Words by Konstantina Pyrnokoki
Photos courtesy of Nikos Leontopoulos
The first thing that stands out when visiting the city of Athens is its striking lack of colour. After all, the minimalism expressed through its white buildings would only be fitting for such an ancient city. But Greece’s capital was not always like that. It used to be filled with green spaces and the Acropolis was not all white; instead, parts of it were red and gold!
Perhaps that’s how graphic designer and photographer Nikos Leontopoulos still thinks of Athens, even though it’s a version of it he’s never met. The city he grew up in can be black and white at times, but it can also be full of light and hope. Through Urban, his latest exhibition in Athens, Leontopoulos offers viewers a chance to meet the city’s seemingly derelict – yet always filled with bars, people and energy – streets, under a brand new light.
The black and white frames are suddenly touched with compelling colours, and the two sides of the city, the bright and the dark, blend naturally into each picture. Aiming to not just capture reality but, even more so, create an irresistible visual effect, the photographer succeeds in transporting us to both of Athens’s parallel universes at once.
“Editing the photos the way I have, I wanted to give a different feel, a new life to this degraded part of Athens which, despite its flaws, is still my favourite city,” he says.
Visitors will be overwhelmed by the contrasting, vibrant colours, which appear to be livelier than ever printed on aluminum sheets. Leontopoulos employed the ‘metal print’ method, where the colour is infused into the sheet, giving this extra shiny, almost neon, effect. However, the bold use of red, green, blue, yellow and purple on top of black and white is what primarily brings these stills to life.
Undoubtedly, the artist drew from his longtime graphic design experience to make his photos stand out. Having designed ads for companies like Nivea, Rilken, L’Oréal, Volvo and Hyundai, while having served as the founder and graphic designer of Greek independent culture magazine Epohes (meaning seasons), he’s always been an admirer of a good visual. This is surely evident through his purely design work – like the Epohes covers, pictured – and now through this exhibition. But most importantly, Leontopoulos has always been an admirer of Athens and the city’s well-hidden, kaleidoscopic colours.
Nikos Leontopoulos’s Urban exhibition at the art gallery Kaplanon 5 until December 3, 2016.
Urban, Nikos Leontopoulos
Epohes covers, Nikos Leontopoulos