Art gives us an opportunity to analyse, respond to, and hope for creating social change – Interview with Theodoros Kakoullis

Theodoros Kakoullis is a graphic designer and artist since the 90s. In 2002, he was appointed by the Cyprus Ministry of Education, Sports and Youth as a Graphic Design tutor and later as a graphic designer to the Pedacogical Institute of Cyprus to this date. He designs mainly posters and publications for cultural and social themes, such as Theatre plays, Festivals, Museums and Education. He has been awarded several times for designing stamps issues for the Cyprus Post and Cyprus pound collector coins for the Central Bank of Cyprus. He is also a board member of the advisory committee development programs of the International Animation Festival of Cyprus. He’s taking part at this year’s Primanima as a member of the Masters Competition’s jury.

Looking through your recent works I’ve stumbled across some stamps made for the Cyprus Post. Currently you’re working as an applied graphics designer in the Ministry of Education, Sport and Youth of Cyprus. How well does this profession meet your artistic ambitions? What do you think about the general role of applied arts in our time? How well applied graphics suit you?

I studied Graphic Design and Art in the UK in the early 90s, so I have been practicing it for many years, facing all kinds of creative challenges.

Graphic design is my artistic tool which I often use to express my feelings. Working as a graphic designer for the Ministry is different from working as a freelancer, but the principles are the same and the result must always meet the requirements at a high level.

Art is often controversial, so whenever art creates an environment for healthy conversations that leads to new grounds and manifestos, the improvements, new ideas and collaborations come effortlessly. Art gives us an opportunity to analyse, respond to, and hope for creating social change. Applied graphics is my language and a way of expressing myself but fine art is my first love and always will be.

You’ve also studied painting. Are you planning on getting more serious about it as a profession? Can you imagine making painting animations?

Painting is an integral part of my everyday life, a way of interprenting my feelings and the world as I see it. I study and observe various artists from the old masters to many talented contemporary artists of our times worldwide.

It’s so refreshing and so seriously essential for every one of us to discover these healing practices of any kind of creative form, so we can get through these difficult times the world faces, and be more optimistic.

Making painting animations as an experiment and playful procedure in my studio would be fun!

Graphic designer works of Theodoros Kakoullis from the previous years

You've been part of the Countryside Animafest Cyprus organizing team as a Festival executive committee since the beginning of the festival. How did you get into the team exactly?

I experienced the birth of Countryside Animafest Cyprus from the very beginning as Yiorgos Tsangaris, the Artistic Director and founder of the Festival and I were very good friends and colleagues beforehand. I was gradually getting more involved year after year as I knew all the challenges the Festival was facing. Being part of this unique Festival is now part of our lives and we are looking forward to the summer to come so we can host all these great artists from around the world to coexist through artistic collaborations under the magical Cyprus night sky.

The Countryside Animafest Cyprus is a truly special festival, for example many members of the crew are volunteers and it takes place in an extraordinary environment. How do you manage to involve the local community and the young Cypriot students in the festival  works? How stable is this crew?

The local community embraced the Festival with great enthusiasm as they are progressive young people with an endless motivation to offer and spread all kinds of artistic and cultural expression. They take part in all the meetings throughout the year.

Each of them, depending on his/hers expertise, contributes, suggests, brainstorms and acts so that the Festival can get better and more productive every year.

After all, they host the event in their beautiful village of Salamiou, so they want everything to be perfect. As for the volunteers, we have many young people every year mostly from artistic backgrounds applying to work and offer their services selflessly. The main team of the festival is pretty much the same. As the festival grows bigger every year, new ambitious and passionate additions come along, having the opportunity to live and experience this enchanting journey the festival is offering.

Posters of Countryside Animafest Cyprus

Why do you think this festival is important, what does it represent and why is it working so properly since 2002?

Countryside Animafest Cyprus is the first of its kind in the country. Founded in 2002, the festival contributed significantly to the appreciation of the idea of decentralising the arts and has revitalised small rural communities, creating an interest in independent animation cinema in Cyprus, among a very wide audience spectrum.

Animafest Cyprus showcases a selection of the world’s latest productions, focusing on independent, non-commercial films.

It's one of the longest-running film festivals in Cyprus and the last 6 years it’s taking place in the village of Salamiou, a small rural community in the mountainous inland of Paphos.

Cyprus is an archipelago. How does this kind of isolation influence the local culture? How much does it hold the artistic community together?

Cyprus is situated in the eastern Mediterranean and it’s a path between the east world and the west. Inevitably influences from different cultures left their mark on the island. So even though Cyprus art has originality and high quality, it is also characterised by a mixture of elements from these various cultures. 

Τhe Turkish invasion of 1974 naturally affected not only the society but also artists and their artistic production. The years that followed were very difficult. They were full of struggle and intense existential concerns leading the artistic community in isolation but at the same time to resilience and internal growth so the political problem was well promoted. Artists nowadays maintain an open dialogue with foreign trends and adopt the most modern visual and conceptual means of their time, integrating with experiences from their local society. Their participation in international and local events gives them the power to shape the future and lead them to the global art scene.

The political scene seems also very complex in Cyprus. In your opinion, how much of an impact do the conditions have on the artists' work, especially on the younger generation?

Art must be the media that can open our minds and hearts. Older generations of artists must continuously remind and encourage the younger ones to be part of all kinds of political, cultural, and universal issues through their creativity and activism.

Art with strong visual messages can deliver and provide a visual source of history for people with many different backgrounds and beliefs.Art with strong visual messages can deliver and provide a visual source of history for people with many different backgrounds and beliefs.

Both communities, of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots must be united through arts so they can build a peaceful, safe, and creative environment for generations to come.

Masters jury at the 11th Primanima (Melinda Kiss, Theodoros Kakoullis, Ábel Visky)

You visited Primanima last year with the Cypriot festival team. This year you’re part of the Primanima Masters section’s jury. As a graphic designer what aspects of animation films will you concern during the jurying?

A strong bond has formed between Primanima and Countryside Animafest Cyprus in recent years. Collaborative workshops were developed already, but there is room for other activities to evolve.

Needless to say that I would like to thank Tamas (Tamás Patrovits, Festival Director, Creative Director of Primanima – the editor)

for giving me the opportunity to be part of this great festival as a jury member. Tamas is an inspiring, innovative, and forward thinking person, and has the ability to share his vision with all his colleagues. Last year was my second time visiting Primanima as part of the Countryside Animafest Cyprus. I am looking forward to watching and being surprised by all kinds of aspects and techniques of animation, especially those with very strong concepts, artwork, innovative ideas, and messages. Humor is always welcome.

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