Welcome to the world of Petros Chrisostomou, a London-born artist whose work delves into the intricate relationships between objects and their contexts. As you explore his art, you'll discover a blend of photography and sculpture, where miniature maquettes come to life through the lens, transforming found objects into thought-provoking statements.
Petros Chrisostomou's work navigates themes of class, taste, identity, and display. His art challenges our perceptions of scale and space, inviting us to question our visual certainties and the role of art in our modern world. Beyond the visual, his creations carve out a unique cultural space, one that exists between the boundaries of social and cultural norms.
Born in London in 1981 to Cypriot parents, Petros embodies the essence of globalization. His art becomes a metaphor for the decentralized notion of "home" in our ever-changing world. Currently, he immerses himself in the ViaFarini Residency in Milan, continuing a journey that has taken him from the United States to Beijing, leaving an indelible mark on the global art scene.
With a rich array of exhibitions spanning the globe, from Savannah to Paris to Beijing, Petros Chrisostomou's art transcends language barriers, resonating with viewers on a universal level. Join us as we delve deeper into his world, where objects, contexts, and cultures converge to create a captivating narrative. Explore more of his work at Petros Chrisostomou's website and connect with him on Instagram. Enjoy our exclusive interview with the issue #38 artist.
Explore more of his work at Petros Chrisostomou's website and connect with him on Instagram.
How do object and context relationships in your work reflect themes of class, taste, and identity?
We use objects in our lives for many different reasons, and they are always imbued with history and cultural reference. Whether the objects are utilitarian or not, they function with a purpose for the circumstances in which they are meant to serve, and we recognize this through our relationships with them.
For example, we may place a certain sense of hope or love onto an object because of someone or some situation it may remind us of. Because of these relationships, we assign value to them, sort of like a rank or hierarchy that is allocated by our understanding of cultural norms. By taking something which is already familiar in everyday life and representing it within a context that it would not normally be identified in, or perhaps by altering its size, this notion acts to subvert our understanding of the object by undermining or glorifying its status.
The objects that I collect vary from the different places that I travel to. Some are wigs or hair products that are sold in various dollar stores that I juxtapose with ballrooms or courtrooms that historically represent spaces of oppression, dominance, and power, and in doing so, question the power dynamics between the two different class brackets that are meeting each other.
Sometimes I use high-heeled shoes that speak to the idea of glamour or superficiality and represent these within the contemporary white cube gallery context to parody the idea of a commodity, and even fetishize the object, and in turn, what that may say about the value that we place on objects and the world that we have constructed around ourselves.
Can you describe the process of creating your miniature maquettes and how they inform the photographs you take of found objects?
The spaces are based on both autobiographical and fantastical places, and often become an exploration in my mind of the histories I have lived. I often build these from memories I have of spaces that I grew up in or through images that I find online, that somehow I aspire to. It often takes me several months or even years to create the maquette, as I work on many at the same time and often have to problem solve to try and source the most convincing techniques to render each detail or object in.
Whether it is a particular 3D printed component or the rim of a door lock to represent the rim of a washing machine door, it all takes a lot of patience and time to get right. I often start very loosely by building things intuitively but then start to hone in and get more focused and more detailed as the model develops, to the point where I am so obsessed that I feel I am physically in that space.
Your work plays with scale and dimensionality. How do you hope this challenges viewers' perceptions and their understanding of art?
I try to use the element of scale as a device to draw my viewer into the picture so that it can then start to unfold the other layers that the work contains. For sure the phenomenon of scale is something intriguing and makes us relate to our sense of place, but often something fantastical can also be easy to overlook. I hope that by using this element, I can gauge the viewer's attention for long enough so that they can then begin to dissect the other questions that are going on. For instance, the relationship of the object within physical and non-physical space, and how we are beginning to receive information and culture through two-dimensional images on a telephone screen rather than physically being here with the piece itself, and more importantly, whether the ‘thing itself’ or a ‘record of the existence of the thing itself’ is what is valuable in this age.
As someone born to Cypriot parents in London and having immigrated to the U.S., how do your multicultural experiences influence the cultural spaces you depict in your art?
I feel like my upbringing gave me a multiplicity of different perspectives. I was not so single-minded in doing things in any certain way or following a direct code, and therefore I think it gave me the capacity to look at things in a more objective way. I believe this is the reason that I mix and match spaces with objects to create a collage of cultures for us to consider together. On a humanistic level, I often feel that in certain social situations I am more attentive to listen to other people's perspectives and to hear the individual opinions of others, and I think this is a great quality to bring to a creative platform. Having experiences from many different cultures is what connects us and drives us to work towards a world that we can navigate with confidence.
How do the spaces you create in your art reflect or challenge conventional ideas of "home"?
I see the spaces that I build as metaphorical, in the sense that I believe in the idea that home is more of a mindset or a headspace than a physical place. The comforts and the objects that we surround ourselves with within that space are perhaps the construction of the home itself.
As a child growing up in London, I lived in a one-bedroom apartment with my Mum, my Aunt, and my Grandma, so the need for my own sense of space was at the forefront of my inquiry from a very young age. I would often play a game where I would put a blanket over two chairs, and inside of that, I could transport myself to anywhere I wanted to be. So I think this is the early beginnings of the work I make.
In addition to this, as a first-generation immigrant, I did not feel entirely at home within the British culture of the early 80s and yet at the same time, I would also be treated as a foreigner when I would visit Cyprus. This sense of not belonging in either category gave me the inspiration to start building my own spaces in order to communicate and express myself more comfortably within them.
I think we now live in a more globalized world, where migration or even war can relocate people from their ancestral homes. If my work can say something about this mixing and movement of spaces and culture, then our perception of home can become a concept that we understand in a less conventional way. It may be that this is my own specific insight, but I feel that other people might relate too.
Can you share an experience or insight from one of your residencies, perhaps at ViaFarini in Milan or during your time in Beijing?
I’ve been traveling from one residency to another over the past three years, and in this time, I have met so many different people and seen so much art. Most notably, I have been making site-specific installations with found objects, instead of the traditional maquettes that I am known for, and I have also started a photographic practice where I make portraits of artists that I meet on my residencies, that I would love to turn into a book one day. Most recently, I had been living in Milan on a residency called Via Farini that was an artist-run initiative set up in the 90s. Many famous artists have been through there, such as Maurizio Cattelan and Katerina Grosse. And it was a very formative time for me to generate ideas for new work. It’s rare that I return to places, but in this case, the experience inspired me to go back in 2024 to realize some large-scale installations through some of the networks and connections I made during my time there.
To say something about Beijing... My time living in Beijing was just before the preparations for the Olympics. I remember there was a mandate that all infrastructure and unfinished buildings had to be completed by a certain, very tight, deadline. I have memories of the National stadium with scaffolding around it, and when I came back from Hong Kong after four weeks, it was completely finished. The work ethic and determination were so incredible. In general, it seemed that there was a lot of money being pumped into the Chinese art market at the time, with galleries like Long March and PACE setting up outlets in the 798 district, and I was fortunate to get an insight into some amazing artist studios and, of course, establish a lovely relationship with the term and with The Red Mansion Foundation who had supported me to go there on that trip.
Currently, I am in another residency in Mandelieu-la-Napoule throughout the month of October with an open studio scheduled for the 27th. If anybody happens to be in France at that time, it would be a pleasure to welcome you to my show!
With exhibitions all over the world, from Savannah to Paris to Beijing, how do you feel different cultural contexts impact the reception and interpretation of your work?
I'm very grateful so far for the wonderful reception I’ve had in many of the places I’ve been to. I think that being a citizen of the world helps because I can incorporate elements within my works that speak to the various different cultures through the objects I encounter on my travels. Often I do not speak the language of the country that I am exhibiting in, but my art seems to have a universality through its references that can connect with people on a visual and cerebral way, and this is something I am tremendously grateful for. I never dreamed when I was young that I would be able to travel and meet so many interesting people through the work that I make, and this is something extremely special that I cherish all the time.