Constantine Nicholas: Exploring identity through art

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Constantine Nicholas (HatziYiannakis) was born in Perth, Western Australia, and now resides in Sydney. As a third-generation Greek Australian, his roots trace back to the isle of Kastellorizo. In the early 1900s, his grandparents, along with many others, fled foreign occupations, embarking on a journey to Australia to seek a new life.

Constantine has always been introspective about his identity, a theme that features prominently in his work. This exploration is evident in his rich, layered creations, which encompass installations and digital projects. His art is a mix of text and imagery, linking colonial, Aboriginal, and commercial references.

“An ongoing theme in my work is to use historical journals (other’s truth), maps and illustrations to present a ‘point of view’,” Constantine states.

Through these elements, he delves into and questions the complexities of his Australian identity. By integrating historical and contemporary references, he invites viewers to reflect on the diverse influences that shape Australian identity. His installations and digital projects are a medium for dialogue, challenging conventional narratives and encouraging a deeper understanding of cultural heritage and identity. Through his works, Constantine not only examines his own roots but also opens a broader conversation about the diverse and evolving nature of Australian identity, inviting us to consider the many layers that define who we are.

Title: random scrubs: days of darkness

Medium: foam and sandpaper on board, melamine and cork 2M x 1M x 0.5 Date created: 2023-2024 Exhibited at Articulate Project Space, Leichhardt NSW
May11- June 2, 2024
https://www.articulateprojectspace.org/groupshow/process-ed_nicholas

In his latest paintings, drawings and digital works, Constantine experiments with light and form with the use of materials such as foam, pigment and sandpaper.

“Exploring material forms takes me to the edge of what is real and what is abstract. I have this inspiration to push the extremes of materials, their density of lightness and darkness. I just work with what I have at hand, layering and removing until I get to that feeling of completion,” he says.

“These works can take form in many ways, influenced by how I connect with materials at hand. Overall, I work with the material to imply a causation or physical change. A line can take on a form that attacks the composition to a smear of pigment that can obliterate and smother a surface. These elements, the materials and tools that I use change the intent and meaning of the work and its reality.  More recently I am conscious of my critical judgement at the final stages of a work, not to correct or balance a work formally. I scratch, scrape, rub and drag materials to disrupt the surface, allowing the materials to randomly complete the process.”

Nightscrape_digital sketch 2024

In the recent exhibition titled “Process (ED)” he describes his latest works, ‘Random scrubs,’ “as essentially random tests. I want to see how materials are pushed through the process of making. This group of works takes its imagery scrubbed from the piece of melamine that sits against the wall. Each piece of foam, paper or cork-board is scrubbed blindly, then randomly assembled. The aim is to create works without my critical judgement of completing a work formally. This includes how art or a work of art can be presented. The assemblage of these works for this show was mostly curated by others. I want to challenge the line where what looks real is abstract and vice versa – to fall somewhere in between.”

Constantine is represented in public and private collections in AUS, NZ, APAC, US, EMEA. He holds a Bachelor of Fine Art (visual) from Australian National University and a Graduate Diploma of Professional Art studies, University of NSW. He has held 30 solo exhibitions and participated in over 50 group exhibitions. His works have been exhibited nationally and internationally and can be found in many notable art collections – including the Art Gallery of Western Australia, Australian National University, Kerry Stokes Collection and BHP Billiton. Many of his works have been selected for major art prizes including the Moet & Chandon Prize touring exhibition and the Sulman Art Prize. His awards include the Australia Council’s, New York SoHo studio residency, and the Gunnery Studio in Sydney. His digital works are held by collectors globally.

lines of thick & red_digital sketch 2023

Major commissions include the millennium mural for Kerry Stokes’ office in Sydney, and Suntec City Towers 3 & 4, Singapore.

Constantine is having a solo show, an installation called ‘Days of darkness’ as a window retail display in Sydney, at Slot Window Gallery, which can be viewed anytime during 14 July – 11 August, at 38 Botany Road, Alexandria.

You can find him via email: con.nicholas@gmail.com, his website: www.constantinenicholas.com, and on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Threads.

Constantine is amongst many Greek Australian artists who have participated in the GAAD (Greek Australian Artist Directory). An initiative by the Greek Australian Cultural League (GACL), the GAAD celebrates Greek Australian visual and performing artists by showcasing their works and contributions to the Australian arts landscapeBy preserving and promoting the artistic legacy of Greek Australian artists, the directory ensures that their talents are duly acknowledged and cherished, cementing their place in Australia’s artistic narrative.

Interested artists can register their profiles by visiting www.gacl.com.au and clicking on the dedicated GAAD section.  For any inquiries related to the GAAD, individuals can either email GACL President Cathy Alexopoulos infogaclm@gmail.com or contact GAAD Co-ordinator Vasy Petros on 0412 242 557.

*This is a Greek Australian Cultural League Initiative supported by The Greek Herald.

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