Artists' Pandemic: Niki Stefanou

Interview By Maia Poon


Art in all its forms is so essential for our emotional wellbeing, learning about others’ lives, and sharing our own stories. Especially now, with June 2020 being Pride Month, a pivotal moment for the Black Lives Matter movement, and in the midst of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the role of art is shifting but more important than ever. I had the opportunity to provide a platform for multidisciplinary artists and writers through online interviews, and they each had something unique to share. Keep creating!

Niki Stefanou

she/her

Artist (Painting and drawing)

@xalitexnis

Athens, Greece


1. Do you feel more or less connected to your art during social isolation?

Personally, I always try to keep myself busy and never want to feel like I’m wasting time, even if this means having too much to do in a limited amount of time. This year was my first year in university and so much had changed, yet one of the few things that had been constant for me was making art.


And then, when lockdown was imposed in my country all that changed again. Social isolation was for many a time for introspection, since we had to spend more time alone. I’m not going to say that I made art more frequently or that I made some big technical progress but since I had more time to think and analyze, the works I made during the quarantine are definitely more personal.


So in a way, it made me more connected to my art; my drawings were “describing” me better because the way I saw art changed. I turned to it right when I got overwhelmed, for example, so my immediate reaction to the stimulus that made me want to draw was the one that I would most likely try to express.

2. Have you seen any noticeable changes in the subjects of your art?

I was pretty confused and in a state of unease at the beginning of the pandemic and I think that this feeling is reflected in my work from that time. So as I said, while I can see how this affected my art, I don’t think that my subjects changed drastically. I made a couple of works that are a direct nod to the pandemic and I experimented a little bit more with materials, but it was more of an impulse than a conscious shift. Overall, I think that the “changes” were subtle and not easily noticeable.


3. Why is art important right now, with the pandemic and civil unrest around the world?

This past year so many sudden changes have occurred, and I think that everyone, especially creators, should try to be in sync with what’s going on in the world. In times of disarray and confusion, more than ever, any type of art serves not solely as a form of self-expression; art can act as an incentive, a moving force that inspires and gives hope to the people. But it does not create only comfort; it is a dynamic notion: art created during hardships immortalizes the conditions, it is put in context as a part of history, even if it is short-lived history. To be able to create is a form of freedom, creative freedom, but also personal freedom. Art that’s inspired by unrest is a statement, a proof of strength that disperses courage to the viewer. And this is why it’s important; it is not static and passive, it can truly help bring change.


4. How can art be used to share typically marginalized voices?

Historically speaking, art hasn’t always been inclusive. In the past, art was about glorifying anything that had an elevated status. But now, art is supposed to be in the hands of everyone. Still, that doesn’t mean that everyone gets the same opportunities. I believe in the aesthetic function of art, but also in its functional value: art isn’t only decorative, nor is it supposed to always be “pretty.” Art should be pure, too, it should portray struggle and no one should silence that. It is a tool and a shelter that enables people to manifest their thoughts and worries into palpable existence.


There are many groups whose reality and struggles are excluded from public dialogue. Art is, by definition, eye-catching, so we all need to harness that, to enhance these voices and pay attention to what the people affected have to say. Support, promote, and learn. That’s why [as allies], standing with these [BIPOC and LGBTQIA+] artists is crucial for their personal excellence, but also to educate ourselves better and tune in with all of our undoubtedly rich and diverse cultures.