It’s fair to say there are very few artists working solely in the medium of plastic — Stathis Alexopoulos is one of them. Strong, lean and muscular, he has the swagger of a decathlete rather than the poise of a sculptor. His black piercing eyes dart around as he shows me his pride and joy: a heavy-duty studio for heavy-duty artwork that he’s built himself, full of drills, planes, benches and grinders. Hanging from the ceiling, an industrial pulley runs the length of the workshop. There’s also a loft for the storage of materials and a cubicle with three vents for toxic fumes.
“A painter has it easy,” he says. “You just need a corner and an easel, but for us sculptors a good studio is essential. We need storage capacity for our materials, room for equipment, creative space. If I’ve been lucky in life, it’s because my mother, a fashion designer, originally lent me half of her own atelier.”
Stathis enrolled at the Preparatory and Professional School of Fine Arts (on the island of Tinos), which specialises in marble. “That’s where I was won over by the third dimension,” he says. “I now know that I can reproduce with my hands what I have in my mind. It’s a great feeling.” Stathis then studied fine arts in Thessaloniki and, while working as an assistant to his lecturer, started designing objets d’art for wealthy clients. This helped Stathis during the crisis, when he was always in demand, accepting every job. These jobs included making an eagle for the Greek air force, statuettes for a Vodafone prize ceremony and bottles for a Mykonos perfumer.
In an age of tightening belts, Stathis has had to adjust. “Because of the crisis, I scaled down my designs and made objects people could buy for €100 in a museum shop. I opted for cheaper materials; I made a lion for the Attica zoo out of acrylic resin and painted it to look bronze.”
It’s his novel work with resins that has made his name. Stathis’ sculptures are crisscrossed with straps that hug the overall shape, be it a horse head, a heart or a Venus de Milo. Each is tinted in his trademark gouache fluoro colours with a matt velvet finish, and they all scream ‘Alexopoulos’. They appear mysterious and intriguing because viewers project their own ideas of why the straps are there in the first place.
He shows me a small tethered heart in Yves Klein blue. “It’s my biggest commercial success” he says. “They start at €50 and sell well in museum shops and galleries.”
Published in the April 2017 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)