We had an opportunity to have a chat with the artist behind House of Wilow´s collaborative project called “Art on Fashion”. In this special collaboration Stiofán Grego´s rugged and raw art is united with drapey, flowy and luxurious Italian silk. This collaboration is all about contrasts.
If willing to see Stiofàns art here in Helsinki – you can spot one of his works at restaurant Ragu, where “Art on Fashion” collaboration and the reveal of Stiofán’s massive and expressive art piece was launched in one summer nigh in June.
So, more about the man behind the art…Few years ago, this Belfast-born visual artist and expressionist changed his location from Helsinki to Mallorca, where he currently lives in with his photographer wife Olga, two daughters and a dog and has his studio. Stiofán Grego is an explosion of expressive color and statements, raw emotion and basic shapes. Grego draws inspiration from the conundrums of the North of Ireland political circumstances in which he grew up. A complicated, though thought provoking experience allowed him to find the creative outlet to express the questioning nature of his personality as well as the social situation at large, often featuring bold statements.
In his experience people are not attracted to each other by negativity. So his inspiration is to find positivity amongst the murkiness. To look for the original questions rather than repetitive answers. Grego’s art is raw emotion, not simply decoration.
How would you describe your art?
There's not a real label for it. I would say it's simply raw emotion. I do like primitivism and I like to combine words and imagery together.
I don't want my paintings to be simply decoration. That's not what I'm about. I'm not interested in making beautiful pictures. I'm interested in expressing my emotion at that time, whatever it is. I have had the experience where people have said to me that this means this or that to them, or they see this and that, and so then it becomes a conversation rather than me telling them what this is supposed to be. If they buy a piece, it is usually because it means something to them.
It doesn't need to be a beautiful face or the perfect hand or anything like that, because every hand is different, and every face is different. We've evolved with a set of emotions; all our faces are different, but we can relate to emotions when we see them because they are basically the same.
There are always spelling mistakes in my work, that’s just the way I speak. When I say “responsibility”, it's rosponsibility with an o – that's my accent, the way I was brought up in Belfast. So, for example, when I wrote it in “Bra”, one of my paintings, I thought, “Oh shit, I've spelled that wrong.” But I kind of liked it and I just left it there because it was a mistake, and mistakes are what our lives are made of. But we try and cover them up and don't talk about them or don't reveal that those mistakes are there. So that’s why in all my paintings you will see the process underneath. It’s a way of being honest.
You seem to be such a happy soul, but when you see your paintings, you will see very strong emotions. Do you think that maybe you are so happy on the outside because you get to release your emotions through your art?
Yes, definitely. Once I have painted something, it's out, it's done. I don't have to think about it anymore. It's like a release; the frustration is gone, and I don't need to ask that question again.
It's like when you have a certain emotion. Maybe you haven't told the person that
you love exactly how you feel about them for years, and then you get the opportunity. Once you tell them, they know and you can walk away, you can leave it. You've said it, they know how you feel, that's it. Then it's up to them. I feel the same when I finish a painting.
Do you still feel that there is some of your childhood in Belfast, some of your experiences, in your art?
Yes, of course it's there. There's an energy from Belfast in my art and I think it will always be there. It is like a soft aggressiveness. I was born and brought up in Belfast, I lived through the Irish Troubles, and I have seen and experienced a lot of bad stuff. But I still had a brilliant childhood (laughs). I have witnessed real bad violence with people being killed in front of me. Soldiers were patrolling the streets, but we just played there in the middle of all of this. My childhood was good, despite all that. I grew up in West Belfast, in Ballymurphy, and I remember playing in bombed-out houses. But growing up in Belfast also taught me not to be afraid of saying something, of being myself, and that will always come through.
My family have always had a good sense of humour. That was a way of dealing with the situation – to look at the comedic side of things. There's a darkness, but there is also the ability to get on with it and normalise it.
What is your passion?
Well, of course my family and my wife (smiles). I don't really have any materialistic passion or hobby. My passion is just asking questions, you know? I really like asking questions.
What makes you angry?
Jazz music. (Laughs) It’s something I just don't understand. But seriously, at the moment, people forcing their beliefs based on somebody else's opinion makes me uncomfortable.
I'm against using expressions like “I think” and “I believe”. It shows that you're not sure about something. But at the same time you want others to believe in what you think. Also, it seems to be that people who are the biggest exponents of free speech are the most offended when somebody says something freely back.
And finally … what makes you smile?
My wife. Olga makes me smile every morning. (smiles).
Photographer: Olga Poppius
Text: House of Wilow & Stephanie Schulz