The Greek Marble Sculptor

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When one thinks of Greek marble and sculptors surely the more classical and historical images come to mind. But what Grigoris Kouskouris is doing is imagining and creating pieces of work that expose a different kind of angle, one that has established a new era in marble design.  Visit his gallery on the beautiful island of Santorini if you have a chance!

 

Hellenic Lifestyle (HL):  You are the 4th consecutive descendent of marble sculptors.  Did each one of your family members have a special trait in their work? 

Grigoris Kouskouris (GK): I have 3 generations of marble sculptors behind me and still influencing me! My great-grandfather and grandfather followed the trends and demands of their time.  They often made monuments and Byzantine art adorning the churches in Greece, Romania and Russia.  I can’t really say that my father had a specific style as he was more involved with common marble sculpture and was fond, if I can put it that way, in carving popular presentations into rocks.

I don’t characterize myself with a specific style except that I love my work to be simple and austere, and above all with clean lines. I don’t create my work with many details as I try to show to the world another dimension in marble sculpture.  I believe in emphasizing my work through the material and not through the subject matter. 

Grigoris-Kouskouris

 Photo Source |  Antonis Eleftherakis

HL:  Has having your family in this business for so many years influenced your style or how does your style differ from theirs?

GK:  Of course they have influenced me!   I grew up in marble dust and all of my family was involved with marble.  Even my other grandfather had a marble factory in Athens and we lived above it until we moved to Santorini.  When we moved to the island my parents started their own marble company which they still have today. My style though is more up to date and as I said in my previous answer I like simple and minimal creations with strong lines.

HL:  What kind of marble do you use and where do you get your marble from?

GK:  There are some kinds of marbles that I use more than others.  This however is not a rule of thumb as I try to combine a specific marble that will best suit the piece of work I’m creating.  The color and transparency are always important factors and play a role in marble selection.   I have a weakness for Greek marble and I like to travel to many parts of Greece to collect them. I search the mountains, especially the quarries where millions of pieces of remnants are found which I like to work with.  All of the above are effective only when the project itself allows for these kinds of choices.  Other times I will order marble in special dimensions from large factories in Athens that have the ability to supply a greater volume of marble from Greece or abroad.

marble work grigoris

HL:  Do different kinds of marble tell a different story or work better for certain pieces? 

GK:  I feel that there is history inside all marble which has spent millions of years coming to the surface; that which arrives in our factory, those that we work with and pieces decorating our homes.  Marble like all stone differs in technical characteristics and in their color.  In order to understand the difference one must know that there is never a piece of marble that is the same as another as far as color and veins.  There is marble that is very soft and can be carved with a knife, some that are very hard and other marbles that have glass or crystals and these are therefore very difficult to work with.

Palindrome

HL:  What is it about marble that you love?

GK:  Difficult question as simple as it may sound. I love marble and grew up surrounded by them, it was and is a part of my everyday life. I love the beautiful veins that show through them, but above all I love that this hard and cold material can acquire a unique plasticity, movement and become a warm material for me to work with which then becomes something special for  the person who acquires it. The movement that you can give to it is wonderful, as long as you know how to work it because it doesn’t forgive mistakes.

Marble body

HL:  What events do you have planned for your gallery?

GK:  Last year my personal gallery called SMAG opened and this year we changed the decoration of the galley to make it have a warmer feel for our guests.  We have prepared a new space where by appointment visitors can come and talk with me about the progress of marble from the beginning stages to what they are currently viewing. Also we are involved in the organization of exhibitions for different artists either coming from Santorini or in collaboration with other artists on the island.  

HL:  You used to conduct workshops with a sculpting class – do you hope to organize them again one day?  Did your  student visitors find it challenging work?

GK:  The class was a quick way to show the world the folk or popular marble sculptures in Greece. Also I enjoy making others do things that they haven’t tried before, which lets them discover a part of themselves that they didn’t know they had.  Through the courses I saw 3-4 people having the capabilities to sculpt and even more gratifying was that two of them were children 8-10 years old.  Although I love this kind of contact with people I don’t have time to do it anymore.  It is wonderful to work with children and even more amazing to see how the parents become kids themselves.  I don’t believe that they see it as a challenge but certainly as a unique experience.   In the beginning they are hesitant and often complain that their fingers are sore but by the end of the day they all leave with a big smile on their face and feeling proud for what they fixed and this is a fantastic feeling for me! 

HL:  Do you have a favorite piece of work?

GK:  No I don’t have a favorite piece of work.  I’m always enthusiastic with new projects and I always try to develop my work. I seem to love the pieces that I have given to good friends more as I get to keep seeing them in their homes. 

Serving surfaces marble

HL:  Tell me about this collection, Aquatic Flights and Prickly Pears.  Do you have another collection that you are also fond of? 

GK:  Aquatic flights is a project that evolves constantly.  Through it I express my fear of planes but on the other hand my worship for the sea and ships. The view from the sky is wonderful as long as you as you are on a ship… (ha ha ha)!  Perhaps this is the only work that is closest to me.   This work has now become a trademark for me especially after its participation in the first “Biennale of Santorini 2012” competition, and among 750 projects it was awarded 6th place. 

smag Grigoris

 Photo Source |  Antonis Eleftherakis

As for the Prickly Pear collection it was a work that was made from childhood memories. I combined the wonderful years that I have spent on the island along with my grandfather while picking and eating this fruit.  This series now decorates parts of my workshop.  

Prickly Pears

I believe though the the most complete collection that I have is  “Pale Faces”.  This series marks the transition of racism in Greece during the economic crisis and the devaluation of freedom for third parties, those foreigners not having human rights.  It’s a simple project with incredible power .

Face marble

 Photo Source |  Antonis Eleftherakis

HL:  We have seen some ultra modern cutting boards and rolling pins made out of marble that you did.  Where can we find those and have you made any other  useful household items that give a bit of a cool edge to them.  We find them so beautiful that we’d like to leave them out instead of putting them back into a drawer or cupboard!  

GK:  There is a whole series called Alternative kitchenware and consists of plates, bowls, boxes for salt and pepper, flat tableware, and a few more that have to do with the modern kitchen and new trends.  We will soon have them on our website , but for now you can see them on our Facebook  page.   All of the products are useful and this was my original idea but to be more truthful I wanted to impress my wife by serving her food with different marble utensils.  Afterwards I decided to create a small and numbered series made up of these utensils. There are 50 pieces of each kind and the response received for this series surprised me.

rolling pin

Plates marble

 Photo Source |  Antonis Eleftherakis

HL: Are you planning on going in different directions with your work and is jewelry on the horizon?  

GK:  I have a new series that is in an experimental  stage. I’m trying different designs based on geometry and experimenting with different marbles until I see which works out the best.   In general for me and SMAG it is a completely experimental period because I’m creating new designs, and new work which will be according to what I want from myself and for the gallery.   I’m not creating something similar but for this year year I’m fixing bronze rings in a limited quantity.  Also with the help of nature I’m fixing some bodies.  Some of them were almost 7-10 years old buried in stables in order to get a natural patina that will make them look completely natural.   

Coil rings

I try to make small and steady steps in art because I want my work to be lasting and not just temporary. There are several proposals for my work but currently they are not concrete.  I have some collaborations with several hotels on the island where my work is displayed.  Last year was the launching of 40 rings with the opening of SMAG which were made of black marble from the city of Edessa.  This year I am experimenting with copper and as a result I made 50 numbered rings.  Also some necklaces were made out of various marbles combined with silver and black onyx .  Every year I like to evolve my work;  stagnation is not in my nature.

Grigoris Gallery

HL:  How do you see your work evolving ?   

GK:  There are many things in my mind but they are just ideas. I’m slowly moving into another phase where I can create larger scale works from a great marble masses.  But of course these take time to find the suitable marble and a lot of time to build since during the last few years I’m trying not to use electrical power tools in my work.

HL:  What kinds of marble decorations do you have in your house?

GK:  Unfortunately not too many.  My wife and I changed our house decor  because of our young daughter as the works we had could be dangerous.   I had some marbled eels that I created along with another sculptor, some special bowls with unique marble veins , some Pale Faces and a carved table in the courtyard for the summer .  In general we do not have many.

marble food boards

Marble coasters

HL:  Do the tourists visiting your gallery want classical Greek looking sculptures or do you see an increased interest in more modern designs such as your paper weights, rolling pins and modern table sculptures?

GK:  So far no one has come to SMAG and requested something more classical or common in design. Perhaps for historical reasons they are more familiar with classical Greek sculptors but once they come into the gallery they forget this.   They love the unique bowls from Tinos island marble with their rare veins and colors.  They are impressed when I explain the story behind each project, the way marble is collected , how it is processed and up to the way it is showcased in SMAG in order to enhance it. 

Today the trend is in the modern pieces

and it is nice to relate to it by showing your work and your thoughts in a very special way with a very difficult material.   

 

Virgin

 Photo Source |  Antonis Eleftherakis

 

Thank you Grigoris!  We wish you continued success with your unique pieces of artwork!

 

You can visit Grigoris’s website at http://www.kouskouris.gr/

2 Comments

  1. John S.

    April 19, 2015 at 9:57 pm

    What a talented artist! We hope to visit Santorini one day and see his gallery.

  2. Jenna

    April 21, 2015 at 2:03 pm

    We were coming to Santorini this summer for the wine but now we have another stop. Love your designs!

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