Nick Maroussas uses found materials like junk mail, cereal boxes, and fliers to create collage-based compositions that are bright and inspired by sticker art and graffiti. He currently has a show up at a venue on the South Bank, London, called Too Many Cooks, through March 27! More info at the links after our interview!
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What first interested you in making art?
I know it sounds like everyone’s childhood but I was really into drawing cartoons when I was a kid. I wasn’t that in to comic books. My brother and I would just draw big scenes full of characters that we designed. We always used waste paper from my parents’ office. It’s actually quite bizarre how similar those pictures were to what I do now.
What has your art education been like, either formally or informally?
A-Level followed by a 1-year foundation course which took me away from art and towards motion graphics which is what I’ve built a career in.
I feel lucky that I’ve been able to let my style evolve very gradually without depending on it financially. On the other hand, I think back and wonder, why did I not stick with it? It was my decision but I can’t remember receiving any advice from my tutors on how to progress. I don’t seem to bring out the best in teachers. The basis of what I do now was definitely present then; the graffiti influence and the layering, but it wasn’t quite working and so I just found another path rather than trying to solve it.
You’ve mentioned that you’re influenced by street art and urban walls, especially the temporal nature of this imagery. Can you elaborate on how this plays a part in your practice, and why you find it so appealing?
I’m not trying to replicate how urban walls evolve, decay and renew. I don’t think that works, but it has influenced my process. Losing something precious in a composition, some element you valued, destroying or concealing it; it’s surprisingly liberating. And it nearly always leads to an interesting and unpredictable result.
You use a lot of different materials, including spray paint and collage from found paper materials. Do you have a method for collecting or acquiring your materials, or knowing what you’ll use in your work?
I like my work to be affected by my surroundings, by what is available to me at a given time. I collage a lot of my colours from brochures that are put through the door. Some of them are really good quality; lovely paper stock, beautiful photography with amazing colours so it seemed obvious to use them in my pictures. I’m not against buying posh paper but using found materials gives my pictures a readymade history.
There’s a cleaner who puts her business flyers under everyone’s windscreen wipers in the streets round my way. No-one’s that interested in them and they sit there for weeks lined up on the cars. I collected a whole load of them to make my picture, ‘Amy Cleaning’. When I show locals my picture, they all recognise the bright yellow ‘Amy Cleaning’ cards. I feel a bit guilty about sabotaging a cleaning lady’s advertising but, then again, I’ve submitted it to the Royal Academy Summer show this year so I may open up a whole new market to her.
What is your process like? Do you plan a piece ahead before you begin?
One picture tends to feed into the next with a slight tweak. It feels a bit like a scientific experiment where you don’t want to change too many things at once so you know what is affecting the result.
I never have trouble starting a new picture. I never have to stop and think, “What do I want to draw next?” I just start drawing my character. I’m quite detached at this point. Maybe it’s comparable to a painter priming their canvas? When I add a second layer of faces, interesting things usually start happening and I really engage. A puzzle has formed that I need to solve.
How much time do you typically spend on a work?
I think a picture usually takes me three weeks but, of course, it varies. I developed ‘Junk Mail 02, 03 and 04’ at the same time so that sped things up. I could probably work faster but I think it would be detrimental. One of my themes must be the passing of time and I want that to be real, to a certain extent.
Much of your recent work also incorporates a fragmented, abstracted cartoonish character — can you tell me more about that?
I got into sticker art and character logos around 2004. I’d hardly done any serious drawing for ages but it gave me a way back in. I didn’t really have any aspirations at that point, I just really enjoyed developing it in my spare time so I never questioned whether it was worthy of being a work of art. But it became the link that had previouslybeen missing from my work and it solved the problem. I think maybe my work isn’t actually about the character. It’s not a comic book telling a story. It’s an enabler, it enables my process.
How would you describe your studio or workspace?
I’m sad to disappoint you, I know you enjoy a good studio shot, but I’m currently stuck on the kitchen table! It’s ok, it’s a big table in a nice space but it’s a pain having to clear everything up when I finish a session. I’ll get a studio when the time is right but I’m not in a rush. For all the gorgeous studio pictures on instagram, I’ve seen plenty of pokey-looking ones with no heating.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received so far? Any you’re happy you ignored?
When I first moved to London after university, my sister told me, “Never turn down a drink”. I’ve since passed that on to a few people embarking on their careers. Depending on your temperament, of course, it could be terrible advice.
How would you define “success?”
I try not to define it too precisely, certainly in terms of a final destination. What happens if you get there?! I prefer to set incremental goals, like being interviewed for Young Space!
What do you feel is the most daunting or challenging thing about pursuing art, either creatively or professionally?
I’m fortunate that I have a freelance career to support me until I can survive on my art alone. That would be really hard, balancing financial pressures with creative development. The flip-side of that is I can’t always concentrate on my art as much as I’d like to.
What are you working on right now? Any upcoming exhibitions?
I have my first solo exhibition, ‘Junk Mail & Cereal Packets’, at Too Many Cooks at The Metal Box Factory on Great Guildford Street, London SE1 0HS. It’s on for a month from March 27th. It’s not a gallery; it’s a really nice cafe/restaurant near Tate Modern, so it’s ideal for a stop-off if you’re having a day on the South Bank!
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