Eleni Sakelaris lino prints detail

Eleni Sakelaris

The South-Africa born, Athens-based print artist Eleni Sakelaris talks about her life travels and it's effect on her work

Published: October 16, 2016Words: Eleni Sakelaris & J.Scott StrattonArtist Link: elenisakelaris.com/

Even though posters and print are moving closer and closer to the grave in the mainstream commercial world, it seems that there is a resurgence of these processes being taken up by artists and designers around the world. Letterpress, lithograph, lino-print, block-print, silk screen are just a few of many different printing processes that are finding their way back into the workshops and ateliers—each with a unique technique and outcome that require far more skill than a two day YouTube crash course on Photoshop and Illustrator.

The artisan crafts, like the printing process, require a level of determination, planning, and patience that is much different than our current “try it out, undo button, try again” type processes—which is why we hold so much admiration for design and print artist Eleni Sakelaris. The level of detail in her work is uncanny, especially when you are familiar with the work that goes into the Linoleum printing process—the form she uses.

(she has an entire breakdown of the Lino-print process here on her website, to give you an idea)

After catching word of her work through an acquaintance, we contacted her to have a little chat and find out more about her process and techniques.

Eleni Sakelaris lino prints detail

So I guess to start things off, can you tell me a little about yourself and your work?

I am 40 years old and I live in the center of Athens, Greece. The mediums I work with are linoleum, paper, ink and my computer. I would say my artistic style is technique and aesthetic driven, a game between delicate lines and bold forms, balance, and movement resulting in something lovely and yet powerful and iconic.

How did you find yourself migrating from South Africa to Athens?

I left South Africa in 1995 at the age of 19. We had lived there for 8 years during my adolescence at a time when great political and social change was happening in the country. It was always my parents’ intention to move to Greece after I finished high school and was something that I welcomed because of South Africa, out of all the countries I have lived, felt the most constricted. There was, and still is, something about Greece that feels like home. It is the only place in the world where I legally belong, whose heritage is automatically mine. It’s comforting knowing that I belong somewhere.

Does your past, living along the Ivory Coast, find itself in your work?

For sure. My father worked as a mechanic for an international company that built roads in remote areas of Africa and so we lived a life that was not only nomadic but also located in the middle of nowhere. I got to see nature from very close up and experience freedom in a way that is rare for modern life. Growing up with people from all over the world, all in the same remote place as me, I think gave me the gift of naivety. I didn’t grow up with the usual traps children get into. There was no mall to go to, no cinema to meet at, no designer clothes to desire. Everyone just looked the same to me. This inability to get involved in stereotyping I think enables me to see the core of things and to work with my gut as a compass rather than follow the social norms.

Do you work more commercially or as a Gallery artist?

For the moment I am still working commercially as a graphic designer. When I had initially started carving linoleum I had no intention of showing it to the world. It came into my life at a moment of crisis when everything around me was falling apart and it was the only thing keeping me sane. Of course, as the collection of sketches and carvings grew larger, I too grew stronger and two years later I had this massive body of work that I realized I needed to show. This coming year my focus will be to start showing in galleries.

I read that you have a history in the fashion business, does that influence your work?

Of course. There is tremendous craftsmanship in fashion. I was always interested in the idea that you can take a two-dimensional form like fabric and mold it into a three dimensional one. Also, you have to keep in mind the uncontrollable element of movement which is added to the equation by the person wearing it, giving what you have made a life of its’ own. I also really love printing on fabrics and am planning on incorporating it into my new work at some point.

Are there any other artists that influence you?

Because of my jumbled creative past, I also have favorite fashion designers, graphic designers, photographers and even architects. As far as artists are concerned my all time favorite would be Louise Bourgeois. Apart from her incredible aesthetics, she was so honest in her work. So open to the truth. So transparent. She saw art as her means to sanity. As a means of releasing her demons. That is something I always envied and only recently came close to experiencing.

Do you have a specific collection of work that you are working on currently?

Right now I am working on a collection of very large linoleum prints. The series I did on animals was more of an exercise to see just how much I could remove literally without creating too much abstraction while at the same time constructing a persona for each animal. These new pieces I am working on going even further into abstraction. I want to see just how far I can go by removing as much information as I can in terms of shape and color while still conveying emotion through movement.

What are some of your ambitions as an artist?

My biggest ambition is learning to be comfortable with revealing myself. To speak my truth. My background in fashion and graphic design keeps my brain on the surface of things. Both are extremely creative mediums and in many ways, especially as far as aesthetics are concerned, surpass many modern artists. I think the fundamental difference lies in the fact that both those mediums rely on the approval of a client or an audience. Art, I would like to believe, begins and ends with one’s own need to express something—whether it is socially approved or not. To reach that mindset is one of the hardest things I have done. To empty one’s brain of who, where, how, and just be and just do is my biggest ambition.