The first Spotlight Creative of the Month for 2021 is Marily Papanastasatou, a Greek emerging artist that studies product design at the Glasgow School of Art. Currently, Marily employs her art as a tool in her endeavour to discover herself and what she enjoys. While humbly avoiding the label of the ‘artist’, she experiments with sketches of what stands out to her, nourishing her art with a romantic attitude for details. She has an amid inclination to music and as collaborations with musicians and music labels embellish her portfolio, she embraces the interesting connection of music and art. Marily’s oeuvre encompasses sketches, paintings, ceramics, design and even music. By integrating, expanding, and recreating imagery and techniques, she brings to light the importance of finding happiness and enjoyment in what we do. Taking a laid-back approach, probably deriving from her Mediterranean roots, she creates what makes her feel good and what makes her happy.
- Tell me a bit about yourself and your artistic background. How did you decide on your studies?
I study product design and this year would be my last, but I decided to take some time off. This was something I was considering last year already, but coronavirus made my decision easier to make. Not being able to have the studio facilities and obtaining a degree online did not seem worth it! Considering that my family consists of a few architects, graphic designers, and other related fields, I also wanted to go along those lines. Architecture did not seem quite right and then when I considered graphic design, I realised that I was missing the three dimensions. Thus, product design was somewhere in the middle. I did a foundation course and started studying at the Glasgow School of Art in 2017.
2. What sparked your interest in art and what were your first steps?
Going to Art School was a last-minute decision and before that, I didn’t really make much art since I was more interested in the mechanical side of product design. However, being in the environment of the art school meant that I was constantly in contact with people doing painting, sculpture or design. I was living with eight people that were always sketching something. This intrigued me so I picked up a sketchbook and started going around and whenever I found something interesting, I did a sketch of it. I guess that is how it started – I just spent my time sketching and I ended up enjoying it. I just see it as a different way of expression. I am still in my early stages so I am experimenting with different mediums and subjects to find what works and what does not. I would also be interested in painting, but I prefer a more realistic perspective because I started as a result of observing what is going on around me and sketching what I wanted to keep a record of.
3. What has inspired and influenced you?
The art environment has been important to me; being exposed to people always doing something creative motivates you. Glasgow as a city is probably also a big inspiration because there are always things to do, exhibitions to see and gigs to attend. Also, the nature of product design trains your eye to notice the details within the big picture and think objectively about others as being outside from their world. This has enabled me to just go outside and notice the small things that might be of significance and create from how I see them.
4. A look through your portfolio reveals that you have done a few projects with quite different concepts. Is there one that stands out to you?
My work for musicians, gigs and albums might be one. For example, my work with Polyscope (a music community based in Athens). Whenever I am asked to do something, I have had lots of creative freedom and I think it is the fact that I am doing my part while the musicians are focusing on another one, and there is a collaboration of skills which results in the delivery of a special final product.
5. Do you have a favourite piece or project?
It is very hard to choose, but I must say that the pieces that I sent to the Visual Sound Exhibition in Glasgow (organised by the Art Appreciation Society). The subject was to create sound out of visual art; I was interested in seeing how musicians would interpret my artworks in contrast with what I was listening to when I was making the work.
6. You seem to be interested in the connection between art and music, designing album covers and collaborating with musicians. Can you elaborate on this?
Music has always been a good company and something natural to me. I never saw it as an interest but at some point, I realised that it was worth exploring it in more depth. But as I am not a musician, I found my own way of being involved. I get to enjoy the music and then transform it into something visual, a process which amazes me.
7. What does your work aim to say? Do you think that your practice comments or reflects current issues in the world?
This is something that concerns me, that maybe there should be a message. However, I would say that there is not a direct message about what is going on externally because my work is very personal. Instead, it reflects my own concerns, as I am evolving and becoming more affected by some aspects of the world, that eventually will find their way into my work. Although, one thing that I want my oeuvre to highlight is that there is always beauty to be found if you look closely enough, and I hope that my optimistic and ‘looking at things from the bright side’- attitude can be felt through my work. I sketch what I like and I find beauty in it – that can be gestures and expressions or waves and mountains. It is all about purposely looking at and studying an image and finding the meaning of the little things.
8. How has the pandemic affected you?
I feel that this time has personally been more of a reflection period to make more conscious decisions about next year’s projects and the dissertation, finishing the Glasgow School of Art and my future more generally. Quarantine has definitely been the source of more time and I am trying to make the most of it right now. I have been experimenting, learning and developing new skills and interests. For example, I picked up technical skills like ceramics, embroidery, sewing and I even started saxophone lessons to connect with music even more. However, it was also important that I take time to rest because there will not be many chances in our lives in which time becomes as irrelevant as it is now. Though, most of all, the pandemic heightened my awareness for the small things and my concern of what is real; from the changes in the weather and stars to the fact that now everything is happening through screens. It concerns me how I might look at a hundred different things in a day but really, I have not moved a single meter from my chair. This is something simultaneously amazing and terrifying. Living in a city like Athens where there is a lot of pollution and concrete, glimpses of nature become even more significant because, for me, they are reminders of what is real.
9. How do you seek opportunities during this time? Do people approach you for work or do you have a more proactive attitude, sending portfolios and establishing contacts?
I see this period as a time for personal growth both as a person and as a creative, but I am looking for opportunities, mostly digital, to gain knowledge and new skills. There are times where I am actively looking for work and other times where I just do whatever I want, to be honest. For example, back in September, I was looking for an internship as a graphic designer but considering the current environment, it was not successful. Now I work for a magazine about travelling in different locations in Greece, which is another subject I like, encompassing lots of different natural elements. There are also some music-related projects here and there, but if something is of interest, I approach it with low expectations. There were instances in which people approached me for work, which is an honour. Instagram has been a great tool for this. I started posting on Instagram to become more comfortable with sharing my art, although it is different from showing your sketchbook to someone in front of you and observing their reaction.
10. As an artist, where do you see your career heading towards? What are your career aspirations?
Well, I would not label myself as an artist and I never really thought of making a career out of my ‘art’ because it has always been quite personal and my ways of sharing what I create are just a way for me to not feel alone in this process. It is difficult to make plans at the moment, but I do have ideas for the future, even if they will take a while to be realised. For example, I would be interested in expanding to visual graphics, like animation, to mend the artistic relationship with music but that is just something for the future. If I can live by what I make that is great, but I want to stay true to the reason I create– to enjoy it!