans that appear as colourful organic growing shapes that he says are inspired by H.R.Giger, sometimes featuring faces and symbolic objects that the artist says are not politically inspired while the other works do appear as more of a statement about the situations in Greece. The second group of works appear often as words formed in the walls of abandoned buildings, the artist chipping out the words such as Second Hand, Lies and Liars then filling the holes with objects such as empty spray cans, clothing and stuffed toys to form the words that act as an obvious socio-political statement about the state of the world. NAR claims that not much of his work is to be seen on the average street as he prefers the location of abandoned buildings and steel doors. Perhaps check out the work of Swoon who only works on similar abandoned buildings.
Yiakou is a young painter and street artist that is based in Athens who seems to have a very different approach to fellow street artists by taking a much more gentle and poetic route with their artistic creations. The street art works of Yiakou consist mainly of floaty and dreamlike images of female characters, often surrounded by flowers or with branches growing out of their heads that seem to indicate a love for nature and perhaps is a commentary on the environment. If you take a look on the Yiakou website you will not only find street art, but wonderful fairytale like images on canvas along with sketchbook works and poetry. The gentle images seem somewhat at odds with their locations in the middle of the urban sprawl but one can’t help but think they bring a moment of stillness and calm when rushing past in the routine of daily life. In the turbulent times Greece has been experiencing they offer a brief glimpse into a calmer and better future.
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The upcoming online exhibition brings together over 150 artists to raise funds for Fondation pour la Recherche Médicale's COVID-19 research.