Towards the end of last year, we posted an article about a quaint little store in Melbourne, Kimono House. Conveniently situated just a seven minute walk from Flinders Street Station, its tucked just inside the arcade right before Flinders Lane, and you can take the stairs or the elevator up to the second floor on which it is located.
Kimono House, while also being a wonderful shop in its own right, also has a spare room which is used as a space for hosting workshops for learning traditional Japanese craft, art exhibitions and the like. Last month, the space hosted the beautiful mixed media works by husband and wife artist duo Maria and Theo Giannoukas, whom I was lucky enough to meet and interview. Both Maria and Theo have a strong passion and love for Japan and it truly shows through their work.
If you take a quick glance at these beautiful artworks, you might think that they are simple collages, however the materials used and the process that goes into making them is what makes them truly special. Theo mentioned that it all begins with a photo, a sketch or a watercolour of a scene that catches their eye. From there, Theo will draw and draw until he is happy with the end result. The drawings then are transformed into paintings. While Theo is doing this, Maria begins to deconstruct kimonos and start preparing the fabric to use in the collage.
Once the two are finished doing their individual tasks, they come together to start putting together the collage in a painterly fashion. Not only the external fabrics, but the inner linings of the kimonos are also used. If need be, Maria will carefully dye the fabrics to get just the right shade. Each coloured section of the collage is then secured by machine sewing, Maria often uses patterns or zig zag to make it look appealing. According to Maria, this entire process takes at least one month and with a six month deadline for their original exhibition, they were really pushing themselves to the limits.
Many of the fabrics used for their works in this series were not only sourced from Kimono House, but from Japan while they were holidaying over there, many of the people they met at the experiences they had there inspired them to create this series of works.
The couple began working together as a form of unintentional creative therapy when Theo was recovering from an undisclosed incident. When he was looking a little lost, Maria encouraged him to help her finish off a section for her. Initially it was Maria working on the pieces on her own for a judged exhibition, so on their collaborated works she would receive feedback from people saying that it looked different, but they were very much encouraged to continue working together.
And when he did it, it was just like, he couldn’t stop after that… and he kind of blossomed from there.
They also ended up winning that particular judged exhibition and used the prize money to take them to Japan as a reward to themselves for working so hard over the six months.
Maria and Theo aspire to someday show a body of work over in Japan, or at least revisit places such as Kyoto someday.
Although they have no more exhibitions planned for the year at this stage, they actually received an invitation to show the works again at another gallery right before our interview with them. Being such talented artists, I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of them very soon!
Thank you to Leanne from Kimono House for organising the interview and to Maria and Theo for letting me interview them! Also thanks to their son Peter Giannoukas for the beautiful photos of the exhibition day and the artworks.